Monthly Archives: August 2007

Come to the Harvest Supper!

Slow Food Seacoast Brings in the Harvest

On September 15, 2007, Slow Food Seacoast invites the public to a Harvest Supper featuring the best of the season from local farms, bakers, cheesemakers and more. Celebrate the natural abundance of a New England autumn with a chef-prepared meal, guided tastings, and an old-fashioned contra dance for all ages. Held in conjunction with the Garden Harvest Festival at Strwabery Banke Museum, the event celebrates the Eat Local Challenge month of September by bringing the harvest home to Portsmouth. It’s a time when the year’s hard work is rewarded with enjoyment, and it’s the perfect way to bid a delicious farewell to summer and welcome the transition to fall.

A multi-course meal , prepared by the chefs and students of the Atlantic Culinary Academy, will present the best of the season in classic New England dishes updated with contemporary flair. The evening begins with guided tastings of regionally made New England cheeses and breads and concludes with an old-fashioned harvest frolic, featuring a contra dance with Craig Edwards and the Rhythm Method String Band.

The public is invited to join in the sit-down outdoor supper, to be held under comfortable tents amid the gardens of Strawbery Banke Museum. Menu items include Breezy Hill Farm pork, Silvery Moon cheeses, Meadows’ Mirth farm produce, and much more. Greeting, guided tastings, and appetizers begin at 5 PM; 6 PM supper, followed by dancing until 9:30 PM. Tickets for the entire evening’s entertainment – educational speakers, tastings, harvest meal, and music and dance – are $25/adults ($20 for Slow Food members)/$10 kids. Reservations are strongly recommended; to reserve, please contact Slow Food Seacoast at SlowFoodSeacoast@GMail.com or

Early fall is a time of great natural abundance in the Seacoast. The last of the late-summer produce – tomatoes, peaches, corn, blueberries, cucumbers, zucchini — shares space on our tables with the first earthy flavors of the fall harvest, such as apples, dark leafy greens, pumpkins, cranberries, leeks, parsnips, and beets. For generations of New Englanders past, the greatest range of flavors of the entire year was present at this time, truly cause for celebration. But they didn’t get to simply relax and enjoy the bounty – late summer was a time of frenzied activity as tfarmers, gardeners, and home cooks worked to stay ahead of the harvest by preserving food to last well into the winter. A long tradition of fall harvest celebrating and socializing developed around necessary rituals like corn shucking and shelling, canning, butchering, drying, smoking, and curing meats, shelling beans, and preparing the house and land for winter.

With a community already gathered to share work at a time of year when a wide variety of delicious, freshly harvested food was available, good times were bound to happen. A good day’s work done, people celebrated with meals featuring the best and freshest. After-dinner entertainment was usually music and dance, particularly New England’s own regional dance form, the contra dance. Anyone can dance in this family-friendly tradition – dancers face each other along two lines, performing simple moves with instructions called out loud. No experience, partner, or special skill is needed! Accompaniment from Craig Edwards’s string band will keep the crowd stepping.

This educational event, sponsored by Slow Food Seacoast, aims to revive harvest time traditions, re-connect the Seacoast with its agricultural calendar, raise awareness of the quality products of local farmers and food producers, and celebrate the joy of the harvest. Slow Food Seacoast is an educational nonprofit organization working to bring greater awareness of local foods, regional food heritage, and the enjoyment of honest quality back to the table. This is one of many events offered for Slow September, including a potluck and presentation on the Eat Local Challenge on Sept. 2nd, a Flatbread Pizza Company fundraiser night on Sept. 4th , and a Barnes and Noble Family Night on Sept. 27. Contact Slow Food Seacoast for further details.

Harvest Supper is held in conjunction with Strawbery Banke Museum’s Garden Harvest Festival,offering an array of garden-themed programs over the weekend of Sept 15-16. It’s a time when hard work is returned with good fortune, and the perfect way to bid a delicious farewell to summer and welcome the autumn.

