A "Slow" Agro-tourism Experience - in Italia

The following is a guest blog post by Slow Food Chicago community member Rebecca Margolis. You can get in touch with Rebecca about her experience on instagram or via email (margolis.rebecca@gmail.com).

The electric gate to agriturismo Podere Prasiano slowly swings open and Eddy the dog lopes down the lane to greet us. In the vista before us we see groves of cherry trees to the left, grapevines of various ages to our right, and ahead is a lovingly restored farmhouse set amidst a backdrop of rolling Emilian hills. We (my husband and I) are in Italy for two-weeks. After long days traipsing through hilly medieval towns in Tuscany, touring museums and cathedrals, and trying to fit in as many meals as possible per day in search of the best Bolognese, we have come here to slow down.

Eddy the dog. (Image provided by Rebecca Margolis.)

Eddy the dog. (Image provided by Rebecca Margolis.)

Eddy is the beloved pup of Massimo Cavani and Emanuela Grotti, owners of this family farm and guesthouse that have been in Massimo’s family since 1959. The farm is situated about an hour outside of the town of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Massimo and Emanuela both grew up in the province and have made it their life’s work to share their special corner of the world and slow approach to living with others. Emilia-Romagna does not rely on tourism for income, as the region is rich in agriculture and industry. As visitors, there is not much to do here but relax and explore the countryside. Because we are foodies, we were drawn to this place because it is the home of Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamic Vinegar and Prosciutto de Parma.

All meals served at the guesthouse are made from produce grown on-site in the organic garden and eggs gathered from the hen house. Under the eaves of the house, balsamic vinegar has been aging in a battery of casks for 34 years. Jams and preserves are made from the farm’s orchard flush with cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, figs raspberries, blackberries and currants. Recently, the Podere has started experimenting with growing its own olives for pressing olive oil. In 2004 Massimo, a trained sommelier, planted his first grape vines and began producing organic Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in 2010.  

Podere Prasiano. (Image provided by Rebecca Margolis.)

Podere Prasiano. (Image provided by Rebecca Margolis.)

In 2016, Podere Prasiano was tapped to participate in a project called the Festasio Project with the Universities of Bologna and Modena and the Region of Emilia-Romagna. Part of a larger project by the Centro Ricerche Produzioni Vegetali (Crop Production Research Center or CRPV) to protect biodiversity, the Festasio Project seeks to revive an ancient grape from the nearby village of Festá. Podere Prasiano was selected as a partner due to their commitment to organic farming and their perfect soil composition for a grape thought to originate in the area. They were also chosen for their willingness to invest time and money in cultivating a non-commercial crop, not to mention their proven commitment to creating artisan wines, and doing things slowly to achieve the best quality. Massimo, who was born in the village of Festá, was thrilled to participate.

In the 1970s and 80s, Italian grape growers began to shift their crops away from traditional grape varieties to more well known grapes that fetched higher sums from wine producers. The current countrywide effort to revive ancient grapes is in part a search for more special, artisanal opportunities in winemaking but its overall goal is to promote sustainable crop production by protecting biodiversity. The Festasio grape is important to study as it has very strong vines that are resistant to disease.  

Festá is a tiny village that belongs to the municipality of Marano sul Panaro. Today, only nine people live in the village.  As seems the norm in every tiny village in the Italian countryside, there is a medieval tower, a church and a delicious restaurant (despite the lack of nearby humans). The local wisdom is that in the year 890 the area was transformed into a vineyard and there are writings about the Festasio grape to support this. Much of the region has now been taken over by production of the Lambrusco grape due to a boom in popularity (particularly in the US) in the 1980s. Lambrusco is now the second most popular wine export from Italy after Prosecco. Older, traditional grapes have so fallen out of favor that by the time the Festasio project was initiated the grape had almost disappeared. Festasio was brought back to life after it was discovered by Claudio Plessi, a professor of agriculture and champion of indigenous varietals, in an ancient vineyard close to the village of Festá.

Festasio, a wine that almost vanished due to the popularity of Lambrusco grapes taking over the landscape. (Image provided by Rebecca Margolis.)

Festasio, a wine that almost vanished due to the popularity of Lambrusco grapes taking over the landscape. (Image provided by Rebecca Margolis.)

On a perfect summer night, Massimo takes me on a tour of his vineyard. His Festasio vines are in their second year and this is the first year he’ll harvest grapes and actually make wine from them. Grapes produced in the first few years of a vine’s life typically do not produce fruit suitable for making wine but this is all experimental. On a smaller scale, the CRPV has managed the growth of Festasio grapes in a test garden since 2001.  The first wines were made in 2011. After Massimo and I return from our tour of the vineyard, he gathers my husband and our friends around a small café table on the terrace. Sitting there is a perfectly chilled bottle of Festasio wine from the 2011 harvest. This experimental bottle is one of a treasured few Massimo has for his own personal enjoyment.

Rebecca Margolis tasting the Festasio wine from 2011. (Image provided by the author.)

Rebecca Margolis tasting the Festasio wine from 2011. (Image provided by the author.)

I am so honored to be experiencing this special wine that I want to remember every detail. The color is such a dark aubergine it is almost inky. Once swirled in the glass it releases aromas of blackberry and black current that match the intensity of its color. It strikes me that the wine is very low in acid, an important characteristic in providing structure to a wine. One purpose of creating these experimental wines is to determine what the best use of the grape will be. Perhaps as the vines mature the grapes will produce juice worthy of a single varietal wine. Perhaps Festasio will be deemed a grape most suitable for blending. It all remains to be seen as the vines continue to mature and the team continues to experiment with production methods.

As a Festá native, a passionate organic farmer and a wine lover, this project is a dream for Massimo. As we raise our second glasses for a toast he says, “this is my wine, the wine of my village”.

Your Ticket to This Years Farm Roast Celebration is So Much More Than Just a Ticket to Our Most Delicious Event of the Year

Every year, we gather and celebrate local farmers and producers along with the chefs, mixologists and purveyors who make their ingredients shine. The Farm Roast is a time where rare and distinctive ingredients on the Ark of Taste, a living catalog of heirloom varieties at risk of extinction, are front and center. From a dairy free horchata made with oat milk using oats sourced from Three Sisters Garden in Kankakee, IL to farro tabouleh with feta, mint, cucumber and Moon and Stars watermelon sourced from Stewards of the Land to a Cherokee Purple tomato jam - you'll find a diverse selection of drinks and dishes at this event.

But beyond being a celebration of biodiversity, the Farm Roast is also a fundraiser that helps Slow Food Chicago to be able to provide travel scholarships for community members and good food advocates so that they may have the opportunity to attend Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy. This biennial global food conference happens in late September and brings together those dedicated to good, clean and fair food - artisan and small-scale food and wine producers, as well as a forum of exchange for producers and consumers. This year, over twenty individuals will be attending the international conference from the state of Illinois. So in buying your ticket to the 2018 Farm Roast, you are not only endorsing good food values by supporting local farmers and producers, but you are sponsoring the trip of a local midwestern food activist. 

Profiles of this year's delegates are below. Don't forget that you have the chance to meet a handful of these delegates in person at our Terra Madre delegate breakout session (happening at 4:15pm). The panel is free to attend, but advanced registration is encouraged.

Thank you, as always, for your support of our vision that our environment, culture and economy are profoundly affected by what we choose to eat. We believe that everyone should have access to high-quality food produced in a sustainable and equitable way. And when you partake in an event like that farm roast, you are voting with your dollars in alignment with this view. 

See you at the Roast!


