Slow Food Nation – Come to the Table ’08

City Hall – a good place to start.

The Info Booth with City Hall in the back.

Despite emitting the carbon equivalent of a Jurrasic Park Velociraptor on my RT flight between Boston and San Francisco, I believe my place “at the table” was justified.

Here’s why the (SFN) “Come to the Table” conference was a success for me:

First, I got to speak with farmers of heritage breed pigs, turkeys and sheep. I learned a ton from every conversation I had, and session I attended. I will be able to share this information with a broader audience and to do so from a more informed position. And I’ve got a good start on my book.

Second, I got to view three films from the Berlin Film Festival that hauntingly portrayed the connections between food choices and politics. (More on these in a separate post. Soon.)

Third, I got to eat and drink good, sustainably farmed foods and to sample artisanal and sustainable beverages. Stay tuned for my posts on DrinkBoston and Foodbuzz.

Fourth, I got to re-connect with West Coast friends, newlyweds, food writers and chefs.

Queue for Taste Pavilion

Inside the Taste Pavilion. Did I mention lines?

It’s shy of a week past now and already the pundits are praising, critics are skewering, and proponents defending all sorts of things about SFN. I did not go to SFN with an expectation that four days of this stuff would solve world hunger or answer the fair trade issues among producers and consumers. Call me crazy, but that just never entered my mind as a possibility from this one event.

Remember, the longest journey begins with a single step. And, sometimes, a bus.

As an inaugural event, I would have to say this was overall, quite successful. I base this on my highly objective personal observations, my valid and reliable survey of cab drivers hired to transport me from venue to venue, and the official press release.

Cab drivers, you say? More carbon? Yes, SF has Muni and BART. Yes there was a free bicycle storage pen. But, Ft. Mason was way too far away and my events were happening close in time, such that public transport was not always feasible. Why no shuttle buses or pedi-cabs?

And that’s a good example of my final analysis of the event. Not perfect maybe, but great.

Will the Victory Garden feed the hungry of San Fran? No. Is it a productive way to use otherwise unused space? Yes.


Will it foster discussions about organic farming and food supply issues? Probably.


Will it provide organic produce to local food banks? Yes.


Using my unique mathematical abilities, that all = success.

“Taste” Sessions I attended

  • The Apple in the Pig’s Mouth– Prosciutto and American Cider – learning to taste, appreciate the differences aging and production makes. La Quercia, Aidell’s, Zingerman, more.
  • Heritage Pork and Sparkling Mead – Ossabaw is a rare heritage breed pig with unique characteristics and history. Sparkling Mead was a revelation.
  • Eat it to Save it, Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste – Poppy Tooker, a force of nature as usual, explained why the Ark of Taste is so important. Food (including American Guinea Hog) and demos combined with lectures and laughs.
  • Slow Spirits – Irony on the side.

And the Taste Pavilion lines were really too long for much sampling, but I managed. Salumi, anyone? (Getting a theme here?)

Coming up:

What I ate; people I met; comments I heard…as well as, links to other posts of mine on aspects of this event and products. Lessons learned.

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  1. Tales of the Cocktail may be over but the fun continues. Check the blogs and podcasts for all the news that fit to drink!
  2. The Maori art of facial tatooing is called moko. It is a powerful expression of tribal identity which has only recently enjoyed a resurgence as the colonial Christian prohibitions against it have lessened. Go to the Peabody Essex Museum for this rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of this amazing cultural tradition. The documentary I saw at Sundance years ago on moko, was one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.
  3. The Audubon Insectarium is a new and top-notch attraction in New Orleans. We passed by it and wondered why we'd missed it before. Turns out it's just now opening. No time this last trip, but it's on the list for the next time. Check here for info.

What's on my list?

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