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Slow Food Nation: Friday

(article, Kim Carlson)

The energetic and friendly people behind Slow Food Nation arranged for tents and tables to be set up on the plaza of San Francisco's Civic Center for the farmers' market and food-booth portion of the weekend-long event. 

They arranged for the speakers in the Food for Thought series — writers Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, chef Dan Barber, and nutrition expert Marion Nestle, to name a few. 

They arranged for Slow Food leaders and others working in a professional capacity to trade ideas during the all-day Changemakers sessions.

But they didn't arrange for the sun. That was serendipity.

On a gorgeous warm day in San Francisco, Slow Food, the international organization that promotes "good, clean, and fair food," and in particular, its American branch in the Bay Area, managed to create a day that had something for everyone: Slow Food delegates in from around the country, foreign journalists, nonprofit professionals who are working to change the food system — even curious passers-by who just lucked into an excellent lunch.  

[%image victory float=left width=400 caption='The completed victory garden fronts San Francisco City Hall at the Civic Center.']

Several hundred people listened in on Friday's opening Food for Thought session as Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini and others discussed the world food crisis. There was a fair amount of concern on that panel about how that crisis will be addressed by governments: Will intensive sustainable farming methods be held up as the way to feed the world's hungry? Or will more GMO foods be pushed on eaters?

Later, another session addressed the "relocalization" of food. Dan Barber fed the audience with delicious stories, including one about a French farmer who raises geese for foie gras without resorting to gavage, just by letting the birds fatten themselves up naturally in the fall.

The scale of Slow Food Nation is friendly. Michael Pollan and his wife, Judith, politely asked us if they could take over our hay bale in the shade, after we'd finished our lunch of huaraches and muffaletta sandwiches and watermelon agua fresca, gathered from the Slow-on-the-Go food booths. We recognized friends from Portland, and met many others too. The food worked its magic that way.  

Let me leave you with a few ideas I gleaned from the day:

 There is a public consequence to every choice we make when it comes to food. When we eat, or "consume" — a word that Slow Food leaders would like to banish from the conversation — we are co-producers, said Pollan. Eating food is the last step in the production of food. Thinking of it that way may help us to be more aware of our choices. 
 Wholesome, delicious food should be a right, not a privilege. That sentiment was from Alice Waters, but any number of people here might have uttered it.
 If we want to establish a thriving local food system, we have to support other local economies as well; they are interdependent, said Gary Nabhan. So, we'll have buy paper products made locally, etc.
 We need to save farmland and train more farmers — so says Pollan. 
 Carlo Petrini: "Day by day: Small steps every day. Then we can change things."

h3. Images from Slow Food Nation at Civic Center

|[%image soapbox width='310' caption='A victory garden soapbox speaker addresses a small crowd.']
|[%image rice width='310' caption="California rice grower and Dinner Guest blogger Greg Massa meets Culinate's Kim Carlson."|
|[%image peaches width='310' caption='Peach samples with a grin from the M&M Peach Ranch.']
|[%image pawpaw width='310' caption="A pawpaw, just one of the local fruits on sale at the farmers' market."|
|[%image happygirl width='310' caption='Happy girl with Happy Girl pickles.']
|[%image raw width='310' caption="Raw-milk producers at the farmers' market."]|
|[%image book width='310' caption='Not just food, but food books too.'
|[%image compost width='310' caption='A compost demonstration site.'|

h3. Slow Food Nation links from around the web

 The day's wrap-up from the Slow Food Nation site
 Kim O'Donnel at the Washington Post
 Serious Eats asks where artisanal food fits in the Slow Food picture
 Alice Q. Foodie goes in depth
 Eggbeater considers mayhem
 Amy with a slideshow

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