An Early Summer Ark of Taste Inspired Salad

As you may recall, Chef Katie Simmons (@chefkatiesimmons) cooked up a lovely end of season Brandywine tomato recipe that we featured on our blog as we got ready to say goodbye to outdoor farmers markets last year. Now that open air farmers markets are becoming part of our weekly routines again, Katie will be collaborating with us once again on some go-to recipes that we'll post throughout the season featuring Slow Food Midwest Ark of Taste ingredients. Her first recipe for a Turkey Red Winter Wheat Berry Cherry and Chard Salad is up first. Plus, head over to Katie's site - Plants-Rule, as she breaks down how Slow Food and the Ark of Taste seek to preserve delicious ingredients from extinction. The best way you can help? By eating them, and keeping them on your plates! And this early season salad is the perfect way to get started!


Turkey Red Winter Wheat Berry Cherry and Chard Salad

Turkey Red Winter Wheat Berries are part of the Ark of Taste movement to preserve and protect culturally significant foods that are in danger of extinction. Wheat Berries are the whole form of wheat, and they provide healthy protein and whole grain fiber in this hearty vegan salad. Red chard is braised oil-free with sweet apples, onion, and dried cherries for natural sweetness and fat-free flavor. This has the flavors of winter with the hope for spring color.

Servings: 6           Ready In: 70 minutes           Skill Level: Medium           Yield: 6 cups

Wheat berry cherry and chard salad by Chef Katie Simmons - Healthy, Whole Grain, Oil-Free, Plant-Based Vegan, and utilizing the bounty of the freshest ingredients the beginning of the farmers market season has to offer. PHOTO COURTESY OF KATIE SIMMONS. SOURCE : PLANTSRULE.COM

Wheat berry cherry and chard salad by Chef Katie Simmons - Healthy, Whole Grain, Oil-Free, Plant-Based Vegan, and utilizing the bounty of the freshest ingredients the beginning of the farmers market season has to offer.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KATIE SIMMONS. SOURCE : PLANTSRULE.COM

Ingredients:

1.5 cups Turkey Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries

1 medium onion, diced

1 bunch chard, chopped

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup dried cherries

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Procedure

Gather ingredients. Cook the Turkey Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries: place the wheat berries in a medium pot with 4 1/5 cups of water. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the wheat berries "pop," about 60 minutes. (Tip : Soft wheat berries usually cook faster than hard wheat berries, usually tender in just 30-40 minutes.) Next, braise the apples: heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. (No oil necessary.) Peel and dice the onion. Core and dice the apple. When the skillet is hot, add the onions and apples. Let sear for a few minutes, to caramelize and bring out the natural sugars.

Whole grain wheat berries will "pop" open when done cooking. It will look like small balls, resembling large couscous, and should be tender like rice. PHOTO COURTESY OF KATIE SIMMONS. SOURCE : PLANTSRULE.COM

Whole grain wheat berries will "pop" open when done cooking. It will look like small balls, resembling large couscous, and should be tender like rice.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KATIE SIMMONS. SOURCE : PLANTSRULE.COM

To prepare the chard: while the onions and apples sear, strip the chard leaves away from the stems. Set aside the leaves. Trim the chard stems and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Rinse the diced chard stems under running water to wash off any grit. Roughly chop the chard leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. Stir the caramelizing apples and onions every few minutes to ensure even browning. If the mixture seems like it's starting to burn, turn down your heat. You're looking for brown, caramel coloring. Once the apples and onions are brown all over, add the chard stems and let cook for 5-7 minutes. After the chard stems have some brown on the edges and the mixture starts to stick to the pan, add the cider vinegar. Using a spoon, scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the dried cherries followed by the chopped chard leaves. Cover and cook until the leaves are tender, at least 5 minutes. Let this keep cooking until your wheat berries are tender, up to 40-50 minutes more. Add water, as needed, to prevent burning. When the wheat berries are tender, they will plump up and "burst" open. Turn off the heat. When the chard leaves are tender, remove the lid. Let most of the liquid cook off. You want a fairly dry mixture. Combine the wheat berries with the chard mixture, walnuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and taste to adjust seasoning as desired.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature!

Chef's tip : You can use beautiful red chard for great color to compliment the dried cherries. You can also swap-in other dried fruits like apricot, golden raisins, and dried pears. Use yellow or white chard to compliment the color of dried fruit you prefer. PHOTO COURTESY OF KATIE SIMMONS. SOURCE : PLANTSRULE.COM

Chef's tip : You can use beautiful red chard for great color to compliment the dried cherries. You can also swap-in other dried fruits like apricot, golden raisins, and dried pears. Use yellow or white chard to compliment the color of dried fruit you prefer.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KATIE SIMMONS. SOURCE : PLANTSRULE.COM

Learn more about the catalog of ingredients listed on the Ark of Taste here.

Love the recipe? Follow along with personal chef, Katie Simmons (and learn why Plants-Rule) via the links below!

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Tumblr / Pinterest / YouTube

preSERVE Garden - The First Volunteer Day of the Season

It's here. The first preSERVE Garden volunteer day of the season is upon us. We'll be weeding and otherwise prepping the garden for planting this growing season.

Images from the 2016 preSERVE Garden volunteer season.

Images from the 2016 preSERVE Garden volunteer season.

We don't want to jinx anything - but we're hoping for a morning of cooperation from the elements. Just in case, be sure to bring layers as well as closed toe shoes. If you have gardening gloves, a hat, and your own water bottle, those items are recommended as well. We will be sharing a small community picnic style meal after the hard work is done - so be sure to stick around after working up an appetite from digging around in the dirt.

Can't wait to celebrate the kickoff to the season with you!

Questions? Get in touch via slowfoodpreserve@gmail.com. 

When: Saturday, April 15th, 2017 // 10am-12pm (but be sure to stick around for the picnic lunch!)

Where: preSERVE Garden (1231 S Central Park Ave Chicago, IL 60623 / Map)

More Info: See also our event page and facebook invite. Dress appropriately (closed toe shoes and layers recommended) and bring gardening gloves, a hat and a water bottle if you have them. Feel free to bring a dish to share as well!

Food Book Club SKIN CLEANSE : Recap

Sending out a BIG thank you to those who were able to join us at March's Food Book Club meeting last week where we discussed Adina Grigore's book Skin Cleanse - and extra snaps to Native Foods Cafe in Wicker Park for being such welcoming and gracious hosts! Here's a little recap of what we discussed and some questions to ponder that came up. Have you come across more info since we met that you'd like to share (or did we forget something in our summary below)? Were you unable to join us and want to get in on the conversation? Let us know in the comments!

Salt scrub envy : We came across this recipe shortly after our meeting. This salt scrub combo calls for the addition of lemongrass and is an image from the new book Harvest : Unexpected Uses for Extraordinary Plants.

Salt scrub envy : We came across this recipe shortly after our meeting. This salt scrub combo calls for the addition of lemongrass and is an image from the new book Harvest : Unexpected Uses for Extraordinary Plants.