Katie Johnson, Slow Food Chicago co-President

What: Slow Food Chicago's Annual Farm Roast Celebration

When: Sunday, September 9th, 2018 / 2pm-5pm

Where: Local Foods parking lot (1427 W. Willow Chicago, IL)

Tickets: Purchase general admission and breakout session tickets here.

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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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    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 Chicagoan Profile : Lee Greene of Scrumptious Pantry

    Team Beaver Dam Pepper! John (the grower), Larry (the grandson) and Lee (of Scrumptious Pantry).

    Team Beaver Dam Pepper! John (the grower), Larry (the grandson) and Lee (of Scrumptious Pantry).

    There's been a lot of discussion (due to all the buzzing surrounding the upcoming election) about voting lately. Much like voting for a candidate, each time you go to the grocery store or farmers market or co-op, you are quite literally voting with your dollars. From the products you buy, to the stores or farmers you support, even to how you got there - each choice can have a butterfly effect on how our food system operates, often without us even realizing it. We cast our food votes daily - at every meal. Scrumptious Pantry is a business that I feel resonates deeply with this process. Founder Lee Greene, produces condiments crafted not only with care but with carefully selected heirloom varieties of ingredients. By putting only the best into the process - she gets products that burst with authentic flavors. And while I'm sure doing things Lee's way may seem at times like an upstream battle, the end product proves that it is something worth fighting (and voting) for. Read on for more about Lee, how her business began, and addressing the struggle to find balance between good, clean and fair all at once.

    What was the idea behind Scrumptious Pantry? How did you start?

    Well, I did my MBA in Milan and was blown away by the fierceness with which my friends debated the difference between a tomato grown in one town and the one grown five miles down the road. I had no idea food could create such passionate debates! Nor did I previously understand that, yes, five miles do make a difference. That intrigued me, so after graduation I joined a small Tuscan biodynamic winery – Cosimo Maria Masini - as their Managing Director. You can find their wines in Chicago, by the way. There I really understood the concept of terroir (or sense of place) and what it means to have a truly sustainable agricultural production. We had started selling our wines to Chicago with the help of our awesome friends at Candid Wines, so I spent quite a bit of time here hustling the wines. Consumer interest in food and its origins was beginning to grow, so I figured why not take the concepts of terroir, regional varieties and culinary history and create a food brand based on these values. So in 2010 my cats and I arrived in Chicago. We launched the first products showcasing domestic heirloom varieties in March 2011 at the Good Food Festival.

    Scrumptious Pantry's beaver dam pepper product lineup.

    Scrumptious Pantry's beaver dam pepper product lineup.

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

    There is no typical workday. I might be visiting a farm and discussing some new heirloom crops to grow, developing recipes, doing a photo shoot, making sales calls or checking on our numbers. Accounting is the least sexy thing, but the most important. You gotta know your numbers!

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

    I love any type of event where I can meet customers and feed them samples. It is invigorating to see their eyes widen in delight and the best compliment is to hear “That tastes like *insert food memory*”. Touching people with food is very powerful, and that is where the chance for change lies. 

    The hardest part is surviving. Unfortunately most of the food businesses dedicated to sustainable food are far from being sustainable from an economic perspective. It takes a lot of money to build a brand, serve the retail customers, keep inventory on hand... Consumers might think “that is expensive” if they see a jam or sauce or what not on the shelves in a store at $5.99. But rest assured – no one is making a killing on that. You need various levels along the distribution chain to get the product to customers. Back to the $5.99 example - to break even as a business that sells their products with an MSRP of $5.99, you have to sell 1,000 units a day. 365 days a week. For products that are not consumed several times a day (like bread, meats, dairy, produce), it is almost impossible to only serve a local market. You need to have a much wider customer base. And that takes a lot of time and money to build.

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

    We are very lucky here in Chicago, we have such a bounty surrounding us. The fruit, veggie and dairy farms are plentiful. The cheesemakers amazing. We even have local fish in the Great Lakes. And then there are all these talented food artisans and chefs creating beautiful interpretations of the ingredients. It is truly a celebration of the Midwest. 

    But we still have ways to go to make these experiences accessible for more people. Right now we are stuck: there are a few niche customers that are willing to pay the premium that it takes to make better food, but they are not enough to really impact the cost of the food. After all, it is a market: more demand leads to more efficiencies and better tools and that leads to lower cost, at which point more consumers can access the market. There are a great number of people working on solutions: collaborative structures, food hubs… Those are crucial if we really want a good, clean and fair food system. 

    Scrumptious Pantry is a Chicago based company committed to showcasing heirloom ingredients.

    Scrumptious Pantry is a Chicago based company committed to showcasing heirloom ingredients.

    How does Scrumptious Pantry’s work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair food)?

    Scrumptious Pantry is about the true flavor of food - that is why we are highlighting heirloom varieties in our products. If you have great tasting ingredients, you do not need any additives to make up for the lack of real flavor. Ingredient lists of processed food started to read like a science project, because there was no more flavor in the raw materials once we turned to mass-produced agriculture. If you adjust varieties for ease of cultivation, uniformity, shelf life… There is a round-up on how flavor was bred out of the tomato on our blog. It was not done intentionally, flavor was just not the priority anymore. (http://scrumptiouspantry.com/loosing-flavor-why-tomatoes-dont-taste-they-way-your-grandmother-remembers/)

    So by going back to real flavorful ingredients, and celebrating those flavors, you’ve got good and clean. Growing food with flavor takes time and dedication, and is often more risky than relying on hybrid varieties. You got to be a fair partner to the farmers, if you want good product. Plus, I am on the lower end of the totem pole myself. I’d like to be fairly treated and be able to sell my product for a price that respects the work that went in to it. You cannot really ask for fair treatment of yourself and then disregard the fair treatment of your partners.

    What do you think is in store for 2016’s trendiest food item- kale’s successor?

    I wish we would stop running after food trends. They are distractions from actual food education. Or maybe we can make food education the next trend? 

    Why Chicago? If not Chicago, where?

    I came to Chicago because it’s truly the heartland. As I mentioned before, there is such a bounty here for sourcing and of ideas. From a business perspective as a consumer good New York is the place to be though. That is where the opinion leaders and the influencers are that reach the nation far and near. As well as the money. It is almost incestuous, but boy, they are successful in creating launching pads for new brands.

    What is your second favorite Chicago food related social media account to follow? (Can’t be first, because of course, SFC is your first favorite.)

    I love to follow what my fellow good food entrepreneurs and cheer them on. IF I had to choose one it would probably be Mike and Anne at Sauce & Bread Kitchen/Coop-Sauce/Crumb Bread. They tell so many great stories, and their pictures of their food makes me hop on my bike and pedal from Logan Square to Edgewater, so I can enjoy their creations to the fullest.

    Want to follow along with Lee and keep informed about updates at her business? You can find more Scrumptious Pantry via the links below.

    Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 

    Slow Food Chicago Board Alumni Profile : Waleed Al-Shamma

    Time for another Chicago Board Alumni Profile. Today we bring you a glimpse into the "slow" lifestyle of former board member Waleed. Perusing his profile, it becomes clear that he lives the good, clean, fair mission on both professional and personal levels and we couldn't be more impressed by his contributions as a board member and beyond. And on the heels of board member applications being due, it seems appropriate that we give his efforts to revamp the board recruitment process an honorable nod today. Read on to understand why his definition of access to "good" food can even include that scrumptious pain au chocolat you may have found yourself indulging in this morning...!  

    Why did you join the Slow Food Chicago board? How did you learn about it and what motivated you to get involved?

