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Dec 15, 2011 06:55 PM

Slow Food's $5 challenge - Why exactly is this pissing people off?

I don't get it.

Chow has an article about Slow Food issuing the following challenge "You're invited to help take back the 'value meal' by getting together with family, friends and neighbors for a slow food meal that costs no more than $5 per person."

According to the Chow story, Slow Food's "most prominent members—famous cookbook authors, chefs, and leaders in the food movement—are embroiled in a bitter squabble stoked by angry emails, hurt feelings, accusations. According to one report, Alice Waters broke down in tears.


It seems the people turning their backs on Slow Food think "Americans should spend more of their income on sustainably raised food from farmers’ markets and artisanal producers, rather than looking for deals on cheap, nonorganic, mass-produced stuff."

Here's why I don't get this.

I live in the SF Bay Area ... home of Alice Waters ... which probably has some of the most expensive artisan food in the country. I have had zero problem putting together ONE Slow Food meal for $5. Unlike Chow's statement, it does NOT mean eating "greens, beans, and grains, and this month, maybe winter squash"

Five dollars? Hell, I'd be eating chicken, fish, artisan sausages, even beef and fish.

Let me give an example

One of those Slow Food type of chickens would set me back $15. A bunch of carrots at the uber-organic farm $2.50. A pound of organic yams $1.50. That is just an easy to put together example and would feed four people ... $5 each.

Ok, not included in there are spices, oil or butter ... however those are infrequent purchases. So for a single meal, using the Slow Food versions of those maybe another buck.

Being more creative I could come in under $20 but I wanted to put together a uncomplicated meal.

Slow food beef stew for $5 per person ... hell, yes.

So why is Waters and group getting their panties in a knot? I am paying the prices these artisan farmers are asking. They are asking prices that support their businesses.

And BTW, former Slow Fooders... those artisan farmers who you want to get paid their fair share are relying in illegal immigrants to harvest their crops who are not sharing in the bounty. Where's your concern for them?

You would think these people would WANT more people to think creatively and start looking at eating slow food.

LIke anything, there are things I won't be buying ... the $200 Heritage turkey, the $20 jar of jam ... but there are plenty of choices out there that easily accomodate that budget ... if people keep their eyes open and pay attention.

Slow Food has always annoyed the hell out of me. Usually these people seem to have zero concept about how the average person eats and a good many of their events have been eye-rolling absurd. This is the first practical thing I've ever heard them propose ... and it is enraging their prominent members?

So I don't get it. I moved this to the discussion forum because I want to do more discusstion than the Chow format accomodates.

Seriously, what is wrong with this picture?

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  1. I get it. It's not about cost, it's about philosophy, priorities and values. Changing those things for the average American....not pandering to the lowest common denominator in the equation. "Real" food can't compete with $1.00 value items from Mickey D's at this time in our history. I see it as a conflict between where we are right now vs where we want to go in the future. If we start "cheaping out" and trying to compete by cost alone- we will lose the battle.

    23 Replies
    1. re: sedimental

      The object is to make a Slow Food meal for the price of on Fast Food value menu meal - $5.

      And seriously, a regular fast food meal is running $6-$8 these days.

      What people SHOULD be aware of is that they CAN eat better than fast food for the same price. How is that cheaping out? These are the prices artisan farmers are charging. No one is asking them to cut prices ... only to buy from them.

      1. re: rworange

        I don't disagree that anyone can make a better meal for less than a value meal. Again, the point of contention is about philosophy, priorities and values...*direction*.... about where to go. "Cost" has never been the biggest "selling point" for the movement. I suppose many feel that it is "selling out" to go there now. I am not sure how I (personally) feel about that....I am a big slow food supporter, but I understand the contention.

        1. re: sedimental

          It seems the only issue is cost.

          I'm sorry to be so dense about this but what Slow Food seems to want is artisan and sustainable farmers to be paid appropriately for whatever they are selling.

          If that happens and people can do so for $5 a meal ... ???

          Otherwise it seems ... and this has always seemed this way to me ... that Slow Food is nothing but an elitist group who only want select members to participate.

          And if that is the case ... it is a shame.

          My mistake in thinking it was about supporting sustainable, earth-friendly food.

          As even Slow Food acknowledges in this challenge, even that isn't a reasonable price for many.

          I would doubt the average family of four is spending $20 per meal ... except when they eat at fast food joints.