  • Rule of Thumb : We suggest not putting anything on your skin (or in contact with your skin - think, laundry detergent, etc) that you wouldn't also ingest.
  • What have you DIY'd? : Our readers had already experimented with toothpaste, shampoo, and even deodorant (we especially love shampoo bars - like bars of soap, but for your hair and typically in minimal - if any - packaging, look for them online or at boutique shops). What else are you looking forward to making yourself? Do you find that you are wasting less packaging and disposable "stuff" now that you're incorporating some DIY products into your skin care routine? Want to delve more into the world of making your own everything...? Additional recommended reading is Making It : Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. 
  • What about makeup...? : There are loads of tutorials and tips that you can find online. We're especially excited about (someday) making the transition to crafting our own mascara - here's one tutorial we've got our eye on (ha). What about eyeliner? Alison recommends Kajal - made with natural ingredients and soot.
  • DIY Salt Scrub : Fill a jar or container with a blend of sea salts of your preference (coarse salt, epsom salt, etc). Drizzle olive oil (or other oil of your choice) on top to coat. Add a few drops of essential oil (we recommend cinnamon as it is anti-inflammatory). Mix until well blended. Store in the shower and use as needed as a body scrub.
  • S.W. Basics : In addition to being an author, Adina Grigore is the found of S.W. Basics, an all-natural and sustainable skincare line based in Brooklyn. Adina has been known for saying what a beautiful thing it would be if her company went out of business because people were making her products themselves at home. Seeing as most products are made with minimal ingredients, many of which you can find in your pantry - we don't see why not! But, when life gets in the way, her products are available for purchase online or at most Target stores.
  • Essential Oils : There are many out there - but they have a myriad of uses and purposes. Lavender is said to be calming, cinnamon is known for being anti-inflammatory, and oregano is said to be anti-viral (rub this on the bottom of your feet with a combination of olive, jojoba or coconut oil when you have a cold and it just might help you get better faster by drawing some of the toxins out). They can be used in your DIY beauty products, on your skin, or put in a diffuser. We also discussed how many of these essential oils elicit similar results "on the outside" as they would if you were to ingest them (as their original whole ingredients), which lead us to bringing up ayurvedic nutrition or, a holistic approach to health and wellness that depends on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Want to learn more? We recommend starting with the book, The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda by Michelle S. Fondin.

Food Book Club : March Edition

Join us this Thursday as we discuss March's Food Book Club read delving into to arena of "slow living" by talking about the connections between the food we eat and it's affects on skin health - as well as using whole foods as potential "products" for beauty and skin care. "Skin Cleanse : The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin" is a guidebook to skin health written by Adina Grigore, founder of natural skin care company, S.W. Basics. Looking for a cleaner (and greener) approach to the care of your body's largest organ - your skin? We'll be covering it all! Slow Food Chicago board member, Alison Parker (owner of Radical Root Organic Farm) will be leading us through a Do-It-Yourself demonstration on how to make your own salt scrub (perfect for getting rid of some of that dry, wintery skin). Want to bring some home with you? Don't forget to BYOJ (bring-your-own-jar)! Want to join us? Full event details below.

When : Thursday, March 30th, 2017 // 6:30pm-8pm

Where : Native Foods Wicker Park // 1484 N Milwaukee Ave (map)

What : Slow Food Chicago's March edition of Food Book Club where we will be discussing the book "Skin Cleanse" by Adina Grigore.

Cost : Free to attend! Please note, space as this event is somewhat limited so we do recommend that you RSVP in advance by emailing Katie at katie.johnson@slowfoochicago.org with the subject "Skin Cleanse" and the number of people you are responding for. 

Slow Meat: Holiday 2016 Edition

The holiday season is fast approaching, and whichever holiday(s) you celebrate it will almost certainly include sharing special meals with family and friends.  While we all have our unique traditions, we know that quality and provenance of the food you enjoy is important to our Slow Food friends and members. 

If your holiday meal includes meat, we ask you to consider where that is coming from, and how it was raised.

Slow Food USA, along with Slow Food International, have been working on an important initiative, "Slow Meat".  This movement encourages eaters to help "turn the herd away from the tyranny of cheap meat and toward a food system that is good, clean and fair for all" .

Here is list of farms that work toward that goal; bringing local and regionally raised meat to Chicago for your holiday celebrations.

Pasture raised Turkeys at gunthorp farms

Pasture raised Turkeys at gunthorp farms


Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm

Meats available: Broad-breasted White turkeys
Weight Range 16-20 lbs (limited number of < 15 lbs available)
Pick-up locations/dates: November 19.  Eight pick-up locations available (click here for the full list).
On-farm pickup: by appointment
Location of farm: 1985 N 3690th Rd Ottawa, IL
Phone: 815-431-9544
E-mail: cdrvalleyfarm@gmail.com
Website: www.chicagomeatcsa.com
Farmer comments: Cedar Valley Sustainable is partnering with our friends at Gunthorp Farms to bring you fresh, pasture raised turkey just in time for Thanksgiving!

Garden Gate Farm, Doug & Beth Rinkenberger

Breeds available: Broad-breasted White
Weight Range: 8-26 lbs.
Price per lb.: $3.50
Other meats available: FRESH turkeys sometimes available after Thanksgiving.
Deposit required: no
Delivery: Customer pick-up, only at the farm.
Location of farm: 6423 N 2300 E, Fairbury, IL 61739
Phone: 1-815-848-3518
E-mail: dougrink68@icloud.com 
Website: ~ 
Farmer comments: We raise our daughters and our livestock on a century old dairy farm here in rural Fairbury. We raise a large variety of vegetables and herbs, as well as pork and turkeys. Our birds have been on the menus of several Chicago restaurants including Old Town Social, The Girl and the Goat, Omni Hotel, and the Bristol.

Hasselmann Family Farm, Scott & Nena Hasselmann

Meats Available: Turkey, pork, beef, lamb, ham roasts, chicken
Deposit required: No
Pick-up locations:  Palatine farmers market 
Pick-up dates: Saturday November 19.
On-farm pickup? Yes, preferred. After Nov. 5
Location of farm: 23706 Harmony Rd., Marengo, IL 60152
Phone:  815 572 4833
E-mail: hasselmannfarm@gmail.com
Website:  www.hasselmannfarm.com  
Farmer comments: All our produce and livestock are raised outdoors on pasture, in harmony with the natural environment.

 

Mint Creek Farm, Harry, Gwen, Jonathan, & Raya Carr

Breeds Available: Black Spanish, Broad-breasted Bronze, & Broad-breasted White
Weight Range: Small (7-12lbs), Medium (12-17lbs), Large (17-21lbs)
Price per lb.: $7/lb for black$7/lb for bronze, & $6/lb for white
Deposit required: yes
Pickup Locations:  10 Chicago pickup locations available.  Click here for the full list.
Location of farm: 1693 E 3800 N. Road, Stelle, IL
Other Meats Available: Organic pasture-raised lamb, goat, beef, pork, duck, turkey, chicken, eggs, and meat & dairy CSA shares
Phone: 815-953-5682
E-mail: mintcreekfarm@gmail.com
Website: www.mintcreekfarm.com
Farmer comments: 
This holiday season we are raising two heritage breeds of turkeys, the black & the bronze, as well as classic white turkeys. We recommend trying the Black Aztec (Spanish) breed of turkey, as it is the most heritage breed on the market today. These black turkeys were first domesticated by the Aztecs! Black Aztec birds are a joy to raise, and very good at pasture foraging, with rich, buttery tasting, and balanced, full-flavor meat. Note that the bird is smaller than conventional, so you may need two instead of one. Try one or two black Aztec birds this Thanksgiving to help keep this heritage breed on the map as still raised in the Midwest! 