    I joined the SFC board shortly after I moved to Chicago. I had been involved in reviving a dormant chapter, Slow Food Western Mass, and I knew this would be a good way to meet like minded people and help grow the local, sustainable food movement

    What project or initiative are you most proud of during your time with Slow Food Chicago? 

    I worked on a lot of great projects during my tenure on the board, but I am most proud of my work reinventing the board recruitment process. It's not sexy, but it's crucial to the development of our organization and it's paid big dividends with some great board members who replaced us!

    What are you up to these days?

    I still work daily to help grow the local, sustainable food movement as best I can. I started LOST Foods (Local Organic Sustainable Traditional) six years ago to help local farmers and producers, who are committed to improving our food system, to grow their businesses. And for the past two years I have been working for Natural Direct - a local distributor in Chicago that has been committed to distributing Organic and/or all natural, locally produced food throughout the Chicago area since 2007.

    Does Slow Food still impact your work, life, eating habits? Tell us more!

    The idea of Slow Food is still very much alive in my everyday work, life and eating habits. Lamentably, I have not had time to attend nearly as many SFC events as I would have liked to over the past few years. But I keep in touch with some board members, new and old as best I can and I am as committed as ever to the principles of Slow Food.

    Good, Clean, Fair. What does this mean to you?

    Good food is pleasing to the palate and healthy for the mind, body and/or soul. The "or" is important, because unhealthy food can still be good in moderation - like charcuteries or pain au chocolat!

    Clean food is ideally Organic and grown, raised or produced in a manner having a positive to neutral environmental impact. In processed foods, clean means being able to eat each ingredients by itself.

    Fair food recognized those hardest working men and women among us who grow, raise and harvest the food we eat. This recognition must include a middle class wage, a broader appreciation of the importance of their work and the humane treatment and dignity that we all deserve, regardless of citizenship.

    What advice would you give people who want to get more involved with Slow Food? Where can they start?

    I would advise someone to spend a year attending SFC events and getting to know a few current board members. Slow Food means a lot of different things to different people and it's important for potential board members, or active volunteers, to get a sense of how well represented their values will be in the work they will be doing.

    Anything else you want to tell us that we missed?

    Keep up the good work!

    Follow Waleed's Good, Clean and Fair lifestyle on Instagram (@walshamma).

    Slow Food Chicago Board Alumni Profile : Jennifer Polk

    The deadline for Slow Food Chicago Board Member positions has come and gone. But that doesn't mean you missed out on your chance to get involved and join this powerful movement. In an attempt to inspire you to take that first step, we bring to you another board member alumni profile. Today's dose of encouragement comes in the form of some insights and reflections from past SFC board member Jennifer Polk. Jennifer began as a preSERVE garden volunteer and her participation grew from there. As you will see as you read on - the influence of Slow Food on her personal life also blossomed (pun intended). To give you a preview - as her passion for the Slow Food movement grew, so did it's impact in her personal life - as she graduated with time from a few sad containers of plant growth on her back porch balcony to a robust backyard garden. Read on for more food for thought from Jennifer!


    Why did you join the Slow Food Chicago board? How did you learn about it and what motivated you to get involved?

    I got involved in Slow Food Chicago through the preSERVE garden partnership in North Lawndale. What appealed to me about preSERVE was the hands-on aspect of the work -- building a new food-production garden in a neighborhood with a strong community gardening history. As a gardening novice, I wanted to learn more about planting food crops -- and the opportunity to get my hands dirty in a space larger than the few sad containers on my sunless back balcony was a bonus! Through my volunteer work with preSERVE, I decided I wanted to get more involved with Slow Food Chicago at the board level.

    What project or initiative are you most proud of during your time with Slow Food Chicago?

    I continue to be most proud of the preSERVE garden, particularly the partnerships and relationships we've nurtured over the garden's five growing seasons. preSERVE is a collaboration between the North Lawndale Greening Committee, the Chicago Honey Co-op, Neighborspace, and Slow Food Chicago. Each organization adds something essential to the success of the overall project.

    What are you up to these days?

    I still go to as many volunteer workdays at preSERVE as I can - and now I also drag my husband and new baby daughter along! Never too early to learn about Slow Food!

    Does Slow Food still impact your work, life, eating habits? 

    Absolutely. Once you get involved with Slow Food, it becomes a way of life! From that first sad container garden, I've graduated to a pretty robust backyard garden with five raised beds. I'm also a farmers market junkie and a home canner.

    Good, Clean, Fair. What does this mean to you?

    To me, it's a vision of the ideal world I want to help create for my daughter -- a place where nourishing, delicious food is available for everyone, and all those involved in its productions are treated fairly and with the respect they deserve.

    What advice would you give people who want to get more involved with Slow Food? Where can they start?

    Come volunteer at the preSERVE garden! Ok, so I am a bit biased, but I truly think it's the best way to get started. You can help with almost every aspect of the Slow Food meal -- planting the seeds, tending the crops, and helping with the harvest. You'll take home a bag brimming with the freshest produce, and feel the satisfaction that comes with having participated in the creation of your meal from start to finish!

    Anything else you want to tell us that we missed?

    I'm proud to have been part of the Slow Food Chicago board - it was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone who wants to make a difference in the food world, in Chicago, and beyond.


    Slow Food Chicago Board Alumni Profile : Eve Lacivita

    The application deadline for the Slow Food Chicago board is today! Did you apply? Still thinking about it? There's still time! Do it to it! Need more convincing? Well, we have another very inspiring member profile for you. This time, coming from Slow Food's current regional Governor in the Midwest - Eve Lacivita. Don't think you can make a difference? Eve's here to tell you otherwise. She is proof that involvement in Slow Food may start small - perhaps as a volunteer but has the potential to grow to something much bigger - from board member to beyond. Read on to learn a little more about Eve's Slow Food story.

    Why did you join the Slow Food Chicago board? How did you learn about it and what motivated you to get involved?

    I was drawn to Slow Food by the "Good, Clean and Fair" message. I'd actually known about the Slow Food movement for a long time - I have vague memories of hearing about the protest at the Spanish Steps on the news - but didn't know it was anything more than a dinner club until meeting some Chicago board members at the Good Food Festival, which is also where I first heard the phrase "Good, Clean and Fair." That phrase resonated with me immediately - it captured so perfectly what food and the food system should be. I immediately started volunteering (to run the volunteer program, ironically), joined the board the following year, and haven't looked back.

    What project or initiative are you most proud of during your time with Slow Food Chicago?

    I'm most proud of something I achieved as regional governor, actually - getting presence for Slow Food Chicago and all the Midwest chapters at Terra Madre 2014, with a table featuring several delegate producers and a huge map of the tons of people doing good food work throughout the region. Outside of this country, there isn't much awareness of the vast diversity and quality of food production in the Midwest, and it was really great to watch people tasting all the products and their delighted surprise. You would not believe how excited people get about maple syrup!

    What are you up to these days?

    I'm still involved in Slow Food. I'm the Illinois Governor, and I'm also pitching in on Indiana, Missouri and Iowa. Professionally, I'm a product manager at Motorola Mobility, developing some pretty cool mobile software experiences. And I've joined a new board, Project Exploration, which brings extracurricular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education to kids in low-income communities who don't have the best access to that education in their schools.

    Does Slow Food still impact your work, life, eating habits? Tell us more!

    For sure. Aside from still being involved as regional Governor, it's hard not to be permanently changed once you've been part of Slow Food. Every food decision I make is colored by the knowledge I gained being a part of Slow Food. I don't make perfect decisions - far from it - but I grow food, and cook as much as I can, and buy from my local farmer's market. Above all, I'm always thinking about the impact my decisions have on Good, Clean and Fair.

