Slow Food Nation Overview: Serving Up Politics

While Jennifer Szweda Jordan's in San Francisco coverering Slow Food Nation, Ann Murray, The Allegheny Front's news analyst,has been following the event online. Jennifer and Ann swap observations about the gathering and its political implications.

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Hi this is Jennifer Szweda Jordan and youíre listening to The Allegheny Front.† Now, while Iím on the ground here at Slow Food Nation, in San colleague, news analyst Ann Murray has been†reading about the event online.† So weíre going to trade notes.

Hi, Ann.

A: Hi Jennifer, whatís it like there?

J: Well, itís a multiple ringed circus.† On the Bay, there are what theyíre calling taste pavilions and this is inside a gigantic old military building. There are chocolate, seafood, cheeses, meats that you can sample and learn more about ñ one chocolatier displays a book with names of those who grow his cacao beans.† But to get in, you have to have a 45 to 65 dollar tickets bought a few weeks ago because they were sold out by the time they started.

A:How many people are there?†

J:60,000 people. †There are scalpers if you can believe it.††Oh, and inside there were up to 20 minute lines for some of the premium items like cheese.††

A: Iíve read about those lines ñ a big complaint among bloggers.

J: Good, I thought I was the only one grousing.† Anyway, I had the sustainably caught sardines ñ no long line there.

A: Iíve read a lot of complaints about the price of this event.††

J:††From the Pittsburgh Slow Food Group to Slow Food USA, they havenít been able to shed this exclusive image†OF wealthy people eating expensive local organic food.The response youíll get generally when you raise that criticism is, hey, youíve got to start somewhere to make social change.† For eating, I mostly stayed in a different venue -- in an area of town close to city hall.† Thereís a green space thatís set up similar to our Pittsburgh Three Rivers Arts Festival with food booths from different countries.† You can get a vegetarian tamale for five dollars.†

A: But I thought this was all about local food.

J: Right, well, the idea is buying food locally to cut down fuel use and preserve local economies.† But the cuisines served and the music youíll hear in the rest of our Allegheny Front coverage celebrated the immigrants who have come here, many as farmworkers, and brought their foods with them.

A: Speaking of immigrants and farmworkers, Iíve been reading that one of the topics brewing is treatment of farm laborers.

J: Thatís right, within this circle of food booths, and a marketplace where you can buy local produce, is a soap box stage.† One man who came onto the stage is from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a growers organization in Florida.† Theyíre working with the Justice Department to put an end to slave labor on farms.† In a federal indictment this year, six people have been charged with holding more than a dozen people as slaves, making them sleep in box trucks and shacks, charging them for food and showers, not paying them for picking produce and beating them if they tried to leave.†

A: This is America, 2008 that weíre talking about.†

J: Yeah, itís something.† And, you know, one argument people have raised over the years for organics is that not using chemicals is good for farmworkers because they donít have to come into contact with pesticides.† But Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser had a pretty strong rebuke really for those who eat† organic foods without considering the worker. He said quote -- "I don't care if the tomato is heirloom and local and organic, if it was harvested with slave labor."† He also called on Slow Food USA itself to invite a farmworker †to its board of directors.

A: Did that dampen the mood?

J: No, there were a lot of cheers for his statements.††

A: So the event is pretty political ñ and thatís what Iíve been reading too, that itís not just about food but social change.† What else is on the plate there at Slow Food Nation?

J: Well, the visual centerpiece is a Victory Garden that its founders say responds to social and ecological problems.†

A:†So this is a reference to Victory Gardens of World Wars One and Two.† At the time U.S., Canadian and UK governments urged citizens to supplement the tight food supply by creating†these gardens.†
J: Exactly.† The Victory Garden here is really beautiful, but made very simply.† There are multiple sized concentric circular beds with mostly edible and watershed plants that theyíve of course planted to be in full bloom for this event. † The stone paths among the beds gardens are bordered by hay bales.† Weíll hear about that next and Iím posting photos and links at†

A:†Enjoy San Francisco.

J: Thank you, Ann.† Now, letís listen to landscape architect John Bela (pronounced like Fleck) and gardener Kelsey Siegel in the Victory Garden.† Iím tagging along as they guide foreign dignitaries around.