That being said, all of our turkeys, black, bronze, and white are raised very differently than conventional birds. No matter which breed of ours you choose it will help support humanely raised turkeys! The birds are moved every few days from paddock to paddock of fresh grass and legume pastures with Certified-Organic, non-GMO, small-batch-mixed, soyfree grain supplement. This lush pasture in addition to the highest quality, purest feed supplements result in an unparalleled turkey: both the turkey’s flavor and the health benefits gained by the bird, farm ecosystem, and consumer are huge.

 

Organic Pastures, Marilyn & Larry Wettstein

Breeds Available: Broad-breasted Bronze
Weight Range: 8 – 22 lbs
Price per lb.: $4.39
Deposit required: no
Pick-up locations: Nov 19 , Immanuel Lutheran Church, Evanston, corner of Sherman & Lake, 9am – 1pm
On-farm pickup? Yes
Location of farm: 669 County Road 1800E, Eureka, IL 61530
Other meats available: Lamb, beef, pork, chicken,  & eggs, all certified organic
Phone: 309-467-6006
E-mail: wettsteinorganic@gmail.com
Farmer comments: We are a small family farm that has been certified organic since 1997. Our turkeys are organic with plenty of pasture for open grazing. They are in a shelter at night, and during the day they peck and scratch as they please.

We farm 250 tillable acres and 250 pasture/timber acres, all organically certified. We rotate a variety of field crops including corn, soybeans, oats, flax, wheat, sunflower, vetch, rye, alfalfa, and clovers, and also raise organic beef, pork, chicken, turkeys, and laying hens. We truly believe that as stewards of the soil, it is our responsibility to provide the healthiest food possible.

 

Plain View Turkey Farm, Dan Schmucker

Breeds Available: Broad-breasted White, Certified Organic
Weight Range: 13 – 20 lbs
Price per lb.: $4.99/lb
Deposit required: No
Pick-up location:  Fresh Picks warehouse, 5625 W Howard St, Niles, IL.
Home Delivery can be arranged, with Fresh Picks, 847-410-0595
On-farm pickup? No
Location of farm: S-453 County Rd D, Cashton, WI 54619
Phone: 847-410-0595, 
Website https://www.freshpicks.com/thanksgivingturkeys2016
Ordering E-mail: answers@freshpicks.com
Farm E-mail: Amish, no email.
Website: None.

 

TJ’s Pastured Free Range Poultry, Tim & Julie Ifft

Breeds Available: Broad-breasted White and Broad-breasted Bronze
Weight Range: 10 – 23 lbs
Price per lb.: $3.99/lb (white)
Deposit required: yes, $10 when pre-ordering
Pick-up locations:  Dill Pickle Food Co-Op
Pick-up dates: November 19 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
On-farm pick-up: Yes, Farm pickup any day after November 15th – call for arrangements
Location of farm: 2773N 1500E Rd., Piper City, IL 60959
Other meats available: chicken, fresh eggs
Phone: 815-686-9200 or 815-848-8961 (cell)
E-mail: tji4@maxwire.net
Website: ~
Farmer comments: TJ’s has been raising turkeys for approximately 10 years. The turkeys are pastured free range on chemical free pasture. Their diet consists of no antibiotics, hormones or animal by-products.

 

Triple S Farms, Stan & Ryan Schutte

Breeds Available: Broad-breasted Bronze
Weight Range: 8 – 26 lbs
Price per lb.: $4.37-$6.13/lb, depending on weight
Deposit required: no
Pick-up locations and dates: Contact Triple S Farms for delivery information
Location of farm: 3078 County Highway 33, Stewardson IL 62463
Other Meats Available:  Pork, beef, chicken
Phone: 217-343-4740
E-mail contact: stan@triplesfarms.com
Websitewww.triplesfarms.com
Farmer comments: Triple S Farms is a certified organic, family-owned 200 acre farm in East central Illinois, an hour south of Champaign. Our turkeys are raised on pasture without hormones, antibiotics, or GMO feed.

Work at Triple S Farm is a family affair. Stan’s son, Owner Stan Schutte works together with his son, Ryan, co-owner, who oversees production. Jannie is in charge of marketing. Three other employees make Triple S Farm work- Quinton and Cam work with the animals as herd manager and Jackie is operations manager and does whatever needs done including sales, production, inventory, packing, invoicing and office work.  We have a great team working together to provide the highest quality meats straight from our farm to your dinner table.

 

Wettstein Organic Farm, Emily & Dennis Wettstein

Breeds Available: Broad-breasted White
Other meats available: Pork, beef, lamb and chicken
On-farm pickup? Yes
Location of farm: 2100 US Hwy 150, Carlock, IL 61725
Pick-up location: Meats are delivered throughout the winter to Oak Park, at the Buzz Cafe
email  https://www.freshpicks.com/thanksgivingturkeys2016 for schedule.
Phone: 309-376-7291
E-mail: dennis@wettsteinorganicfarm.com
Website: ~
Farmer comments: Emily and Denny sell certified organic beef, pork, poultry and eggs directly to customers, at the summer Oak Park Farmers Market, at the Buzz Cafe in winter, and all year from their on-farm storehouse. They also raise organic soybeans, corn and other grains that they make into feed for all their animals, and for selling to neighboring organic livestock and dairy farmers.

“We enjoy everything we do on the farm,” says Denny. “The most encouraging change we’ve seen since 1985,” says Emily, “is that more and more people are coming to us for their food. City people are coming back to the farms with their own children to learn where their food comes from and how it is grown.” Denny adds, “Our experience over the past 20 years with organic farming has restored our love of farming and given us the hope that the future of farming, if we continue to think outside the conventional box, is very promising.”
- Excerpted from a profile at www.farmaid.org

 

 

 

 

An End of Summer Tomato Recipe

Looking for a recipe to use up the last bits of tomatoes you gathered from the farmers market last weekend? The following recipe was created by Chef Katie Simmons. You can find heirloom varieties of tomatoes (like these Ark of Taste Sudduth Strain Brandywine tomatoes) at your local farmers market. These tomatoes were gathered from the Nichols Farm stand at the Lincoln Park Green City Market. I don't know about you, but after all the deliciousness that was enjoyed  this past weekend at the Farm Roast, I can't wait to get back in kitchen and cook up some everlasting tastes of summer before it slips away.

These tomatoes are one of the many unique foods in danger of extinction. One of the best ways to help prevent this from happening, is to eat them! By eating heirloom varieties and ingredients, livestock and dishes from the ark of taste catalog, you are encouraging producers to grow/raise them - and chefs to incorporate them into their menus. You can learn more about Ark of Taste, the Slow Food movement and what you can do to actively save these ingredients at: Slow Food USA.


BRANDYWINE TOMATOES STUFFED WITH GREEK CAULIFLOWER "RICE"

Juicy Brandywine tomatoes are one of the best-tasting heirloom tomatoes, with an intense, deep flavor. They make the perfect vehicles for this classic vegetarian Greek recipe. In this healthful, gluten-free version, cauliflower replaces traditional rice. It's a true vegetarian delight! 