    Good, Clean, Fair. What does this mean to you?

    "Good, Clean, Fair" represents an ideal that is very hard to achieve but very necessary to work toward. I think of the old "time, quality, money" triangle - you know, "you can have any two?" Right now, the status quo is that you can have any two of "Good, Clean and Fair." But we know that the right end game is all three - and so our work needs to be focused on how to make all three happen, as challenging as it is. It requires technical innovation, policy change and cultural change - and that's pretty exciting.

    What advice would you give people who want to get more involved with Slow Food? Where can they start?

    Show up! Do whatever you can! Take the initiative! It's not hard to get involved. I started as a volunteer; then joined the board; then led the board (with the wonderful Megan Larmer); and am now regional Governor. Slow Food is very open to anyone who really wants to contribute. And board work isn't the only way - you can partner with us on a workshop, or lead a farm tour, host a dinner, donate money, spread the word, and above all - vote with your fork by eating food that is Good, Clean and Fair. The thing about the food movement is that everyone participates on average three times a day. So that's a whole lot of opportunity to be involved in Slow Food.

    Catch up with Eve on facebook for more about how she lives "Good, Clean and Fair."

    Slow Food Chicago Board Alumni Profile : Jeanne Calabrese

    Ready for another Slow Food Chicago board member alumni profile? Thought so. Today, we're highlighting our chat with Jeanne Calabrese. She gets right to the heart of the matter - talking about when she first heard about the movement in Italy, her involvement in Chicago with educational programming and how she still lives and breathes "good, clean, and fair". Read all about it!

    Why did you join the Slow Food Chicago board? How did you learn about it and what motivated you to get involved?

    I first learned about the movement in 2007 when I attended a lecture given by Carlo Petrini in Chicago in 2007. He was on a book tour promoting his book "Good, Clean and Fair." I was delighted to learn there was an existing group (Slow Food) that subscribed to the lifestyle and principles I felt passionate about. I began attending the Chicago chapter's gatherings, volunteering for their events, and getting to know the Chicago members. Shortly after this, I was asked to serve on the board.

    What project or initiative are you most proud of during your time with Slow Food Chicago?

    My main focus on the board was developing educational programming. We did this through a series of lectures, events and workshops including cooking, food preservation and tree grafting. These programs were and continue to be successful. By empowering people with this knowledge we promote food security and ensure these skills are not lost.

    What are you up to these days?

    I've been working on an urban micro-orchard in my yard. It allows me to experiment with organic growing techniques and hone my grafting and propagating skills. I grow Liberty and Sweet 16 apples, paw paws, Korean Giant, Shin Li and Naju Asian pears, a variety of currants, berries and small tree fruits along with seasonal vegetables and herbs.

    Does Slow Food still impact your work, life, eating habits? Tell us more!

    The basic principles behind the Slow Food philosophy is engrained in my own personal philosophy. I support local food growers and I grow myself. I have perfected a few food preservation techniques and I am always learning more. My larder is stocked and it's so nice to crack open a jar of summer tomatoes in the middle of winter or a jar of fermented fall fruits and vegetables to extend the seasons.

    Good, Clean, Fair. What does this mean to you?

    My talking points have always been simple:

    good = our food should taste good

    clean = we should grow in a way that does not harm the environment

    fair = we should pay the people who grow/produce/cook food for us a fair wage

    What advice would you give people who want to get more involved with Slow Food? Where can they start?

    Start by examining your own approach to eating. Get to know the folks who grow and produce your food. Ask where and how it was grown. Support local farmers and eat in season. Get to know your local chapter and check out an event or two.

    Anything else you want to tell us that we missed?

    I sit on the Midwest Ark of Taste committee and I believe it's some of the most important work Slow Food is doing today. The Ark of Taste is a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. By identifying and championing these foods we keep them in production and on our plates. The Ark of Taste is a tool for farmers, ranchers, fishers, chefs, grocers, educators and consumers to seek out and celebrate our country's diverse biological, cultural and culinary heritage.

    Keep up with Jeanne on instagram (@barefeats) to see how she lives Good, Clean and Fair.

    Slow Food Chicago Board Alumni Profile : Elizabeth David

    This week, we are continuing with our feature of Slow Food Chicago board member alums. It's a chance to get a sneak peek at what it means to be a board member, taps you into the magic behind the Chicago team (past and present), and gives us all a chance to catch up with previous board members and see what they're up to now. Our board and membership might not be what it is today if not for those who blazed the trail before us...! Today's profile is Elizabeth David - who we caught up with to chat about her experience with Slow Food in Chicago and beyond, and she catches us up on what she's up to now. Read on!

    Why did you join the Slow Food Chicago board? How did you learn about it and what motivated you to get involved?

    I was really engaged with Slow Food Chicago volunteering and teaching canning workshops. I wanted to make a bigger impact in our local food community in Chicago and help to create some of the great programs I got to see at Slow Food events.

    What project or initiative are you most proud of during your time with Slow Food Chicago?

    My tenure on the Slow Food board was short because I moved and am now on the board in my new town. However, as a volunteer I taught many successful canning workshops.

    What are you up to these days?

    I moved to Whidbey Island, Washington. It's a food mecca where we can fish all sorts of shellfish and salmon, buy grass fed beef from a local farm stop on the side of the road at a farm stand to grab eggs or produce or find a farmers market just about anywhere on the Island. It's a food heaven and we even have a Slow Food board which I am on. I built them a website, now I am working on new events like a cooking class series and a food trivia night.

    When I find time to get paid for work, I am an event planner at a non-profit called Goosefoot Community Fund and doing food system research. I also work part-time as an associate editor for our local arts and lifestyle magazine, Whidbey Life Magazine, where I will soon be a food writer and blogger as well.

    Does Slow Food still impact your work, life, eating habits? Tell us more!

    Duh! No just kidding. Yes, it's very important to me - my husband is a farmer now and so it's in our blood and our household.

    Good, Clean, Fair. What does this mean to you?

    These ideas are deeply embedded with me in my daily life and the work that I do. Good means food through community. Clean means producing it in a way that gives health back to our land. And fair means that all who were involved in producing the food were paid and treated rightly and that good food is accessible.

    What advice would you give people who want to get more involved with Slow Food? Where can they start?

    Check online for events and programs. There is so much to learn, so many opportunities to engage in and Slow Food will tell you just what's happening. Then from there you can choose if you feel like picking up a shovel or learning a new cooking method.

    Anything else you want to tell us that we missed?

    Nothing else except that you all have an AWESOME food community in Chicago and Slow Food Chicago is such a great site.


    Slow Chicagoan Profile : Breanne Heath of The Pie Patch

    Breanne Heath is the passionate one-woman show behind The Pie Patch, a slice of urban agriculture devoted to growing fruit and veg suitable for - you guessed it, pies. (Um, hello. I like pie. You like pie. Ok - we're all into it. Let's proceed.) Located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Breanne's pick-your-own farm was recently awarded organic certification. We got to chat with Breanne about this tremendous accomplishment, about her background as a garden and education manager, and a bit about how her farm works in tandem with the Slow Food mission. 

    Your farm is now USDA certified organic. (Congrats!!) For those who may be less familiar - what does that mean and what is MOSA?

    MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association) is a certified third party entity that did my inspection (it also performs the inspections for other certified organic farms in the region). All farms, businesses, and product that are USDA certified are done so by a third party (the USDA does not directly do inspections or the paperwork, but rather oversees the process and sets the standards).

    Why did you decide to have your farm and your process be certified organic?