          You know, Chez Panisse is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. I don't think I want to eat there anymore. I might sent Ms. Waters a note, though I doubt she would care if she ever saw the likes of me again.

          1. re: rworange

            I don't think you are being dense at all. I have worked with what is termed as the "difficult to serve" population (all below the poverty line) for over 30 years. There are more than you would care to think- that belong to this group.

            Much of that population *regularly* eats from the dollar menu, and feeds their kids *regularly* from the dollar menu (or boxed dinners from the discount stores, whatever)...5 or 6 days a week. If you ask them why...they will tell you that it is "cheap and easy"...they "like it". When you explain the values of food and choices they will tell you that they don't give a shit. Really. They don't. They don't spend their time reading articles on Chowhound and they don't tend to change their eating behavior even when faced with illness and disease. Breakfast consists of coffee and cigarettes before their fast food meal. We will never win the "hearts and minds" of that particular population. So.....why target that demographic? That IS the demographic you are targeting when you talk about convincing people to cook instead of buying value meals for 5 bucks. Everyone else that cooks and knows how to cook (but eats occasionally at fast food restaurants) doesn't need that kind of marketing or "incentive". they already know it.

            There are plenty of others that understand there is more to food and cooking than "cost". Those "others" are not swayed by cost alone. the other values are also important to them. That is not elitist.....that is practical, that is marketing. I think the division over philosophy and direction is legit. I bet there is no one on this Chowhound board that would be surprised to learn that they could make a nice meal for 5 bucks.

            So, although I don't have a big issue with it all, it makes me wonder who is thinking of these marketing strategies and where they are going with it. I could see where someone with a big vested interest in its success would have an issue with that direction.

            1. re: sedimental

              Well, you know ... that characterization of the, um, bottom feeders is a little elitist.

              But perhaps you are right that this is only preaching to the choir. There is a little video about people who talk about the taking up the $5 challenge and they all look like they are at the top of the 99%.

              Still, I don't see reason for the hissy fit. The people this campaign is going to appeal to don't give a shit and wouldn't participate even if they knew about it.

              So that just leaves the choir and their making a five buck meal certainly isn't going to cause the prices of local food to dive.

              I have less and less respect for the participants of Slow Food.

              I mean, what is the point of Waters school programs ... to show the poor what they will never be able to afford?

              I think philosophy about direction and a buck will get you a cup of McDonald's coffee.

              I guess I am just too oriented to be practical rather than sitting around theorising.

              To me it would be better to work politically to get local farmers subsidied so that everyone wins.

              I see absolutely no point to being insulted by the concept that it might just be possible that good food could possibly affordable and that the unwashed masses might not want to participate.

              And so to the non Slow Foodies ... let them eat Hostess cupcakes.

              Occupy Chez Panisse ... you know, if I wanted to I bet I could get the Berkeley Occupiers to take up some room on the grass strip near CP.

              1. re: rworange

                LOL. I am using the correct terminology.... "bottom feeders" would NOT be:)

                People in poverty with traumatic brain injury, dementia, profound physical disability with obesity, homeless, etc. really have many other things to worry about rather than cooking their every meal from scratch -or caring if their avocados come from Mexico or California. I am not disparaging that population, I understand them well. I am just pointing out that marketing slow food to them in this way seems a bit silly to me. But, hey....maybe I will start to see the homeless guy change his sign from "Need a job" "Need to use your kitchen".

                1. re: rworange

                  Another angle that you're missing here is that while the ingredient cost for assembling a meal might only be $5/head, there's a lot of kitchen infrastructure needed. Baking pans, knives, pots, racks, etc. If you're an average American who doesn't know the difference between sauté and stir-fry I don't see how this challenge applies.

                  1. re: Josh

                    Even in this day an age I think there are few people without kitchens or cookware.

                    That was not part of the challenge, only the raw ingredients. There was no account either for labor involved.

                    The people living without kitchens or even homes is not who this challenge is reaching out to.

                2. re: sedimental

                  Actually, as published in a recent study, the primary customer of fast food is the middle class, if you're looking to sway a market segment.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Oh, I don't doubt that. I don't think they will stop eating there occasionally because they now have an "education" that they could make a meal for 5 bucks. It is not about that for the middle class. It is much more about time and convenience than money.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      It takes practice to knock out a meal efficiently and within a budget. I feel that the benefit of the challenge is for some folks to learn by doing that it is indeed possible. Perfect a couple quick dishes and they'll learn that it can be more convenient to cook at home, besides being healthier, improving family time and spending more food dollars directly with the people that grow it.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        And that is just it. I think the $5 challenge was more to the middle class, not the bottom of the food chain.