Servings: 4            Ready In: 20 minutes            Yield: 8 tomatoes

Photo courtesy of Katie Simmons. Source : PlantsRule.com

Photo courtesy of Katie Simmons. Source : PlantsRule.com

INGREDIENTS

8 medium Sudduth Strain Brandywine tomatoes
1 medium head cauliflower
1 small onion
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsp currants
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS

-Gather ingredients. 

-To prepare the tomatoes: Working over a medium bowl, use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and ribs. Remove as much of the juices and seeds as you can, into the bowl. Place the scooped out tomatoes aside.

-To make the Cauliflower "Rice" Stuffing : trim the green leaves off the cauliflower and roughly cut into large chunks. Set up the grater blade on your food processor, with the wider holes facing up. Place the cauliflower in the opening of the food processor and run through the grater. In a wide pan, toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes, just until golden brown. Remove from the heat and place in a large mixing bowl. 

-Place the grated cauliflower into the pan, along with the oregano. Saute over medium heat, 5-7 minutes, just until the cauliflower softens and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir often to prevent burning. Remove the cauliflower from the pan, adding to the mixing bowl with the pine nuts. Return the pan to the heat.

-Peel and dice the onion. Roughly chop the scooped out tomato ribs. Add the chopped tomato and diced onion to the pan. Cook, partially covered, over medium-high, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook off the excess juices for another 3-4 minutes. The tomato onion mixture should have just a little bit of juice, but the onions and tomatoes should be completely soft. Use a spatula to break up any large tomato chunks. 

-Roughly chop the parsley.

-In the large mixing bowl, combine the toasted pine nuts, cauliflower "rice", tomato onion mixture, chopped parsley, currants, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine and taste to adjust seasoning.

-Fill each of the tomatoes with the Cauliflower "Rice" mixture. Use your hands to really compact the mix as tightly as you can. Serve and enjoy!

Chef's Tips: These taste delicious served slightly warm or at room temperature. If served too hot, the fresh flavor of the tomatoes gets lost. You can also make these with short grain brown rice or quinoa.

Photo courtesy of Katie Simmons. Source : PlantsRule.com

Photo courtesy of Katie Simmons. Source : PlantsRule.com


Learn more about the catalog of ingredients listed on the Ark of Taste here.

Love the recipe? Follow along with personal chef, Katie Simmons (and learn why Plants Rule) via the links below!

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Tumblr / Pinterest / YouTube

Chicago Humanities Festival Goes Slow

Chicago Humanities Festival Goes Slow

The Chicago Humanities Festival - an annual gathering of ideas, humanities, and exploration - is taking on the theme of Speed this fall. So naturally, they're also exploring the counterpoint of speed - slowing down. They're inviting us all to take a pause (if we can) between October 29 - November 12, to explore speeding up, slowing down, the push and pull on our pace of life... including Slow Food! 

 

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    Why Your Farm Roast Ticket is More Than Just a Ticket

    We're just about a week away from the annual Slow Food Farm Roast. It's our celebration of the best of the season. September is the month of abundance in the midwest and I love when chefs, producers, brewers, and folks who love good, wholesome food come together to celebrate the bounty.

    The Farm Roast allows Slow Food Chicago the ability to send representatives to Slow Food's conference in Italy, known as Terra Madre. It is here that farmers, producers, advocates, and eaters from all over the world come together to work on issues from climate change to over fishing to how to eat more thoughtfully in a rapidly changing landscape. One farmer who will represent Chicago is named Brian Ellis. He's been farming for Growing Power since he was 15-years-old. Brian grew up in Cabrini Green as both the high-rise and mid-rise housing came down. He's intimately familiar with changing landscapes, and while the world he had known since birth was literally falling down around him, he stepped up and helped create an oasis of a community garden in the center of the chaos for himself, his friends, and his community. I am sure that 15-year-old Brian never imagined that he would be representing black farmers from the US to the world through Slow Food International, but because of your generosity and support of Slow Food Chicago, he will be doing just that at the end of September.

    The Farm Roast is more than just a good time (although, let's be clear, it's a really good time). The funds raised allows our Chicago community to connect with communities across the globe to fight for good, clean, and fair food for all.  Resilience comes through connection, and we hope to connect with you over a delicious beer and a slice of pie come September 11th.

    -Laurell Sims

    Slow Food Chicago Board of Directors

    Photos courtesy of Brian Ellis.

    Photos courtesy of Brian Ellis.

    Slow Chicagoan Profile : Lisa Santos of Southport Grocery & Cafe

    If you look at the staff profiles on the Southport Grocery & Cafe website, owner Lisa Santos' profile stands out not just because it's the first one listed, but also because of her recognition that food and food experiences are intricately woven into people's daily lives. A former Slow Food Chicago board member, it's no surprise that Lisa runs her business by objectives that closely mirror our mission of good, clean and fair food for all. By supporting local farmers with a fresh + seasonal menu, giving an audience to the sweat equity of artisanal producers with their grocery, and preserving flavors of peak harvest to get you through the winter, Southport Grocery & Cafe is working hard to support and highlight the fruits of local laborers. Read on for more from Lisa about how they got started and why romaine beats kale as a popular and versatile leafy green.

    What was the idea behind Southport Grocery & Cafe? How did you start?

    We started preserving in 2009; the recession hit everyone and we needed to look at our expenses. We were shipping great preserves from California but the price plus shipping made the products expensive. We started preserving a handful of items that year and now do well over 75 from fruits preserves, pickles, condiments + soda syrups.

    What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

    Planning! There is so much planning in this business; especially for preserving, what is available from the farms and when, staffing, new product testing, etc.

    What's the best part about your job? The hardest part?

    Well, I have two bests: one, coming up with something new that we are excited to share with our customers; and two, a great batch of preserves that started with the perfect fruit from a farm and the well balanced preservation process.

    The hardest part of my job is the overall balancing act of food costs, labor costs, and competitive pricing.

    The smoked fish plate available as a brunch option at Southport Grocery & Cafe in Lakeview.

    The smoked fish plate available as a brunch option at Southport Grocery & Cafe in Lakeview.

    What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's food systems to overcome?

    A challenging obstacle can be the City itself. There are a lot of small moving parts to operate a business here!

    How does Southport Grocery's work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, + fair food)?

    Southport Grocery uses good, clean and fair food whenever we can. As a matter of fact, our preserves have won three Good Food Awards! I have to say, 'whenever we can' because we need to offer a competitive price to our customers in the end.

    Favorite Chicago food related social media account to follow?

    The Infatuation.

    What do you think should be up next for trendiest food item - kale's successor?

    I would like to see romaine be more on trend... it is chock full of nutrients and it is my favorite vegetable to grill! Grilling romaine adds dimension to any salad.

    What wins - avocado toast vs. artichoke toast?

    Avocado for sure... I love the creaminess!

    A interior view of Southport Grocery & Cafe's dining and grocery options.

    A interior view of Southport Grocery & Cafe's dining and grocery options.

    Why Chicago? If not Chicago, where?

    Chicago is a great city with a great food presence... we have been open for 13 years! It is amazing where Chicago has evolved to. And if not Chicago, NYC. I love that city... but I am pretty sure doing business there has even more moving parts!


