Today is Earth Day, April 22nd, and what better way to celebrate Mother Nature than by patronizing or supporting your favorite Snail of Approval restaurant or food business. Slow Food Chicago has chosen five food businesses for this Snail of Approval award in the Chicagoland area that represent the same mission – good, clean, fair. These businesses are Uncommon Ground (On Clark St. and On Devon St.), The Butcher and Larder, Fig Catering, Sandwich Me In, and Scrumptious Pantry. From reducing waste to sourcing local and using heirlooms, these business owners have taken serious measures to be sustainable and be green. You can feel good about where you’re spending your dollars and I am pretty sure your taste buds will thank you. Here are some reasons why it’s important to visit & purchase from Snail of Approval businesses.
Good – Most food travels over 1500 miles from source to store and is put on shelves and plates 6-7 days after it has been harvested. That’s a lot of fossil fuels being burned. And in order to make sure that the produce is not rotten when sold, it is picked pre-ripened and gassed to stay fresh so there is a super lack of nutrients and those nutrients bring flavor. You can kiss the beta-carotenes in carrots, the iron and potassium in leafy greens, or even the sweet flavor of a tomato goodbye. You’re merely eating the image of a carrot and you might look at that as eating empty calories or junk food. On the flip side, when you go to the farmers market or a business that buys direct you get a plump, ripe, juicy fruit or vegetable that has usually been harvested within 48 hours. Sometimes the ripe flavors are so pungent that they are irreplicable and likely a very specific flavor or color because they are an heirloom, a varietal that has never been modified and pre-1950’s when modern planters first created hybrids. Businesses that source local products often use methods of preservation since you can’t get many of these products from November to May. Thus, you might find summers bounty preserved in a sauce or pickled on a dish and your nostalgia of summer will bring you back to the warm days with each bite.
Another indicator of good food is locally sourced meats. Businesses are sourcing from small, local, responsible, and humane farmers for their meats. When purchasing meats you might hear the words pastured, grass-fed, or grazing animals which are beneficial practices to flavor and health. Grass-fed beef is two-four times lower in fat that commercial grain-fed beef. Also, grass, shrubs, plants, and insects are the natural diet of many animals so when you are feeding them what they are meant to be eating; they are less likely to get sick and thus less likely to need antibiotics. You are also getting two–four times as many omega-3 fatty acids, the good fat that is a part of every cell in your body. Finally, if you ever had an egg from a pastured bird, you can see that the yolk is bright orange, almost red and that color determines good nutrients and you can be sure to be even fuller when finishing an egg or two than commodity eggs.
Clean – The Snail of Approval businesses care about the farmer & they care about the environment. From the ground up, these businesses are building on green foundations. Building materials are often recycled. Rooftop gardens are spreading like wildfires as are beehives. These businesses reduce waste through recycling (people even recycle fryer oil) and composting. By using as much product as possible they reduce waste so nose-to-tail dining is better than just a trend. Kitchens are using energy efficient appliances and putting in solar panels. And finally, businesses are choosing to cook from scratch and this reduces packaging and waste. You can be sure you’re respecting Mother Nature when patronizing a “Snail”.
Fair – By supporting a local business or “Snail” award recipient you’re supporting the local economy. The businesses support other local businesses and farms. The revenue a farmer generates from a food business they can put into fixing a tractor or growing their businesses by creating a new product that can then create even more revenue. When these farmers are more sustainable & economical, costs go down and when costs go down, eating local becomes more affordable. Take this for example: a butcher purchasing a whole animal can help a farmer to make revenue off of a whole animal and pieces that might not otherwise be able to be sold do not get wasted. When a farmer can sell a whole animal, each cut can be a bit cheaper because they do not have to factor into the parts that get wasted. You might hear of a “butchers cut” or see a new type of steak on a menu and this is because the chefs and meat cutters are utilizing a piece of meat that might otherwise go to waste. Imagine if everyone wanted to only grill flank steak all summer, you would have to kill another cow for every two flanks you buy. What then happens with the rest of that cow? Next time you go to your butcher, ask for a steak you never heard of and chances is you’re eating more sustainably and often the “butchers cuts” are often not as pricey as a NY Strip or other center cut steak.
You can be sure that the “Snails” know the source of the products they buy and that there is transparency in the supply chain. Their contribution to the good of the land is impeccable. Make everyday earth day and support one of the following businesses. Listed below is a list of our “Snail” winners; click on the links that talk about their individual contributions to good, clean, and fair food.
Uncommon Ground – I’m Slow, Click Here to see how!
Butcher and Larder - I’m Slow, Click Here to see how!
Fig Catering - I’m Slow, Click Here to see how!
Sandwich Me In - I’m Slow, Click Here to see how!
Scrumptious Pantry - I’m Slow, Click Here to see how!
Written by Lis David