    When I first opened the farm, I got a lot of questions from customers regarding my production methods. This is great because it's now common for people to question where their food comes from and how it was produced before deciding to consume it. However, responding to so many emails and phone calls was taking a lot of time. I'm hoping with the organic certification, I'll be able to spend more time farming and less time at my computer answering emails, since many people understand what certified organic means.

    Going through the organic certification process has helped me think about much more than just growing without chemicals. The production and input records are not only essential for documenting information required by the agency, but are also a good guide for evaluating my production and how I can grow better. It has also given me much more respect for certified organic farmers. Unless I'm buying from a farm operator I know personally, I now buy things I can't get from them from certified organic farmers, because I know what they've gone through - the thoughtful process and documentation of certification. 

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

    I work full-time at Peterson Garden Project as the Garden and Education Manager, so that's usually where I am on a typical work day. I designed The Pie Patch to be a fairly self-sufficient farm: most of the crops are perennials or long-growing annuals, there's timers on the drip irrigation to keep everything watered, and being u-pick I'm not spending time harvesting, transporting, or selling at markets. I'm usually only there one weekday evening and one weekend day a week.

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

    Best: I've worked on this land since for five growing seasons, and know it really well. I feel more connected to what I'm doing knowing :

    - when and where to look for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars

    - where the bindweed tends to pop up and when

    - where to find the hidden treasures of perennials and self-seeding annuals planted by gardeners long ago. 

    Hardest: Doing this alone. I didn't look for a business partner because I wasn't sure if I would succeed or exactly when I would have time to do everything and I didn't want to let anyone else down. But it also means that I'm weeding for hours at a time by myself.

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

    Beans and Peas! Seriously, there are so many different varieties out there and we only ever see a fraction of them at the store, and even fewer at the farmers' market. I'd love to see fresh beans like favas, crowder peas, butter beans and lady peas taking over!

    What wins - avocado toast vs. artichoke toast?

    Pretty sure I need to have both side by side asap to have a better perspective on this.

    What is your second favorite Chicago food related social media account to follow (aside from Slow Food Chicago of course)?

    Three Plaid Farmers on Facebook. I've seen their farm grow and their incredible harvests improve in quality each year. Or @pyritesun on Instagram.

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

    Good - strawberries are grown in healthy, fertile SOIL. They have a particular terroir that is unmistakeable. I'm growing the same varieties in my rooftop garden, which has a different growing medium, and they aren't nearly as incredible.

    Clean - even though certified organic means I can use some approved pesticides and fungicides, I haven't sprayed anything, and instead focus on keeping the soil as healthy as possible instead. The resulting healthy plants and giant earthworms speak to that!

    Fair - pick-your-own helps me keep prices low - I don't have to factor in costs for marketing, harvesting, packaging or transporting. It also means that all of the food I grew in Back of the Yards gets sold in Back of the Yards.

    The Pie Patch is a pick-your-own farm located at 5045 S Laflin in the Back of the Yards of Chicago that grows produce traditionally used in baking pies.

    The Pie Patch is a pick-your-own farm located at 5045 S Laflin in the Back of the Yards of Chicago that grows produce traditionally used in baking pies.

    Hungry for more? Keep up with Breanne and what's growing this season at The Pie Patch via the links below. 


    October preSERVE Garden Day

    Fall is upon us, folks. I don't know about you - but for me, fall is all about fresh starts. What better way to live up to that mantra than volunteering with Slow Food Chicago's preSERVE garden? Already a regular volunteer? You know we'll welcome you back with open arms. Never been? I'm going to answer that question with a question. If not now, when? Do it to it. This will be the last opportunity to help with the harvest in 2015. Don't miss out on this final chance. Get your hands dirty. Meet some friends (old and/or new). And break bread with your fellow volunteers after the hard work is done. We'll grill out afterwards so feel free to bring something to nosh and share after the harvest! Hope to see you Saturday...!!

    Join us October 10th for a preSERVE garden volunteer day.

    Join us October 10th for a preSERVE garden volunteer day.

    What : PreSERVE Garden Volunteer Day

    When : Saturday, October 10th, 2015 ; 10:00am - 12:00pm

    Location : 1231 S Central Park Ave / 12th Place and Central Park Ave, North Lawndale (map)

    Contact :  Email slowfoodpreserve@gmail.com with questions and to RSVP.

    More : http://www.slowfoodchicago.org/preserve-garden/

    Slow Food at Chicago Gourmet

    As if the excitement of being at Farm Aid last weekend wasn't enough, this weekend, Slow Food Chicago will ring in the start of fall at one of the most anticipated foodie events of the year - Chicago Gourmet. Slow Food Chicago will be participating in a demo called Slow Food : Ark of Taste Mystery Basket. Join us on Saturday at 3:30 along with Bruce Sherman (North Pond) and Jared Van Camp (Element Collective) for a discussion moderated by Chris Koetke (Kendall College). Got other things "on your plate" at that time? No worries. Slow Food will also have a table on both Saturday and Sunday in the A-D tents. Learn more about Ark of Taste products as we feature two former Terra Madre delegates - Pear Tree Preserves (Sat) and Scrumptious Pantry (Sun). Hope to see some of your "slow" foodie faces there.

    Chicago Gourmet 2015 will be held on Saturday 9/26, and Sunday 9/27 in Millennium Park.

    Chicago Gourmet 2015 will be held on Saturday 9/26, and Sunday 9/27 in Millennium Park.

    When : Saturday 9/26, 12pm [*SFC Demo at 3:30pm] through Sunday 9/27, 5pm

    Location : Millennium Park 201 E Randolph St Chicago, IL 60601 (map)

    Cost : Ticket info available here.

    Details : Chicago Gourmet is a celebration of food and wine presented by Bon Appetit. See site for details on ticket info.

    More Info : See a full list of participating exhibitors here.

    End of Summer Pickling and Canning Class

    I can't think of a better way to celebrate the end of summer harvest as we prepare for fall than with a pickling and canning class. Join Slow Food Chicago Board Member and Market Manager of the 61st Street Farmers Market, Kim Werst as she leads this hands-on workshop. Attendees will learn the basics of home canning while preparing a recipe using seasonal locally grown produce. Some of the topics to be covered include low-acid vs. fruit preserves, pickling vs. freezing, food safety tips, along with proper storage and shelf life. And of course, recipes will be provided so you can go all DIY at home. You're gonna want to get on this - tickets include equipment use and produce fresh from the preSERVE Garden in N. Lawndale. Plus, you won't go home empty handed - each participant will leave with at least two jars of goodies - not to mention leaving with mad preservation skills. Don't hesitate - tickets historically go pretty fast!

    Join us at Kendall College Chicago for a Pickling and Canning Class on Sun, Sept 27th.

    Join us at Kendall College Chicago for a Pickling and Canning Class on Sun, Sept 27th.

    When : Sunday, September 27th, 2015; 10:00am-1:30pm

    Where : Kendall College 900 N. Branch Street Chicago, IL 60642 (map)

    Cost : $60.00 (Slow Food Members will receive a discounted rate - check the latest newsletter for a promotion code to enter at check out - or email info@slowfoodchicago.org for more info.)

    More Info : See site for more details.

    Slow Chicagoans : Slow Fashion Edition

    Jamie Hayes and Gerry Quinton are two Chicago gals you're going to want to get to know. Not only are they Chicagoans - who more than approve of the avocado toast trend (more on that later) - but they also just happen to be changing how we think about fashion. And they sure got this Chicagoan doing some heavy thinking after having a chance to talk shop with them. Together, they own Department of Curiosities in Logan Square - a collaborative space housing Jamie's company Production Mode and Gerry's Morua. Ethical leather and corsets, oh my! I know. Are you as excited as I am? Okay. Good. Without further ado - let's get to the good stuff.