                        I also don't think you were correct about most people on Chowhound knowing they could make a Slow Food type of meal for $5. I did a report a few years back on eating on $3 a day ... which included an organic week. Most Chowhounds said that was nice but they couldn't do it because ... the reasons were many.

                        There is so much that could be done to get more people aware of eating local and organic.

                        It is not just the poor and uneducated that need to be reached. Gordon Ramsey faced absolute hostility by educators when trying to improve the diet of school children on his failed tv show.

                        And what if Slow Food got people like Rachael Ray on board to make people aware that maybe instead of gussying up Hamburger Helper they could do the same thing cheaper, better, locally, organically usually with no more work and the same cost. Yeah, that is still a subset of people who would be interested ... but still ... I think every person that can be reached is important.

                        But thanks for letting me go on. I think I'm starting to get it.

                        Somehow I can't drop the perception that the real mission of Slow Food is to eat local and orgnanic where it is more about the rich. prominent people supporting artisan zoos and gardens of rare, precious food that they personally finance.

                        However, I should have known. Alice Waters was instrumental in moving the best farmers market in the area to a location without parking, cutting off access to the disabled and elderly, causing great farmers with unexciting but local produce to leave the market because most people weren't willing to lug a crate of potatoes two - three blocks to the parking lot or wait to pick up their produce at the valet stand.

                        Ms. Waters, of course, has vendors deliver to her personally or has her minions dispatched to the farmers market.

                        1. re: rworange

                          <<<<And that is just it. I think the $5 challenge was more to the middle class, not the bottom of the food chain.>>>>

                          Not according to the article. That's just it...they are trying to draw in a different demographic. They said they are targeting the "younger" and/or "less affluent" or "low income" consumers. Younger ...yes, I agree with the 5 dollar challenge. That could work. Not so much for the other IMHO.

                          Thanks for posting the article though. Don't give up on them too quick, rworange, I think there are many good people in that movement that are promoting good food values. There are nutballz in every organization :)

                          1. re: rworange

                            As I said (or at least implied) on the Chow article, my suspicion is that the $5 challenge didn't come along and rile up a movement that had been completely untroubled up until now.

                            Instead it was probably the straw that broke the camel's back over a longstanding ideological break within the movement between one group who thinks it's elitist to encourage people to eat more expensive food and another group that thinks pushing for cheaper 'slow food' undermines one of the fundamental causes of the movement.

                            As for this latter group - the thinking is that, for one, producers of high quality foods deserve to make a decent living. In fact, the continued and expanded production of said foods depends on the economic stability of its producers.

                            For another, it was in a very real sense the consumer demand for cheaper foods that has led directly to the abuses of big agriculture. It's cheaper and will always be cheaper to raise food animals in crowded conditions (using large-scale prophylactic antibiotics to increase yield and prevent the living conditions of said animals from killing them) than it is to raise them in humane conscientious conditions. Likewise it is cheaper and will always be cheaper to raise genetically modified crops, killing any competing plants with Round-Up, than it is to raise crops traditionally and organically.

                            IMO these points are hard to look past. Regardless of how harmless the $5 challenge might sound in isolation.

                            Also as I said on the other page, I think the problem in some ways is that Waters and her ilk have had a hard time making this case without being insulting or seeming disconnected from reality. Meanwhile, the other side sees accepting a high price for quality foods as economically elitist, when really supporting fair wages (for farmers and for Americans in general) is anything but.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              You make a good first point, this tension has probably been bubbling under the surface. In San Francisco we got a front row look at it in 2007 when Carlo Petrini visited.
                              And in 2008 when Slow Food Nation came to town.

                              What I have a hard time with though is that $5 is "cheap". That's not a small sum, and as others have pointed out, not difficult to achieve cooking at home with good, clean and fair food, at least where I live.

                              I cannot agree that antibiotic use and GMOs will always be cheaper. The long-term consequences of both will be more costly. The Danish experience with reducing and eliminating antibiotics seems very promising so far.

                              And GMO crop failure is showing the cracks in that unsustainable system.

                              And yes, if Alice has handlers, they're not doing a good job.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                What I have a hard time with though is that $5 is "cheap".
                                It doesn't matter whether $5 fits your subjective definition of 'cheap' or not. That's completely beside the point. The important thing is that Slow Food USA is trying to emphasize the affordability of 'slow food.' That's what's bringing this situation to a head.