    Want to learn more about Southport Grocery and Cafe? Follow along via the links below.

    Website / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram

    Slow Chicagoans : Pear Tree Preserves + Hewn

    The Kirkwoods - Susie and Dieter.

    The Kirkwoods - Susie and Dieter.

    Ever witness the perfect marriage? Susie and Dieter Kirkwood are not only a married couple, but their passions also blend pretty well - slow food and slow fashion. Susie, of Pear Tree Preserves, crafts small batch preserves made with completely midwestern sourced  produce. Dieter, of Hewn, crafts minimalist bags and garments locally here in Chicago. The parallels between Slow Food and Slow Fashion are so intertwined and consumers are beginning to take notice. Luckily, if this crossover interests you - Susie and Dieter have got you covered! They will be joining forces for a pop-up at Boombox in Wicker Park later this month. (Keep an eye out for info about a opening celebration complete with sparkling jam mocktails.) From July 26th through August 1st, you can shop both of their "slow" wares. And if you're looking for more, there will also be a couple of workshops you can partake in - intro to canning and intro to leather craft, both available for purchase on the Pear Tree website (registration in advance is recommended). Until then, let's get down to it. Susie and Dieter share what makes their processes in both the food and the fashion worlds good, clean and fair.

    What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

    Susie : By day I am a freelance graphic designer and I squeeze in Pear Tree wherever it happens to fit. So on any given day I could be sitting in a design meeting one hour then in the kitchen making jam or picking up bushels of fruit the next. I feel very lucky to be able to have that variety in my work.

    Dieter : A typical studio day is a mix of designing, making, and research. Currently, it's the afternoon so I'd be working on new designs and prototypes. Sometimes that means drafting patterns on paper, other times working 3 dimesionally with materials. Most of my handbags/carrygoods start with quick form studies made out of whatever rigid material I have on hand and masking tape.

    What's the best part about your job? The hardest part?

    Susie : The best part about making jam is definitely the actual production. It's fun to make and it's fun to test new flavors. The hardest part for me is when I have to process the fruit (peeling, pitting, cutting), it gets very tedious and really tiring. I think pears and peaches are the worst - they are usually too soft to put through the apple peeler, so it's very time consuming.

    Dieter : The best part of what I do is the working exchange between thinking and making. Design is about questioning, applying, and responding. For me, quality design requires understanding of the final use and knowledge of how that design can best be realized. There is no better feeling than sketching out an idea, engineering the best way to make it, then 5 hours later having a prototype in your hands. Executing each step in that process gives a great sense of accomplishment. Hardest part, which is also one of the most important, is in the editing. Since I currently produce all of the items for Hewn, there is a limited amount of resources and time to dedicate to a final design. So some tough decisions need to be made about which key details to focus on and which designs will be produced.

    What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's fashion systems (particularly in regards to "slow" + sustainable fashion) to overcome? How does this relate to any obstacles you are aware of in our food system?

    Dieter : Number one would be infrastructure. Chicago lost most of the ancillary business, artisans and craftspeople that are vital to the overall fashion industry through United States policies and trade deals. Also, as with our food system, education is important. Both fashion and the food industry can be a resource intensive endeavor, knowing the real costs of the foods and fashions we as a society purchase can allow consumers to make choices that are better for the environment, others, and most importantly, themselves.

    What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's food systems to overcome?

    Susie : I think the problems Chicago has are not unique to the city and I see lots of very passionate efforts to improve things. From the segregation in Chicago contributing to pockets of food deserts to the general disconnect between food and agriculture. We are lucky to have many great organizations addressing these issues with urban gardens for learning and job training and producing fresh food for these areas. I think there needs to be a shift in how people think of food costs. When you are a small producer, you see and experience what goes into producing good, honest products and realize that the cost is sometimes more than people are willing to pay.

    What wins - avocado toast vs. artichoke toast?

    Susie : I would be very happy if either of these items were placed in front of me.

    Dieter : As Susie can attest to, I have a strong and visceral negative reaction to avocado, something about its' texture. So I'm in the artichoke camp.

    What do you think should be up for 2016's trendiest food item - kale's successor?

    Susie : Good question! Beets? I'm saying beets... only time will tell.

    What is your favorite Chicago food related social media account to follow?

    Susie : I love Pastoral Cheese's instagram, Cellar Door Provisions has super dreamy food photography, also Spinning J & The Logan Square Farmers Market has been pretty great lately... I could go on and on!

    How does your work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair)?

    Susie : I relate to these objectives personally and in my business. Pear Tree Preserves uses only locally sourced produce, working seasonally and directly with the farms. It is made with love in small batches by hand and sold locally. I think of it as a collaboration with the midwestern growers. Personally, I have always loved to bake and cook and realize that those things are so much more fun, and rewarding using the best ingredients. We have a couple of chickens in our backyard for fresh eggs and some fruit trees, as well as veggies and herbs in the summer!

    Dieter : Being married to a slow food producer and advocate has certainly informed the way I think about fashion and consumption as a whole. My former work in the industry followed the calcified and typical fashion playbook. We designed 2 collections a year, showed during NYC Fashion Week, adhered to the calendar that puts winter coats in stores around August and summer garments in February, and all the while felt a disconnect to the work and wearer. I'm now much more conscious and conscientious of how and why I produce bags and garments, focusing on smaller runs.

    What local sources do you employ to create your pieces? Why is it important to you to source local (in fashion, in food, or both)? What sustainable practices do you employ to make your pieces?

    Dieter : It's important to think about where and how the products we bring into our lives are produced. More important to sourcing local is sourcing quality (and here I mean quality in the final material along with consideration for the labour practices and resources used). To source local for local sake doesn't make much sense to me, luckily in my experience local and quality often go hand in hand.

    The materials I use, which influence the design outcomes, are ones that I can see, touch, experiment, and engage with. So for instance, if I am going to work with leathers it makes sense to find local purveyors, such as Horween, since within 10 minutes I can be in their factory talking with the makers and seeing various options. By building a relationship with the artisans that produce materials, I get a better understanding of their properties, inherent beauty and qualities. This arrangement also has the added benefit of a smaller travel footprint of the materials that go into the final designs.

    One of the facets of sustainability I focus on is longevity. By keeping longevity and functionality in mind, my aim is to create season-neutral bags and garments that emphasize permanence, an idea that runs counter to current mainstream industry thinking. "Fast fashion" is ubiquitous in our society and as a result clothes have become increasingly disposable. It is cheaper to manufacture impermanence for a throw away culture than to create garments made to last. This, coupled with the increased pace with which fashion trends are born and die due to social media gives the industry market incentive to create clothing with a limited lifespan. In response, I employ design elements with an expression of simplicity allowing the garments to remain viable as trends come and go. 

    Why Chicago? If not Chicago, where?

    Susie : I love Chicago, that pretty much says it all. Moving to the midwest from Florida was an adventure that changed my life. I feel right at home here and I am thankful that my son can grow up in such a culturally diverse and beautiful city!

    Dieter : Both Susie and I are from Florida, and since moving to Chicago in 2001 have really taken to the cultural vibrancy and creative community of Chicago. There is an appreciation of quality food and design and so many opportunities to learn about and experience both. If not Chicago, then Japan. Japan has such a rich history and breathtaking landscapes.


