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‘Good, clean, fair’: Slow Food Buffalo Niagara helps pull slingshot

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

This may be oversimplified, but I equate the issues within America’s food industry as a David vs. Goliath battle, one that lasts considerably longer than the biblical narrative—and may not end identically.

Goliath clumsily houses fast food at an obscene rate, injects chemical hormones into his flabby arms and isn’t too concerned about his alarming level of body fat. His favorite vocab word is “trans fat,” he’s obsessed with portion size (Goliath’s best friend is a buffet, coincidentally) and his culinary concerns revolve around convenience and speed. On bad days, he comforts himself by eating a full salt shaker and some deep-fried butter.

He’s perfectly fine with his produce being shipped from afar—local farms are nothing but a nuisance to him, a replaceable sort that should be trampled by mass producers.

In many ways, Goliath represents America in its present state.

David—a Buffalo native, oddly—is fresh-faced and idealistic, but he’s a little bewildered too.

He’s determined to combat Goliath—no one else seems willing to confront the plump giant with the greasy lips—but he doesn’t have the same resources to call upon: actually, it’s just his brain and, if he can swing it, the cooperation of other like-minded individuals (in the food version of the story, at least).

Diminutive David is a trend-setter. He has the Nickel City Chef ticket page bookmarked; he’s perched in the corner of Seabar every other Monday nibbling on foie gras or sausage; he’s built a website tracking the locations of Buffalo’s food trucks; he’s a regular at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market; and his eyes light up when he catches wind of a new locally-owned restaurant.

He’ll happily tell you the difference between T-Meadow Farm pork and the grocery store version—if you can understand him between sumptuous bites of pork belly.

He’s willing to spend a little more money on food—and he doesn’t berate those who aren’t afforded that luxury—and his interests coincide with what’s best for the environment, the dying trade of local farmers and a larger awakening in regard to the city’s food scene.

For David, any move to throw Goliath off balance is a victory. Little David has noticed how the phrases “eat local” and “farm-to-table” make his foe quiver with nervousness. (David also enjoys ramps, which I find a little peculiar.)

The slightly overdone analogy boils down Buffalo’s predicament in over-dramatic fashion, but for a city that’s identified nationally by food—uh, chicken wings—how we approach our identity deserves both consideration and action.

We’ve alluded to Nickel City Chef, IN, the wave of food trucks, the popularity of summer markets and the cyclical nature of locally-owned restaurants, but there’s a newcomer to the scene—one that’s just reaching Buffalo after finding an uneven foothold around the United States.

Slow Food Buffalo Niagara—a branch of Slow Food USA—is still carving out its identity and defining its mission, but its tenets center on biodiversity and sustainability through the avenues of educational events and community outreach.

It’s okay—big terms like biodiversity and sustainability are a little daunting to me too—but in layman’s terms, Slow Food Buffalo Niagara hinges on “good, clean and fair food.”

If you want a little more depth, here are four things:

1) Food and agricultural policies that are good for the public: Look at Slow Food USA’s “Ark of Taste” to understand the shocking number of foods that are nearing extinction. (I’ve pondered the merits of starting a “Save the Giant Chinchilla Rabbit” campaign, but that’s a story for another post).

2) Push for a healthy planet: We have enough problems concerning our environment, and SFBN intends on making a difference—even if it’s minute on a global level.

3) Good for farmers and workers: Does the typical Buffalonian know that Painted Meadows Farm, T-Meadow Farm, Promised Land CSA/Oles Farm and First Light Farm and Creamery exist?

4) An appreciation for food: Our corporate-dominated culture encourages hasty lunches, portraying food as sustenance and energy rather than something to be savored. SFBN wants to reverse this trend.

Slow Food Buffalo Niagara is headed by a six-person board of directors: locals Michelle Stevens, Arthur Page, Nicole Klem, Lauren Newkirk Maynard, Scotty Harris and Diane Riedel.

Its first fundraising event is called “Spring Convivium: A Western New York celebration of local and season foods” at 6:30 p.m. May 29 at Shango Bistro and Wine Bar, 3260 Main St., Buffalo.

The meal is $65 per person, and you can make reservations by calling Shango at (716) 837-2326. Five dollars from each ticket purchased backs SFBN. Here are the details for five-course meal prepared by Shango owner-chef-locavore Jim Guarino:

First course:  Salad – Poached duck egg, local greens, pork belly, pickled ramps

Second course:  Appetizer – Grilled Painted Meadow quail with andouille, green onion stuffing, spring pea mashed potatoes, local fruit mustardo

Third course: Entree – Roasted rack of lamb with minted lentils, Oles Farm asparagus, lamb jus

Fourth course: Cheese selection with Blackman Farms preserves

Fifth course: Dessert – Rhubarb crisp with ginger basil ice cream

The common slogan of “drink responsibly” is familiar, but “eat responsibly” deserves thought as well. Positive food movements are taking place in Buffalo, and there are a bevy of opportunities to support—while eating scrumptious food for the betterment of the planet.

(David and Goliath -esque image courtesy of Siliconangle.com).

TAGGED: eat local, farm-to-table, feed your soul, food, food trucks buffalo, jim guarino, nickel city chef, sfbn, slow food buffalo niagara, slow food usa

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