Additional resources:

Slow Food Seacoast

http://slowfoodseacoast.blogspot.com/

Seacoast Eat Local

http://www.seacoasteatlocal.org/

Eat Local Challenge

http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com/

Garden Harvest Festival at Strawbery Banke

http://www.strawberybanke.org/gardenharvestfestival.html

Craig Edwards, Music

http://fiddlecraig.com/Home_Page.html

Eats and Elitism

Slow Food Seacoast member Jeff writes in:

“I was just reading an interview with Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurant in NY in Salon and he had a great response to the charge of elitism in the slow food movement.” Read on, and check out the full article, titled Oil and Food Don’t Mix.

Some critics of the so-called slow-food movement — which focuses on organic, local and artisanal foods — have called it pretentious and inaccessible. What would you say to someone who calls you an indulgent elitist?

At the checkout aisle, we’re not paying the real cost of food. Whether you’re an elitist or not, you’re a human being and the real costs of your food are being paid in environmental costs and healthcare costs. And who pays when we have an obese nation? We all do. We just pay it under the radar. To call it elitist, I think, is really shortsighted.

I think that eventually what we’re talking about is really rooted in peasantry, which is the ironic thing. To say that good food is for the elite is preposterous, like saying that Chinese peasants who talk about and revolve their day around food are elitist, or the Peruvian mountain farmers who grow dozens of different types of potatoes are elitist.

Most importantly, I’d say that in order to experience the pleasures of good food, leave the politics, leave the health issues and leave the ecological issues aside. Tasting good food is a pleasure that people will come back to. That’s what this is: hedonism, a to z. And I think that’s one angle that makes sense [in connection] to slow food. Let’s look at this from a hedonistic, celebratory viewpoint and not a depressing one, and I think that has some legs for the future.”

The Food Project

As we ponder opportunities for school and youth partnerships, it’s great to know there are some really successful models here and elsewhere. Some people in our convivium have worked with students from New Heights on community gardening and plant-nursery projects in Porsmouth, and the folks at Slow Food Boston are calling attention to the Food Project, a whole suite of programs in which a diverse group of kids from in and around Boston work together to raise crops, deliver educational programs, run a CSA and farmstand, and more. They run a couple of urban plots around Dorchester and have a 31-acre farm in Lincoln. Check it out!

Food and Faith Part I

A colleague mentioned to me that the Jewish Forward had recently run some articles about how to observe Kosher dietary laws while still eating locally, sustainably, fair trade-ly, and/or organically. Lots of considerations! Her comments led me to the interesting food blog The Jew and the Carrot. From the site description:

The Jew and the Carrot features the intersection between Jews, food and contemporary life.

The Jewish community has an amazingly complex relationship to food. As the rest of the world is waking up to the notion of sustainable agriculture, local foods, and healthy eating, so is the Jewish community in the States and in Israel.

We want to:

  • Raise the quality of discussion about contemporary food issues in the Jewish community.
  • Convey a sense of importance and joy around food.
  • Challenge and inspire participants to think deeply and broadly about their own food choices.

    The Jew and the Carrot is a project of Hazon, an organization working to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community — as a step towards a healthier and more sustainable world for all.

  • Pyramid Power

    Remember when the Food Pyramid was easy? Heck, I remember when it wasn’t even a pyramid, just a square, as in “Square Meal:” dairy, meats, grains, produce.

    In the past twenty years, we’ve been through lots of pyramids and graphs as agribusiness, medicine, and government agencies have wrangled over what we ought to be eating. It used to be we were concerned mainly about individual health, and now we’re looking at food more broadly and taking into account our own well-being, but also that of the environment, society, and long-term policy.

    I found this “Evolving Pyramid” in a publication from Organic Valley foods. Though it is part of their advertising material, I really liked the messages it delivers. It’s one more tool to remind us that better eating is not an all-or-nothing proposition, but a process of growth. Better eating allows for enjoyment and variety along with responsibility and sustainability. It recognizes that it’s overall patterns, not single choices, that make big differences. The Evolving Pyramid emphasizes the limitations of federal labeling systems, especially now that the simple words ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ can take in a number of practices. And it calls attention to the personal and spiritual benefits of getting closer to your food.

    In other words, it’s not all about taste, it’s not all about changing the world, and it’s not all about community – it’s about all of those things, in balance, and more. And unlike the USDA food pyramid, this is one that depicts not just relative proportions, but progress.