    Hungry for more? 

    Keep in touch with Susie's preserve making here :

    Website / Facebook / Instagram

    And watch Dieter's fashion company, Hewn here :

    Website / Instagram

    Slow Food Chicago Member July Discount Partner Profile : The Chopping Block

    Slow Food Chicago Members have just a couple more days to wait before they can take advantage of the July Year of Slow Food member promotion for discounted pricing on any July or August cooking classes (booked in the month of July) at The Chopping Block. We had the pleasure of chatting with their Marketing Manager Andrea Miller to discuss how their classes help patrons get comfortable and gain confidence cooking for themselves at home. This, in turn, lends a little love to our Slow Food grassroots movement of promoting and advocating for food that is good for you, cleanly produced, and fair to all those involved in it's production. Here's Andrea!

    What was the idea behind The Chopping Block? How did you start?

    The Chopping Block opened at the original location in 1997 as an antique cookware shop and cooking school in a small cottage in Lincoln Park. Shortly after opening, Owner and Chef Shelley Young found that many of her customers needed assistance in selecting pots and pans and other kitchen equipment. The retail portion of the store began to grow as Young and her team of instructors started choosing the best equipment and ingredients for home cooks and carrying those items in the store. A mentoring style of relationship flourished between The Chopping Block and its students, who quickly saw the storehouse of knowledge available in the staff. The partnership worked, and in 2003, The Chopping Block opened its second location in Lincoln Square. The Lincoln Park location was moved to an 8,000 square foot space in the Merchandise Mart in Summer 2005, which greatly expanded the offerings of the school, including the ability to offer customized private cooking events for groups as large as 300 people.

    What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

    We are always preparing for our next cooking class or private event. As one of the busiest recreational cooking schools in the country hosting an average of 300 classes and events each month, there's always something going on in our seven kitchens at our two Chicago locations.

    What's the best part about your job? The hardest part?

    The best part about working at The Chopping Block is being part of a team whose mission is to get the country to cook. We do that not only by offering cooking classes and private events, but by building a community around cooking through our website, social media outlets and instructional videos. Our staff sets up apart from other schools because they truly care about cooking. Shelley has a motto she lives by everyday. Her goal is to create a company environment that her employees' view as "the best job they have ever had."

    The sluggish economy presents an interesting situation for The Chopping Block. While Americans are still tightening their belt on eating out, they are cooking more at home. So, while people may be hesitant to spend the money on a cooking class, they greatly value the skills learned at the class. We provide a service that helps people make better decisions about food.

    What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's food systems to overcome?

    Getting quality food and education on how to prepare it for more people in need.

    How does The Chopping Block's work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair food)?

    It's no secret that eating at home is less expensive, healthier and brings families and friends together at the table. It's focusing on those relationships that are created over food that we try to lead by example. We are constantly evolving to fit our customers' needs. With all of the different classes and events we do each month, it can be a challenge to engage each person that walks through our doors. But our staff excels at this! Whether a customer is attending one of our intensive Culinary Boot Camps or out for a fun date night, our goal is to listen to what they hope to get out of their experience and meet those expectations.

    What surprising food item or cooking method do you think will trend in 2016?

    Vegetables are stealing the show this year, and we've seen that by the popularity of our Clean Eating classes as well as the number of people who downloaded our free Clean Eating: Getting Started Guide.

    What's your favorite food related social media account to follow?

    It's so hard to choose just one! We love Food52, The Kitchn, Tasting Table and many more.

    Anything else you'd like to share?

    We also carry food-friendly wines and craft spirits at both locations, and we recently opened a bar at the Merchandise Mart. Stop by for Happy Hour on Tuesdays 4pm-6pm and enjoy select glasses of wines for $7!


    Want to learn more and keep up with The Chopping Block crew? Follow along via the links below.

    Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest 

    Slow Food Chicago Member May Discount Partner Profile : Angelic Organics

    For Slow Food Chicago members, you have just a few days left to take advantage of May's Year of Slow Food member discount on programming from Angelic Organics. Read on below to get some insight into how Angelic Organics got started, and how they are fighting for good, clean and fair food for all.

    The following profile is as answered by Angelic Organics' Associate Executive Director, Deb Crockett.

    What was the idea behind Angelic Organics Learning Center? How did you start?

    In the fall of 1998, the core group of shareholders in Angelic Organics Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm met for a week to dream about how to best respond to people wanting to learn from and about Angelic Organics. Farmer John Peterson wanted to support educational efforts on the farm, but needed to focus his own energy on growing vegetables. So, the core group decided to start a non-profit dedicated to food & farm education; founders Tom Spaulding and Neddy Astudillo packed their bags and moved to Caledonia from Chicago to launch the Learning Center as a non-profit the following spring.  

    Since then, we’ve stayed true to our mission to build sustainable local food and farm systems through programs that change the way people farm and eat, so that the food and farm economy is healthy, green, fair and culturally-expressed. We offer various food + farm workshops, school field trips, summer day camps, and customized group programs on Angelic Organics farm. We facilitate urban farming programs in Rockford and Chicago (Englewood) that increase access to good food, growing opportunities, and entrepreneurial skills. We support the next generation of sustainable farmers through our yearlong Stateline Farm Beginnings training course, the Upper Midwest CRAFT farmer training alliance, and various farm financing programs. 

    What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

    My days are so varied! This next week, I’ll teach a class for preschoolers and their parents, meet with community partners, evaluate our work, cook breakfast for our staff, do hive checks for our three hives, and address whatever other issues and ideas come forward from our talented and dedicated staff team. As much as the weather permits, I take my computer and meetings to the porch of our whole tree architecture building, with good views of goats, chickens, cattle and more! By the way, the pigs just went out to pasture today and are having a fantastic and comical romp in the field.  

    What’s the best part about your job? The hardest part?

    The best part is when people make a connection through a Learning Center program--with a farm, with their food, with another person, or with their own personal calling. You see this in hundreds of small transformations that lead to a larger impact: from a boost in a child’s self confidence after milking a goat, to a farmer who is able to finally leave their day job to pursue their dream.  The hardest part is that there is never enough time to do everything.  

    What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago’s food systems to overcome?

    Quite simply we need more farmers connected directly with more people who want good food.  And, by “want good food” I mean people who understand the value of healthy, local, connected food and are willing and able to pay enough for their food that farmers can make a living wage while growing our very sustenance.  

    How does Angelic Organics Learning Center’s work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair food)?

    The Learning Center considers "good food” as food coming from a sustainable local food and farm economy that satisfies a “Quadruple Bottom Line”, which we define as Economy, Equity, Ecology and Expression.  Another way of talking about it is that good food is healthy (meets the needs of our bodies and communities), green (meets Earth’s needs), fair (protects the rights of all workers and eaters and gives farmers a living wage), and culturally expressed (protects freedom of expression and culture).  

    Our tagline is “Learn Grow Connect,” and this resonates throughout all of our programs and work.  We provide opportunities for eaters to learn skills to grow, get and prepare good food at three locations in Rockford, Chicago, and Caledonia.  Through our farmer training programs, we support beginning farmers in overcoming obstacles to farm viability, for instance, helping them to write a realistic business plan, to manage saving for a farm implement, or to connect with a mentor.  We always work in partnerships to more effectively share best practices, build community, and change culture, laws, or circumstances to favor the local food system.  We believe that people from all sectors of our food system need voice and opportunity in getting access to good food.  

