Slow Food Nation


Last Friday, in front of an audience full of non-profiteers and the city’s activists, Alice Waters and Gavin Newsom alternately took the stage for what was deemed the Slow Food Nation Town Hall. The agenda? To figure out exactly how the hell to take Slow Food Nation—slated for Labor Day weekend 2008—from a Waters-y food fantasy with a glorious mission statement (“[It] will deliver a transformative experience with food, one based on enjoyment and pleasure, which will lead to a greater understanding of the role of food choices in environmental wellness and sustainability”) into something we can actually bite into.

Waters, who is a surprisingly quiet, behind-the-podium speaker, waxed poetic about the apple tart she’d had at the top of a snowy mountain in Switzerland (she was there for the environmental conference known as Davos) and talked about her recent appearance on Charlie Rose where “she tried to understand what he knows about food.” (The take-away? “He needs to be educated!”). Gavin, on the other hand, took to the mic like Bill Clinton, and spoke of Slow Food as not “forward thinking—in a way, we’re just going back,” and promised "[we] have a friend at City Hall,” pushing to ban trans fats, for nutritional information on menus and for community gardens and farmers markets.

Slow Food Nation intends to offer a cornucopia of food events across the city, like the Italian Slow Food event known as Terre Madre. Vendors will demonstrate fast slow food (tacos al pastor, dosas, banh mi) in a alfresco food court referred to as "Slow on the Go"; a Food for Thought series will include lectures and films;  Changemakers Day will bring together 300 NGO leaders. There’s also Slow Food on Film; a two-day music festival; off-site Slow Food dinners at participating restaurants; and hundreds of artisan food makers. 

My notebook became littered with my scribbling, but the words I jotted down really tell the tale: pizza ovens, justice, inclusion, integration, farmers, Ojai to Fresno, indigenous foods, Latino immigrants, cradle-to-cradle. Of course, no fantasy comes free of charge. The budget thus far is two million and 40 percent of it has been raised. Lest you doubt Alice's influence, here's the parting shot: As Gavin was about to step off the stage, she stepped up to him and coyly, but point-blank, asked if he would promise her a Victory Garden at City Hall. A taste of Civic Center terroir: coming to you soon.
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