                                "I cannot agree that antibiotic use and GMOs will always be cheaper. The long-term consequences of both will be more costly. The Danish experience with reducing and eliminating antibiotics seems very promising so far."
                                Of course the long term consequences will be costly. Anybody who buys into slow food at all will readily agree to that. But I'm not talking about societal costs above. I'm talking about the price tag the consumer sees when they go to a supermarket or a fast food restaurant.

                                You're jumping the gun on the Danish experiment. The article you cite (which isn't about GMO, btw, and ONLY addresses antibiotic use, leaving out other issues with large scale industrial animal husbandry) addresses productivity.... but not consumer price. They're often related but not always. Look at the article's explanation of Danish pork. Unsurprisingly, they found that when antibiotics were not used, the animals lost weight. To compensate, cages were cleaned more often, animals were allowed to get older, and animals were given more space. Problem solved. Great. But did any of that or even the increase in productivity actually lower the price of pork? Or more to the point, does anyone reading this thread live or spend time in Denmark? Care to tell us how much domestic pork shoulder or chicken or ground beef costs per pound over there? Bet meat costs more than it does here, and they practice factory farming as well.

                                Factory farmed foods are cheaper than that produced by small growers, and likewise factory farming without scruples produces cheaper food than more responsible factory farming. As a rule this is not debatable in absence of a complete revolution in production and economics comparable to the industrial revolution (there are probably a few exceptions, but they're economic anomalies). My point is just that it is unwise and unrealistic to think you can support fair wages and ethical farming and husbandry practices while simultaneously expecting food prices to compete with the alternative.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  Right, the article is related to Danish pigs. I took "productivity" improvement to be something that would have a positive impact on price, but that's not necessarily true. Denmark is a leading pork producer. Someone once told me that it supplies most of the baby back ribs consumed in this country, so it shouldn't be hard to do a price check in the US.

                                  For food prices to be "competitive", they don't have to be at parity. Many consumers recognize the worth of local, organic, sustainable, they just don't want to pick up today's tab at full price. Here in California, consumer studies have looked at sussing out what that differential and willingness to pay ratio might be. My recollection is that they were on the order of 10 to 15% premium for organic over conventional. But I'll add that those were done prior to the economic recession, don't know what it would be today. I'd say the typical price difference between conventional and organic produce in the our local markets is about 30%, sometimes at parity and sometimes organic is up to 50% more, and it seems to be shrinking. There continues to be a consumer perception that organic is more costly than it really is, and I applaud Slow Food's efforts to show that it can be affordable. Otherwise, we're all sunk.

                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Well, you both make good points and this was the type of dicuscussion I wanted despite my absurdist approach yesterday. When something seems absurd I'll respond in like manner.

                                  That second link to the article about Slow Food Nation's visit to SF in 2008, sort of sheds a little more light about the $5 issue.

                                  I think the comment about the 2008 event touches on what is going on in this issue

                                  "In the end, I think the vast ambition behind Slow Food Nation formed its weak point. By striving to embody and represent an entire movement -- from "artisinal" food culture to urban agriculture -- the event came off like a dreamer with his head in the clouds, disconnected from the struggle in the streets."

                                  That Victory Garden was one of my eye-rolling moments in terms of Slow Food and the article makes a good point about what I was saying earlier, to me it would be better if Slow Food used its clout and celebrity to push for more impurtant issues rather that wasting its efforts on something like the Victory Garden that just made them seem silly and pointless.

                                  The article says it better that Slow Food might be more effective "leveraging its political and social influence to open doors and generate resources that other groups do not have access to."

                                  Waters is in definate need of handlers, or better ones, otherwise she might just sabotage the very thing she is so passionate about.

                                3. re: cowboyardee

                                  Organic can be as productive as conventional farming and can be significantly more productive in drought years, according the latest reports from Rodale's side-by-side study, now in its 27th year. "In 4 out of 5 years of moderate drought, the organic systems had significantly higher corn yields (31 percent higher) than the conventional system." That should show up at the cash register.