    What surprising homesteading hobby do you think will trend in 2016?

    Using backyard plants for medicinal purposes: elderberry cough syrup, plantain poultices, and a variety of teas and tinctures from many plants.  

    Favorite food related social media account to follow?

    I asked my colleagues for help on this one, and their suggestions ranged widely: try The Sporkful (https://twitter.com/thesporkful), EatLocalGrown, Punk Domestics, Civil Eats, Food + Tech Connect,; Chicago Farm Report; Natural Awakenings

    Is there anything else you’d like us to share about your business?

    Come join us for an upcoming workshop or event!  Visit www.learngrowconnect.org/ to sign up for a skills workshop or event on Angelic Organics farm, or create your own experience through a customized program. We also encourage people to attend our Peak Harvest Farm Dinner on July 28 at Galleria Marchetti in Chicago. We will be honoring Rick Bayless & Deann Groen Bayless of Frontera Farmer Foundation. Guests will enjoy cuisine & cocktails made from locally sourced ingredients, live music, adorable farm animals, and special guests including emcee Monica Eng! Tickets & info can be found at www.learngrowconnect.org/farmdinner. We also offer numerous volunteering or job opportunities at www.learngrowconnect.org/jobs.  


    Hungry for more? Catch up with Angelic Organics via the link below. And get in on the member deal here. Not a Slow Food member? Sign up here.

    Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube 

     

    Tomato Seedling Sale - This Saturday!

    Looking for something to do this weekend? We've got you covered. Slow Food Chicago's annual heirloom tomato seedling sale will return on Saturday, May 14th. A few of Slow Food Chicago's Board Members will be hanging out in Bang!Bang!'s (Logan Square location) pie garden starting at 9am with an abundance of heirloom varieties of seedlings available for purchase. Need some extra incentive to get your backyard gardens or patio growing spaces up and running? A purchase of 3 or more seedlings will get you a free made-from-scratch biscuit from the good folks at Bang!Bang! Sounds like your weekend is shaping up quite nicely...!

     

    Join us this Saturday, May 14th, 2016 for our Annual Heirloom Tomato Seedling Sale at Bang!Bang! Pie Shop.

    Join us this Saturday, May 14th, 2016 for our Annual Heirloom Tomato Seedling Sale at Bang!Bang! Pie Shop.

    When : Saturday, May 14th, 2016 / 9am - 4pm (or until we sell out!)

    Where : Bang Bang Pie Shop - Logan Square / 2051 N. California Ave (map)

    What : Slow Food Chicago's Annual Heirloom Seedling Sale will feature dozens of different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, grown by master gardener and Slow Food Member, Judy Casten. A full listing of available varieties can be found here.

    Cost : Seedlings will be available for purchase at an estimated price range of between $4-6 (depending on variety and size). Remember, if you purchase 3 or more seedlings, Bang Bang will give you a FREE BISCUIT! All proceeds to this sale support Slow Food Chicago.

    May Day - The Historic Holiday of Fighting for "Fair"

    The following is a guest blog post written by Alexandria Boutros of the Food Chain Workers Alliance.

    The first May Day "celebration" occurred on May 1st in 1886. Across the United States, over 300,000 workers across roughly 13,000 businesses walked off their jobs. In Chicago alone, at least 40,000 workers went on strike. Thus were the beginnings of the labor movement, continuing to this day (over a dozen decades later) to tenaciously fight for workers' rights.


    Those of us who work in the food system, as farmers, farm workers, food service workers, or in supermarkets need to unite for good jobs, dignity, and justice from farm to plate. Slow Food's slogan is "good, clean, fair", and May Day especially is time where we highlight the "fair" part of Slow Food's Mission. May Day is meant to create an environment of anyone working in the food system to feel welcomed and appreciated. 

    The Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) also believes in the right of all communities to live, create and work with dignity, respect and equitable access to resources. From farms to restaurants, workers in the food industry are the lowest-paid sector of our economy.

    One way FCWA is working to end the exploitation of workers is with the Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP).  GFPP’s purpose is to increase access to high-quality healthy food in communities and shift production practices especially when it comes to workers, by leveraging the purchasing power of major institutions. This national campaign is happening in several cities around the nation and is at varying stages. 

    The potential in Cincinnati for instance, is very exciting since it can serve as a blueprint for other cities: A unionized worker-owned cooperative can plant, harvest, produce and supply the food to the city and its institutions. This food will be nutritious and grown organically and sustainably and with all of the standards represented by GFPP. In Chicago, the mayor has appointed a task-force to implement the policy, while the Chicago Park District has committed to run a pilot for this summer's feeding program. In San Francisco, a vote on May 10th can make the school district there the second to implement the groundbreaking policy, after LA. Meanwhile, momentum is building in other cities like NY, Oakland, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Slow Food chapters are key partners nationally and in many ways represent the food system we're trying to create!

    To learn more about FCWA or to get involved visit them online via the links below.

    Website / Facebook / Voices of the Food Chain (Video)

    Slow Food Book Club Reads Silent Spring

    Hope you can join us this Thursday night for a thoughtful conversation at the April edition of Slow Food Book Club. We will be discussing Rachel Carson's game changing book, Silent Spring. First published as excerpts in the New Yorker in 1962, Caron's now historic text became known for it's influential activism that spurred revolutionary changes to environmental law. Today, we are still having many of the conversations posed by Carson in this text - primarily, how do we undo the damage that has already been done by our overuse of pesticides and insecticides while still ensuring that our planet is a safe and flourishing place to live for generations to come? Continue the conversation with us as we discuss this life-altering book at Pilsen's own plant and garden shop - Verdant Matter. We know this one can be tough to get through. Don't think you'll finish in time for Thursday night? Don't sweat it. You can still come chat with us amongst the plants! Attendees are encouraged to bring not only your fine self but also a snack and/or drink to share. 

    Join Slow Food Chicago for a discussion of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring this Thursday evening at Pilsen plant and pottery shop Verdant Matter.

    Join Slow Food Chicago for a discussion of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring this Thursday evening at Pilsen plant and pottery shop Verdant Matter.

    WHAT : Slow Food Book Club : Silent Spring

    WHEN : Thursday, April 28th, 2016 // 7pm-8pm

    WHERE : Verdant Matter / 1152 W. 18th Street (map)

    COST : Free to attend! Bring your own snack/drink to share.

     

    Opening Volunteer Day at the preSERVE Garden Recap

    This past Saturday was the first preSERVE garden volunteer day of the season. In addition to prepping the beds, we got some seed potatoes into the ground. After a couple hours of getting some dirt under our nails and feeling the sun on our backs, we enjoyed a community meal. Thank you to everyone that came out, contributed their time (and sweat), and brought food to share. We are so excited for all that's to come this season. And if this weekend was any indication - it's going to be a good season.

    Mark your calendars. The next volunteer date is May 21st (10am-12pm). Can't make the weekend work? This season, we're adding Thursday evening volunteer days. Join us on Thursday, June 23rd (5pm-7pm). Have questions? Want to RSVP? Reach out to Stefanie at slowfoodpreserve@gmail.com.