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

    Wearing so many hats! We produce our lines ourselves, in-house, so a typical day would include cutting for production, sewing or working with our stitcher to have work sewn, inspecting work, not to mention researching, sketching and pattern making for lines in development, fitting work on clients and fit models, and marketing, selling, and shipping work. And of course super glamorous work like taking out the trash and trips to the hardware store round out our days.

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

    The best part is autonomy - we can create whatever interests us. We can schedule our days in the ways that work best for us. We can surround ourselves with a community of creative people and clients that inspire us.

    The hardest part is staying organized and focused. When everything and anything is possible, it's so important to create and maintain parameters for working. It's hard to switch hats so many times during the day and for us, this year will be about how best to organize and use our limited time and resources, and figuring out when and how to delegate/collaborate with other people so as to continue to create and produce at a high and satisfying level.

    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?

    NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements have meant that in the past 25 years we've gone from having over 50% of our clothing manufactured in the US to merely 2%. So our infrastructure, from weaving mills to fabric sales reps to patternmakers to contractors, has been decimated. Add to that the rise of fast fashion in our industry, and domestic designers really have trouble competing - especially since many customers now are really only familiar with fast fashion and may not understand the differences in quality - not to mention the deleterious effects of fast fashion on the health of workers, our economy, and the planet. The appreciation of quality fabrics, cut, and construction is also diminished by fast fashions emphasis on disposable clothing and ever-evolving trends. Plus it's rare for people to learn how to sew these days and thus our connection to how clothing is made has been diminished.

    Many similar same obstacles exist in the food industry, and many have been addressed by the slow food movement - so we're very inspired! For example, as consumers of food, over the past several generations, we've been increasingly disconnected from the sources of our food supply - because much of our food is coming from far away places, because it's often being grown by vast agribusiness, and because much of it is processed into something that barely resembles food.

    The effects of these issues are similar in both the food and garment industry - small farmers struggle to stay on their land, whether growing food or natural fibers for processing into cloth or livestock for wool or leather are grown on farms, and struggle to compete when using "slower" practices like organic and free-range farming. In the fashion industry, we also have the issue of vulnerable workers (often young girls sent from the rural villages where farmers are struggling to keep their land) migrating to mega-cities to work in the garment industry for 80+ hours/week for very little pay, often sending the majority of their pay back home to try to keep families on their land or to fund the education of children in the family. Because production happens somewhere so far away, because we no longer understand the vast amount of human labor that goes into making clothing, and because the price of clothing is so cheap now, it's easy to forget to value clothing at all - it's become a disposable commodity.

    In doing so, we lose so much. Not only do farmers and garment workers suffer from low pay, but also the planet suffers because so much of the industry is unregulated and dyes, pesticides, and chemicals resulting from garment manufacturing are being dumped into our soil and waterways. Not to mention the vast amounts of textiles that end up in landfills each year. But also notable is that we've lost our connection to our clothing. Clothing - like food - can be a source of joy, culture, and self-expression. We have to get dressed everyday so we might as well make what we wear reflect our values and personality and choose something meaningful and healthful, to workers, the planet, and to ourselves.

    A Production Mode black leather bag.

    A Production Mode black leather bag.

    What wins for fashionista brunch - avocado toast or artichoke toast?

    Avocado toast! Gerry was born and raised in Costa Rica with native avocados and then lived many years in England where the avocados are very sad and subpar. Jamie has always lived in the not-tropical Midwest and would consider a localvore diet if avocados and mangos were allowed exceptions!

    What is your favorite Chicago Fashion related social media account to follow? Are there any Chicago food related account you follow that stand out (aside from SFC, duh)?

    Chicago Fair Trade! The Fair Trade movement is another place where slow food, fashion and appreciation of craft and artisanal production meet.

    A stunning and romantic corset piece by Morua.

    A stunning and romantic corset piece by Morua.

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

    Jamie's line Production Mode uses vegetable tanned leather produced by local, unionized tannery Horween. The tannery provides living wage jobs, in Chicago, and so do we! Also, vegetable tanning is a slow, traditional process that uses only vegetable matter to tan the hides. This process is in contrast to the chrome tanning used in 90% of leather production in the fashion industry. Chrome tanning uses chromium - a heavy metal that can become carcinogenic if not properly disposed. Plus, vegetable tanning produces a beautifully variegated hide that develops a beautiful patina as it ages, and thus lasts much longer than chrome tanned hides.

    Gerry's line Morua is focused on creating perfectly fitted heirlooms. They are the antithesis of fast fashion. Corsets and gowns are hand-crafted from start to finish for each individual. Measurements are carefully taken and several fittings are needed for a bespoke piece. Each pattern is drafted to the client's measurements, hand-cut from specialty and luxury fabrics, and stitched one by one in our workshop. The metal bones for corsetry are hand cut to size and tipped on our very own workbench. Finally, the binding is hand stitched invisibly and embellishments are applied by hand. Many of our favorite embellishments are antique laces, buttons, rhinestones and trims. These are not only one of a kind but were made in a time when more care and artistry were put into these objects. The amount of work that goes into an elaborate piece is more than in a hundred fast fashion dresses. The result is a cherished, well-fitting piece that will stand the test of time.

    Jointly, under the Department of Curiosities brand, we are designing a line of 1930's and 40's - inspired silk lingerie. It will be handmade in our Chicago studio, beautiful, and built to last. We're currently in talks with mills in Italy and fair trade producers of hand-woven goods in India to find the prefect, high-quality, ethically-made fabric.

    Most important to both of us is the concept of transparency. This concept of provenance of materials and labor is unfortunately still very rare in the fashion industry, mostly because brands are cutting corners everywhere they can and don't want to be held responsible for tragedies like the Rana Plaza Factory collapse of 2013 in Bangladesh in which over 1,000 workers were killed in a totally preventable - and foreseen - building collapse.

    A close up detail of one of Production Mode's vegetable-tanned leather pieces.

    A close up detail of one of Production Mode's vegetable-tanned leather pieces.

    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!)?

    We love to support local sources! It's a challenge to do so, however, because Chicago's fashion industry has dwindled so much in the past generation. Still, we're beginning to see things turn around in the US as more and more small brands and manufacturers enter the US market and more and more consumers begin to ask questions about where and how things are made.

    As mentioned above, Production Mode sources leather from Horween tannery, located just a mile or so from our shop at Armitage and Elston. The natural color leather used in the line has been embellished with a screen print executed by Chicago artist Nora Renick-Rhinehart

    Morua faces more challenges in sourcing locally. Corsetry relies on metal components from the medical industry of which the best come from Germany. Likewise, specialty heritage textiles specially made that have been in continuous production in Europe for over a century are not available in the US. Morua does source and re-purpose vintage and antique components for decorating and embellishment and supports as many small local distributors and manufacturers as possible.

    Both of us cut and sew in-house so we keep it very local in that regard!

    Likewise, our shop is located in Logan Square and we both live in the neighborhood and love our Sunday farmer's market.

    All that said, we still love our non-local avocados and silks from abroad.

    How do you see your corsets in particular (a fashion staple from the past) as a piece vital for the fashion movement of the present?

    Corsets are fascinating for many reasons, including their loaded history, and the myths and assumptions that surround them. I don't see them as items of fashion, but as wearable objet d'art : little luxuries with the power to transform. For a wedding they are lovely and create the ultimate romantic silhouette; as undergarments they are supportive and empowering and for some even healing; and for special occasions and performance they are delectable showpieces.