                                  I'm a Slow Food member who was thrilled with the $5 Challenge. I help people learn to cook delectable, affordable food that minimizes human and animal suffering by adjusting their ingredients. Cook organic dried beans, rice, and seasonal, sturdy vegetables grown by well-treated workers; use the savings to buy artisan cheese, asparagus in season, go to Paris, or pay the rent. See my $5 Feast and learn more here:

                                  1. re: Cook for Good

                                    That's good news, but you're talking in microcosm. The food production industry is a lot bigger than the data represented in the study. There is room for many small exceptions to the rule - they don't mean industry is going to drop the factory, non-organic model any time soon. And organic vs non-organic does not cover all or even most of the slow food movement's objection to the factory farming system.

                                    Keep up the good work, but bear in mind when you make your voice heard that the problem is far bigger than just lack of cooking knowledge.

                          2. re: sedimental

                            I agree completely. And I say that as someone who IS at poverty level. Those at my level and below - and even those slightly above my level - truly, truly do not give a damn.

                            Why should they? It's accessible nearly 24 hours a day - it's highly advertised - it requires little effort or thought - it's "tasty", especially since their taste buds are trained towards overly salty, overly fatty, overly sweet foods, and furthermore it's addicting.

                            1. re: JReichert

                              I suspect you can say that about folks at all income levels. Last weekend I was out-of-state and chose a place for lunch that is known for growing its own vegetables and serving American food fast food format with better ingredients (and elevated prices to match), e.g., pizzas, hamburgers, shakes. A burger order comes with two sides, and the menu states that the default is a side of veggies and a side of fries. It was quite busy and I must have looked at over 50 lunch trays. Not a single one had any veggies, meaning that people had to state "hold the veggies, give me onion rings (or mac n cheese, etc.)" and actively say "no" to greenery instead. I was the only person eating vegetables in the whole place. The proverbial horse being led to water . . .

                            2. re: sedimental

                              That's interesting, I actually thought the $5/person would be directed towards middle class people who don't necessarily eat from the dollar menu every day but are more likely to fill their diets with processed junk and not realize how unhealthy their choices are, but they think that eating "slow food" will blow their budgets. Most people I know fit into this category except for the ones who have taken an active interest in cooking, solidly middle/upper class people but don't have a clue about what they put in their mouths. Just for reference I am 28 and most of the people I am thinking of are in my mom's age range ~60. Since I've taken an interest in food, my mom has as well and I think some of her friends and their kids are too once they realize that slow food isn't some sort of thing that normal people can't embrace.

                    2. If you assume there will be no wine, then the $5pp idea makes sense.

                      I always commend souffles for the frugal spectacular dinner.

                      Start with a tomato soup - specifically Marcella Hazan's famous tomato sauce with butter and onion (which even Marcella admits is good as a soup right out of the pot - I think it's better as a soup than as a sauce, and I normally hate tomato soup)

                      Cheese souffle

                      Good bread

                      Green salad with vinaigrette

                      Roasted fresh fruit or poached dry fruit.

                      1. I think that you are missing the point. The problem is the implication that good food should be cheap. The many local farmers I know are just making ends meet, and market goers are, for the most part, not willing to pay higher prices for local, sustainable product.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: pikawicca

                          But then, $5 per person per meal at home is not considered cheap to a lot of people.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            Maybe they should turn it around. Bad food is expensive.

                            I gag at the prices of fast food meals ... for chemical laden junk that is bad for our planet and bad for our health.

                            For a lunch I can spend as much if not more for something from Applebee's as I do at Chez Panisse.

                            Alice doesn't seem to be hurting financially.

                            So ... they want local organic food to be more expensive so fewer people can afford it, the farmer sells less and goes out of business entirely?

                            Does that really make sense?

                            It seems the $5 challenge makes people more aware that slow food is affordable, encouranging more people to buy it and increasing business for the local artisan and farmer.

                            1. re: rworange

                              Bad food IS expensive, but the costs are hidden. Air pollution from transporting "organic" foods from China, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the toxicity of freshwater fish in the U.S. due to water pollution...most folks don't want to think about these things when they're buying their cheap, crappy food at Walmart.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                What I'd like to see more of is a continuum of choices, as in good, better, best, instead of an insistence that anything that Chez Panisse would not serve is garbage. Give middle income and low income people some good choices that bring their meals closer to the ideal.

                                And to cowboyardee, yes, I support revolution. But I realize that it will happen incrementally and in fits and starts.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Sort of like the Monterrey Aquarium's seafood guide of best and worst seafood choices.

                                  I would also dance with the devil of Walmart.

                                  The reality is people shop there. I hope people will NOT start ranting about the company in general. I am more than aware of what it is ... but it is ... why not use it.