    Slow Food Chicago Member Discount Partner Profile : The Spice House

    Being a member of Slow Food Chicago does not come without it's benefits. Thanks to Year of Slow Food - your membership becomes something more tangible that just a donation to a cause you believe in. Throughout the year, each month members receive new offers and discounts from local businesses, restaurants, farms, and purveyors emulating the Slow Food objectives for a good, clean and fair food system. This month's (April) member partner is The Spice House - run by second generation spice merchants, dedicated to grinding their carefully curated selection of imported spices in small batches which are then mixed by hand, often using family recipes to create some of their popular blends. Let's just say, if you plan on slowing down and cooking a meal from scratch anytime soon - these are the tools you'll want in your back pocket - high quality, thoughtfully sourced spices and blends from the pro's who have been at this since 1957. Read on for a peek into a day in the life of a spice merchant and get a sense for their dedication to an "old-fashioned" process - regardless of how "slow" it may be.

    What was the idea behind The Spice House? How did you start?

    We are second generation spice merchants, my parents began our store in 1957. Their goal, which follows through to today, was to supply our customers with spices of the highest caliber from the top sources of origin from around the world. Once imported, we grind the spices fresh in house. Once finished we hand craft our seasonings based on our old family recipes. 

    What would you be doing right now on a typical work day?

    Today we are grinding the most fragrant black pepper from the Tellicherry coast of India. Once ground, this will become one of the fresh ingredients in our bestselling blend, Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper, Butchers’ Rub.  We will take care of many customers, enjoying our talk about cooking.  I will also answer dozens of emails from other customers who are not so lucky to be shopping in store, where they can taste everything, but are instead shopping online. 

    What's the best part about your job? The hardest part?

    Being a spice merchant is absolutely the best part of the job. We love to experiment with flavors and create new blends. It was all pure and beautiful when we just had brick and mortar shops where we talked to our customers about cooking all day long. Then the internet came along, and that scenario changed. The hardest part is all the things we are forced to do that have nothing to do with being spice merchants. We recently installed a new POS system which has given us months of headaches because the gateways don’t all interface with one another. Balancing the budget, accounting reports, human resources, PR, SEO, social media and all the other jobs that are required to stay afloat in today’s world of e-commerce are a necessary part of our work day. 

    What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's food system to overcome?

    Food desserts still desperately need attention and further action on early initiatives. People everywhere need to have access to affordable, healthy food choices. The upscale neighborhood of Old Town, where one of our shops is located, has at least a dozen good grocery stores within a mile. Large areas like Bronzeville or Englewood have almost none. Kudos to Whole Foods for putting in a store in Englewood this year.  

    How does The Spice House's work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair food)?

    We source the highest quality spices and herbs from around the world. Once imported, we take care to grind everything in house, in small batches of what we are anticipating selling in the next week or two. Once ground, the spices get mixed into seasonings by hand, again in small batches to ensure the ultimate in freshness. And the following week, we start all over again. Whenever possible, we try to support new initiatives by co-operatives in third world countries, who are trying to teach farmers a way to augment their income by introducing spice crops to their crop rotations. 

    Here is a video of one of our blends, Chesapeake Bay Seasoning, being created. You can see how slow and old fashioned our blending process is!

    The Spice House's curry powder blend.

    The Spice House's curry powder blend.

    What surprising spice do you think will trend in 2016?

    I think we are seeing a great deal of interest in lost or extinct crops.  Crops that went out of vogue for some reason, now have piqued our interest.  There are some really devoted people focused on this, like Glen Roberts of Anson Mills. With the help of scientist David Shields, and his in-depth knowledge of seed banks and culinary history, they are able to work toward returning some lost legacies from ancient times to today’s farmers and chefs. I believe you call this a re-emergent cuisine. One can extrapolate that this will translate into the spice world as well. Ancient herbs are returning to the culinary forefront. And while thyme, rosemary, mint, lavender, have always been culinary herbs, they have never been more popular. If this is a trend, heirloom spices and herbs should also be on our radar. Trending upward over the past few years and showing no sign of slowing down, is turmeric, which has some pretty powerful medicinal properties. 

    What is your favorite food related social media account to follow (outside of Slow Food Chicago, of course)?

    I really enjoy the work of the gang at Serious Eats.  A really great local food forum which lots of great foodie chat is LTH Forum.    

    Is there anything else you'd like to share about your business?

    We were thrilled to be named to Food and Wine’s best spice shops in THE WORLD!  


    Hungry for more? Follow along with The Spice House team via the links below.

    Website / Facebook / Blog / Twitter / Instagram / PinterestNewsletter Sign-Up

    To receive the full 52-page Spice House catalog, email spices@thespicehouse.com.

    Join us for a FIG Drinks Showcase

    Thursday night. It's the prelude to the big show (welcoming in the weekend after the five o'clock bell rings on Friday). But this week, Thursday night gives Friday a run for its money. This Thursday, the good folks at FIG Catering bring you the [belated] launch of their beverage program, FIG Drinks. Not only will you get a peek at at the drinks program (from punch to sustainable wines), but you will get the chance to nosh on delicious food (also from FIG, score!), as well as witness a cocktail competition (or if you prefer, showdown) between the FIG beverage folks and our very own Slow Food Chicago board member, Kim Werst. Kim will be bringing her homemade rum punch with quince and pear syrup. (Hello, yum.) If all that is not convincing enough, there will also be live music as well as spun tunes and the proceeds from your ticket will benefit your faves - Slow Food Chicago! Vote with your hard-earned dollars and show some support for your local Slow Food chapter, along with some stellar local Chicago businesses, and do some good while you get your drink on. See you there!

    What : FIG Drinks Showcase

    Where : Salvage One // 1840 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60622 (map)

    When : Thursday, March 24th, 2016 // 6pm-9pm

    Cost : Your $10 donation can be purchased via Brown Paper Tickets. Proceeds to benefit Slow Food Chicago.

    Slow Food Book Club : An Everlasting Meal

    Spring is in the air and with it comes the very first Slow Food Book Club of the year! March's food focused read is Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal : Cooking with Economy and Grace. With an introduction written by Slow Food champion Alice Waters, this month's read seems like a no-brainer. Tamar's dreamy and delicious writing will have you daydreaming of the upcoming farmers market season along with the locally sourced meals you are soon to create. Resourcefulness is also one of Adler's strong suits - with plenty of tips for stretching your sustenance dollars and making the produce and protein alike that you purchase earn its keep. Didn't finish the book? Read the whole thing in one night? Never heard of it? Whatever category you fall into - if you love to talk about food almost as much as you like to eat it, join us at Local Foods this Thursday.

    What : Slow Food Book Club

    Where : Local Foods / 1427 W. Willow St, Chicago, IL 60642 (Map)

    When : Thursday, March 10th, 2016 / 6:00pm

    Details : Join us for the first book club of 2016! We will be discussing Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal : Cooking with Economy and Grace. Food and drink available to purchase at Local Foods / Stock Cafe. But we definitely won't turn you away if you bring a snack to share with the group.

    Cost : Free! Just bring yourself and some foodie-fueled conversation.