    A hand-crafted corset by Morua.

    A hand-crafted corset by Morua.

    Why Chicago? And if not Chicago, where?

    Chicago rents are so cheap that we can afford (barely!) our beautiful production space/showroom. We couldn't afford a similar space in say, New York. Also we are very inspired by our membership in the Leagues of Women Designers (LWD) - in fact we'll be hosting a show of member work at our space this December. As noted recently in Forbes magazine, Chicago has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs in the world. We definitely feel that love and support here in Chicago!

    Gerry lived in London for many years before moving back to Chicago and still travels there to work regularly. As a source of inspiration the layers of history, multicultural collage and creative street fashion, London is phenomenal. A part of Morua is always in London.

    If not Chicago, Jamie could see herself potentially in Mexico City, where she worked for several months with a labor rights organization. Mexico City got a hold on her heart - the delicious food, community of artists and artisans, and its rich textile traditions.

    Want to learn more about these fascinating fashion ladies? Check out the links below.

    Department of Curiosities / Facebook

    Production Mode / Facebook / Instagram / Blog / Horween 

    Morua / Facebook / Instagram

    Slow Food at Farm Aid

    Yes, you read that right. Slow Food is going to be... AT. FARM. AID. Boom. Are you as excited as we are? Before the party starts, we'll be hanging at the HOMEGROWN Village with a myriad of other game changing food and farm groups. Stop by and talk "slow" with us! And then go rock yer socks off.

    It's the big 3-oh. Farm Aid's 30th Anniversary is this weekend - Saturday, September 19th in Chicago. 

    It's the big 3-oh. Farm Aid's 30th Anniversary is this weekend - Saturday, September 19th in Chicago. 


    Time : Noon - 5:00pm

    Location : On the lawn at Farm Aid (First Merit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island / S Linn White Dr, Chicago, IL 60605) - [map]

    Cost : Free for concert goers.

    Details : On concert day, the HOMEGROWN Village welcomes fellow concertgoers to learn more about good food and family farmers through hands-on activities. Come check it out and visit us in the FarmYard to meet other farmers and Farm Aid friend from around the country.

    More Info : About the Concert / About HOMEGROWN Village


    SEPTEMBER preSERVE Garden Day

    And just like that, it's September. Not only that, but it's also already hump day. It's pretty great when it works out that way, isn't it? Celebrate the short week by getting your "volunteer" on at the September edition of preSERVE Garden Day this Saturday, September 12th. See you this weekend!!

    Spread the love - volunteer at the September preSERVE garden day this Saturday (9/12).

    Spread the love - volunteer at the September preSERVE garden day this Saturday (9/12).

    Event: preSERVE Garden Volunteer Day - September                                                  

    Date: Saturday, September 12th, 10am-noon                                                                

    Location: 1231 S Central Park Ave / 12th Place and Central Park Ave, North Lawndale (map)

    Contact: volunteer@slowfoodchicago.org

    Details: Join us in the preSERVE garden - meet new neighbors, and share some food! Bring work gloves if you have them, and be prepared to stick around and enjoy some grub together afterwards! 

    More about this project: 


    What Goes Into A Meal?

    If you caught our special edition newsletter that went out today - you already know that we're crushin' hard on the folk's at Uncommon Ground. As we approach our 5th annual Vegetarian Harvest Feast with Uncommon Ground, we thought it would be interesting to interview their Farm Director, Allison Glovak, their Chef, Evan Rondeau, and their Master Brewer, Martin Coad about everything that goes into planning and constructing the dinner. Slow Food Chicago board member Carrie Schloss got the scoop from the UC crew - their discussion is below. We hope that you enjoy the interview and also hope you’ll be joining us for a really special evening next Wednesday (8/26). You can purchase tickets here. (Wink wink.) 

    A collage of images from Uncommon Ground Devon's rooftop farm.

    A collage of images from Uncommon Ground Devon's rooftop farm.

    Slow Food Chicago: Can you discuss how the dinner evolved?

    Co-owner, Helen Cameron: Many years ago, when I first became aware of the Slow Food Movement, I was immediately engaged as this simple idea of good, clean and fair food meshed perfectly with the way I grew up—and the way my husband and I operate our restaurants.  Once we opened Uncommon Ground on Devon and we decided to build a certified organic farm on our roof, we took the ideals of Slow Food to another level—one story up-- to produce a good measure of veggies, greens, herbs, fruit, hops & honey for use in our restaurants.  We have hosted this Slow Food event for many years now-it is the highlight of our summer- and I am extremely proud of the fact that the grand majority of ingredients in the menu that our guests share come from something we have started from seed and nurtured to maturity, with great care and effort to produce something extraordinary.  With the addition of Greenstar Brewing, the first certified organic brewery in the State of Illinois in 2014, we brought organic beer to the table as well.  We brew our beer with local grain, hops and yeast, and occasionally with ingredients from our own farm.  I don’t think you can get much Slower than that! 

    Slow Food Chicago:  Could you give a little synopsis of how you plan the garden and decide what you are going to plant and how much of it?  Is it just the farmer who decides what to plant or does the chef also have input?

    Farm Director Allison Glovak: Many factors go into the planning of our farm. We keep very detailed records of all our crops year to year. Through analyzing this data we can determine which crops produce the best for us in our unique growing environment, and plant them again the following year. We focus on items that have high yields, quick turnover, high value for our kitchen, and crops that cannot be sourced through our distributors. We also focus on biodiversity as part of our organic farm plan and this year we are growing 56 crops using 120 different varieties of produce!  A few among them are Slow Food Ark of Taste selections.   Beyond that, we also sit down with our chefs in early February and delve into our seed catalogs. The chefs get a lot of say into what we'll be growing, and often ask for specific crops or varieties. One of the wonderful things about having our own farm is the diverse produce we can grow ourselves that our chefs wouldn't be able to get anywhere else. 

    Chef Evan Rondeau:  It all starts with the farm. Our plan starts early in the New Year. All of us gather, seed catalogs in hand, giddy with possibilities. Keeping in mind the farm’s space, crop yield and building from knowledge of the years before us, we collaboratively make a plan for the coming season. There are certain no-brainer crops, herbs, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, as well as some experimentation. As the chef, I might hope to see if, say, Piquillo peppers are worth growing. I concede to our Farm Director’s best judgement. If we have space and it seems like a good crop we will go for it. The Tokyo Turnip is probably a great example of this. Our farmer Jen was unfamiliar with them last year and the baby turnips took to our space perfectly, becoming one of our better producers.  It became a new favorite early crop for us.

    Slow Food Chicago: Could you discuss how you decide what to highlight for the Harvest Feast? 

    Farm Director Allison Glovak: We decide which items we will highlight for the harvest feast through collaboration with the farmer, chef, and the farm itself. The date of the feast has a lot to do with which crops will be at peak production and flavor. But, we actually put a lot of work into planning for this harvest feast before we even put the first seed into the ground. The produce for the dinner is integrated right into the farm plan from the get-go, but the actual dishes are the chef's creation!

    Chef Evan Rondeau: I think the key to this question is season. As I said, certain ingredients are no brainers. Shishito Peppers, for example, are so simple to prepare, so delicious and abundant at the end of August, they have been on the harvest menu every year. Tomatoes are our main crop, and the reason that our Harvest Dinner is in late August is they are at the peak of their flavor and harvest so we can purposefully highlight how special they are in the menu. Other things are of the moment as we are developing a menu, adjusting to the reality of the harvest. The Ground Cherries went crazy this year, whereas say the long beans weren't producing much. So we keep that in mind when we develop the harvest menu.  We really try to use as many of our homegrown ingredients as we possibly can in the menu.

