I like farmer’s markets. I like talking to farmers about how they grow food, from discussing the subtle flavor profiles of 40 different types of garlic to the homemade sticky buns some breeders feed heritage pigs. That’s because I like good food and the interesting story behind it. I like connecting with the farmers who produce the food my wife and I prepare for our family. I no longer can stand walking into a big grocery store chain where all too often the story behind the food is muddled, glossed over or fabricated.
Slow Food has done much to shift the paradigm away from the agribusiness, industrial food system culture that so dominates local, regional, national and international grocery store shelves. Its central premise is to make good, clean, fair food accessible to all. That is, Slow Food promotes food that hasn’t been grown in industrial environments flecked with chemicals and other additives; food that hasn’t traveled long distances; and, food that is sold at a fair price by the farmer to the consumer.
Slow Fish has the same essential mission: to ensure good, clean, fair seafood is available to all. This mission also promotes shortening the supply chain between the producer – in this case, fishermen – and the consumer, while ensuring fishermen have a chance to earn a fair market price.
Representing One Fish Foundation, I will have the opportunity to discuss the Slow Fish mission at the Slow Food Nations Conference in Denver next week. I’ll be co-leading a presentation on how Slow Fish aims to shine a spotlight on local seafood producers providing fresh, local, responsibly harvested fish and shellfish to their communities and beyond. We’ll talk about why so much of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is imported, and ways that small scale fishermen have banded together to change that dynamic. We’ll encourage attendees to get involved by starting a community supported fishery (same as a CSA, but for seafood), join the discussion on improving management policies, or simply demand local seafood at nearby restaurants and grocery stores.
It will be a good discussion.
I will also help drive the point home by making gumbo with shrimp and blue claw crabs from the Gulf of Mexico harvested by Lance Nacio and Anna Marie Shrimp. For me, this will be a treat because it’s been far too long since I’ve been able to cook with the seafood of my New Orleans heritage (now that I live in Maine).
I will also be cooking with andouille sausage made by Toby Rodriguez, a butcher, chef, and authority on Cajun food traditions who gives dissertations on why commercially available andouille is crap. I can still remember the smell of traditional andouille as it was rendered before the roux was made when I was young. I’ve not really had that rich, dense, somewhat spicy flavor in decades, but it will grace the gumbo I make at Slow Food Nations.
The gumbo in effect will be a metaphor for Slow Food and Slow Fish. Standing up to industrial food systems often means establishing a relationship with your food producer and weaving their narratives into the dish you’re preparing. It’s a shared narrative, steeped in tradition, trust, good will and that not-too-subtle, nutty-sweet aroma of the trinity (celery, peppers and onions) after you first stir it into the roux.