Food, family, friends, and giving thanks for our many blessings. That's what today is all about.
Rather than focus on football and Black Friday shopping, Vic and I would rather focus on the food. Slow food, local food, good food.
"Slow food" is a recent buzzword that refers to any dish that is made from scratch. It's the opposite of fast food.
Thanksgiving may be the one day left where large numbers of Americans still eat slow food. Look at your dinner table today and see how many things were made from scratch versus made from a mix or store-bought. Think about how good slow food smells and tastes. Now, don't you wish you ate this well every day?
An important part of slow food is the enjoyment of its preparation. Cooking is fun. And it's a great way for family members of all ages to participate in a common activity, making something together.
There is actually a Slow Food International movement that started in Italy in 1989 in protest of a McDonald's moving in. People began to decry the loss of regional cuisine as it got shoved aside for mass-marketed burgers and chicken. Some people formed groups to prepare and savor food the old fashioned way. The movement spread, and now has more than 100,000 members worldwide.
There is a chapter in the U.S. as well. To learn more about Slow Food USA, visit http://www.slowfoodusa.org. You can get on their email list for free and stay up-to-date with what they're doing to promote traditional, family cooking. In addition, they work to protect the environment, promote diversity in food crops, encourage sustainable agriculture, and support small-scale farmers.
One of the projects of Slow Food is the Ark of Taste. Many unique varieties of fruits and vegetables, as well as breeds of livestock, are being out-competed in the marketplace in favor of those that are the most easily or profitably marketed.
For example, instead of having hundreds of different varieties of dried beans in stores, we have a choice of pinto, red, pink or black. Or course, it is impossible for stores to stock all varieties of each food. That is one of the reasons why Vic and I grow our own. This year, we grew two foods on the Ark of Taste list, Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans and Amish pie pumpkins.
Another example is the breed of turkey on your table today. Mass-marketed turkeys are all one variety of turkey called the broad-breasted white, developed in the 1950s. Unfortunately, numerous old-fashioned breeds are disappearing. In the past, Vic and I have special ordered a couple of heritage breed turkeys. We had a Narragansett and a bronze turkey on different years, and both were fabulous. But we had to order our turkeys months in advance to get one.
A great book that promotes American breeds of livestock, disappearing heirloom fruits and vegetables, and savoring endangered foods is "Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and savoring the continent's most endangered foods," authored by the RAFT collaborative and edited by Gary Paul Nabhan. Slow Food USA was among the founding partners of RAFT, the coalition of groups dedicated to Renewing America's Food Traditions.
Also contributing were Seed Savers Exchange, a group I belong to that promotes saving heirloom seeds that have been passed down in families for generations. They offer more than 13,000 varieties of heirloom seeds in their catalog. For more information, visit http://www.seedsavers.org.
Another contributor to RAFT was Native Seeds/SEARCH, which is dedicated to saving and promoting seeds of the New World, specifically the American Southwest and northwest Mexico. These are varieties developed over the millennia by Native Americans. I've bought seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH in the past, and plan to do so again. Visit them at http://www.nativeseeds.org.
A part of the Thanksgiving tradition is recognition of the contribution that Native Americans made to the first Thanksgiving and to our continuing food traditions.
The slow food movement is tied to the locavore movement, which means eating locally grown food. That in turn means eating fruits and vegetables that are in season, and not getting out-of-season food from south of the equator. This is autumn, and traditional Thanksgiving foods are crops that are harvested in the fall. Examples are pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and cranberries.
Slow Food International also promotes Dec. 10 as Tierra Madre Day. That is their day for celebrating Mother Earth.
According to the Slow Food website, it is "an opportunity to make our presence felt, to assert our capacity to care for the portions of the planet that have been entrusted to us, to use them productively and ensure they are maintained for future generations."
The focus of Tierra Madre Day is to promote locally grown food, as well as eating and sharing it.
Vic and I believe in making things from scratch when we have time. Over the past year, we've made our own sausages, pickles, jams, breads, pies and other things the long, slow way. Our next project is going to be making our own spicy brown mustard and horseradish mustard, using our homegrown horseradish.
Part of our Thanksgiving feast will be the fruits of our summer garden. I've saved the last of our Granny Smith apple crop to make a crumb-topped apple pie for Thanksgiving. We're also making a pumpkin pie from a blue Hubbard squash that we grew ourselves.
And by request, we'll be making Grandma's butterscotch rolls. My Grandmother Williams made homemade cloverleaf rolls with butterscotch bottoms every holiday. So did my mother. And so do I. They take a lot of time, but that's what slow food and Thanksgiving are all about.
One of the things we'll be doing this Thanksgiving is teaching our grandchildren a little about food preparation. Cooking is a wonderful family pastime and an opportunity for family members of all ages to work together on a common project. Don't miss the opportunity!
VIC LEIPZIG and LOU MURRAY are Huntington Beach environmentalists. They can be reached at LMurrayPhD@gmail.com.