     Slow Food Chicago: Could you discuss how you construct the dishes - how to prepare the main ingredient, flavor profiles, etc?  Do you consciously try to highlight a number of different cooking techniques?  Or is it only about highlighting the main ingredient?

    Chef Evan Rondeau:  Going into my third slow food dinner I have learned a few things in regards to developing the menu. How do we plan for a large plated meal? How can we highlight a variety of flavors? In any menu plan a mix of textures, temperatures, and tastes is the key. When we plan for over 100 guests, efficient execution of dishes becomes a factor in our choices. The cooking techniques aren't quite as important as creating a delicious finished product. All in all, we want to show respect for the ingredients and highlight the bounty of yet another beautiful growing season.

    Slow Food Chicago:  Can you discuss how and when the brewer is brought into the process in terms of pairings?  Can you also discuss how the brewer utilizes the rooftop garden ingredients for the dinner?

    Master Brewer, Martin Coad:  We see our organic beer as a culinary item, just as much as anything else on the menu.  When thinking about the menu for our very special Slow Food Harvest Dinner, each item is paired with the beer by considering the beer as an ingredient in the overall flavor profile.  Each beer pairing is in collaboration with Chef Evan Rondeau and me, through discussions of the particular subtle flavor profiles of our beer and ensuring they fit well with every aspect of our well-crafted food.  

    When we decided to open an organic brewery, the knowledge that beer is a mostly agricultural product gave us an obvious desire to include ingredients from our own certified organic farm.  Not to mention the necessity of using organic ingredients in organic beer!  Making farm collaborative beers is something that we will always do and will be a fluid development only limited by our combined creativity.   We've designed several farm-based recipes, utilizing our own organic Cascade Hops as well as Green Coriander Seed that are seasonally used in our flagship beers.  Included in this year's Slow Food menu, we are happy to provide one of our most popular beers since our opening, our Black Currant Kölsch.  This delicious beer uses a German Kölsch as its base, which starts by providing a subtle sweetness and creaminess from the malt, and the naturally clean refreshing finish that you would expect from this German style of beer.  To this we added fresh organic black currants, grown at our Devon restaurant, to provide a wonderful combination of sweet and tart strawberry, vanilla, and currant flavors.  Pröst!

    The Slow Food Chicago 5th Annual Vegetarian Harvest Dinner at Uncommon Ground will be held on Wednesday, August 26th. There will be a cocktail reception on the rooftop from 530-7pm after which guests will descend into the dining room for a 4 course vegetarian meal featuring seasonal rooftop produce paired with Greenstar Brewing beer and specialty drinks. Join us!


    "Slow" Chicagoan Profile / Justin Hall of FIG Catering

    We had the pleasure of talking "slow" for a hot minute with executive chef/owner Justin Hall of FIG Catering. The very nature of Justin's catering business speaks loud and clear to the Slow Food Mission of good, clean, and fair food. Check out more about Justin here. Now to the good part - here's our Chi-town foodie fueled convo. Check it out!


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

    As it is a Monday, lots of things going on around FIG. Ordering for the week. Cleaning up from last week and getting ready for the week ahead. Running invoices. And having our weekly meeting. An all around crazy day.

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

    The best part of my job is I get to do what I want every day. Cook, work with food and be around people that are passionate about the same things. The worst part is the hours. A slow day for me is 12 hours, 14 typical and wedding days are 16. Oof.

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

    The food system in Chicago has come a long way since I moved here 16 years ago. That being said there are tons of struggles. The biggest, I believe, is closing the waste loop for all restaurants, caterers, banquet halls, hotels and home by making composting law.

    What's next for the trendiest food item (all hail kale's successor)?                                          

    For me the next trendiest food item is what comes into season next. I wait with baited breath through winter for asparagus and ramps, then radishes and turnips, then peas and squash...

    What is your second favorite Chicago food related social media account to follow (aside from Slow Food Chicago of course)?           

    Either Pleasant House or Dusek's instagram.

    What wins - avocado toast or artichoke toast?                                                                       

    Avocado toast, no question.

    Why Chicago? If not Chicago, where?                                                                                   

    Chicago is great on many levels. People, food, architecture, politics... If not here, Jamaica is next on my Google map for permanent residency (no more shit winters).

    FIG Catering is located in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. www.figcatering.com/

    FIG Catering is located in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. www.figcatering.com/

    Hungry for more...?! You can also follow Justin and see what the rest of the FIG team is up to on social media.                                      

    Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Blog

    Turkey Day: Slow it Down!

    It’s that time of the year again!

    That time of year where we wake up at 5am to beat the lines for Black Friday deals, gather friends and family around the dinner table to eat antibiotic-filled turkey, and fall asleep in front of the TV watching football after Instagramming the dessert spread.

    Wait…what? No! This cannot be the modern Thanksgiving, right?! Unfortunately, the sad truth is with the rise of fast deals, fast food, and fast technology, we are moving further and further away from what should arguably one of the slowest holidays we have in America.

    Here’s how to slow it down…

    1. Think Slow Meat.

    Turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving dinner table, so let’s give it the love and attention it deserves. Let’s remember that this wonderful, nourishing bird on our table once had a life, and that it’s up to us to give it dignity in both life and death. Choose a bird that lived a great life on a local farm (find one here!), and rest assured that your money went to supporting humane animal treatment, protection of the land, your wonderful farmer neighbor, and the health of your friends and family (money well spent, no?). Then roast that sucker to perfection.

    2. Unplug, unwind, and enjoy your loved ones!

    It’s tempting to reach for your new iPhone at the dinner table to Tweet or take a call in the middle of Grandpa Jack’s story of how he met your Grandma. Take some time to step away from the technology and tap into your friends and family. Thanksgiving is often a time when we’re all gathered together and you have the opportunity to have slow conversation. Need ideas on what to talk about? How about asking if there are any food traditions in your family? What is everyone’s favorite dish? And go ahead, ask Grandma if you can watch her make her famous Sweet Potatoes. Not only will you learn a cherished family tradition that you can one day pass on, but it will make Grandma happy! If chatting with your family gets weird, however, feel free to indulge in number 3…

    3. Drink a local libation!

    That’s right, Chicago, we have wonderful local distilleries who use local grains to make delicious liquor, and a farmers markets full of interesting ingredients (pumpkin, apples, pears, cranberries, etc.) that mix perfectly with cocktails. Impress your family and friends by making a signature cocktail drink of your own and support local farmers and small businesses while you’re at it!

    4. Make your own side dishes!

    Boxed stuffing is sooo last year. Head to the farmers market and surprise your guests with an interesting take on traditional sides. Look to chestnuts, bok choi, and beets to add flair to your meal, dig through old family recipes to make something timeless, and take it from us, y’all, make sure to grab some pumpkin and make a pie from scratch! Even if it’s ugly as sin, your family will appreciate it. On second thought, maybe you should just order one from Bang Bang Pie

    5. Avoid Black Friday…

    You know what’s slow? Sleeping in on Thanksgiving morning and making yourself a lovely cup of hot apple cider and enjoying being in your pajamas until company heads over. You know what’s not so slow? Elbowing three old ladies and tackling a couple of young men just to get $50 off the latest Game Boy. (We don’t even know if they make Game Boys anymore?) Sleep in! Sleep is slow and priceless! If you’re just itching to go shopping, though, think of skipping big box retailers and shop instead on Small Business Saturday. Taking place on 29 November, you can support local producers even after Thanksgiving is over.

    We hope this helps! How do you slow your Thanksgiving down?