                                  I'll bet that would send Alice Waters to bed with the vapors claiming that the $5 challenge will lead to the road to Walmart.

                                  Walmart started selling organic food a few years ago. It hasn't been wildly popular and the product line gets cut more and more.

                                  Still, you can get cage-free organic eggs, Horizon organic milk and select organic foods in almost every department.

                                  When they put in fresh produce, some stores also had recipe cards ... in English and Spanish. It would seem to that working with Walmart to do some promotions and education about its sustainable food might, at the least, make people who otherwise wouldn't know or consider better choices more savy consumers.

                                  Again ... I am so NOT condoning Walmart practices ... but some of the stores in Mexico and Central America opened the market to small vendors. The Walmart in Vera Cruz, Mexico had a stunning selection of seafood that included fresh octopus. I have a bottle of plantano vinegar on my shelf from a local artisan that Walmart allowed to demo their product and sell in-store.

                                  Even Jesus worked with the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors. He knew he wasn't there to preach to the choir ... many of whom were hypocritical zealots ... I wonder if there's a Slow Food parable in that.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I just wanted to say that I'm thoroughly enjoying your insightful, factual comments in this post. I applaud you for your knowledge concerning these issues, and appreciate your creating this thread.

                                    Thank you to all the other commenters as well; I'm receiving quite the education (though I realize this is probably just the tip of the tip of the iceberg) this evening!

                              2. re: rworange

                                I've been a cheap-eating grad student for the past couple of years and fast food is really expensive! I even shop at the local organic markets(bulk bins ftw!) and my food bills are much lower than if I ate fast food regularly.

                              3. re: pikawicca

                                Fighting the immemorial human imperative for cheap food is like King Canute holding his hand against the incoming waves.

                              4. It's preachy.

                                Don't moralize food.

                                1. Coming from the trenches, I can say there was no issue, none, with local chapter leaders and members who coordinated a lot of cool events to promote healthy, sustainable food at that price point. I can easily feed my family great food from the farmer's market at that price point. I thought it was a great, democratic event and generated a lot of positive media attention.

                                  There was, no, none, discussion of this "issue" among "regular members" at the time.

                                  I admit I am not above shoving the slow moving out of the way to get the last $10 pint mulberries because, hell, those are really tasty. And yes, I'd like to see farmers paid better and more people have access to good quality food at a price they can afford.

                                  But as much as like Alice and Tookie and the really, fundamentally support their various important volunteer work (Edible Schoolyard, Support for Lousiana farmers) they don't speak for Slow Food USA.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                    Also in the trenches...there was at our end.

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      DiningDiva and JudiAU, interesting to hear the reaction from the trenches. I'd not had a sense that the divide was as much of a wedge as the CHOW article portrays until I'd read it here.

                                      I'm a new member of Slow Food and not that active. While I've supported Slow Food's objectives, the chapters in the San Francisco Bay Area and the focus of their tasting events just were too precious for me. I've attended some as a guest of friends who were members but over the years, most of my friends dropped out, not liking the snobs in the local groups. I didn't feel a need to join.

                                      What changed for me was hearing Josh Viertel speak in March 2010 in San Francisco. First of all, I was stunned when it was announced that he would be appearing at a panel discussion at Glide Memorial in San Francisco. Wow, Slow Food stepping into the Tenderloin?!? He was up there on stage with Martin Bourque of Berkeley's Ecology Center and Nikki Henderson of West Oakland's Peoples Grocery, and others talking about food justice, sustainability issues, and closing the gap between the food system of the privileged and the food system left to the poor. I liked his position that we need to have more people at the table talking about the food system, not just preaching to the choir, and his desire to make Slow Food more inclusive, including working with companies like Dupont on matters of mutual interest. He would probably be pleased with the discussion we're having right here. With this shift, Slow Food became relevant for me and I felt like I could be part of it under this new direction.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        I've been a SF member off and on for many years, most of the time in name only. I am currently a board member for a new chapter that is decidedly not snobby and that tries to meet the needs of an urban population. We have 3 over arching principals...1) Food justice, 2) Healthy families, and 3) sustainable communities. All of our functions have to meet at least one of those principals in order to become a full fledged event. We try and keep our functions as affordable as possible so that a wide cross section can attend, and in fact, do have functions that are free.

                                        It isn't so much that our chapter didn't support the $5 Challenge - we did and had a great function - so much as the way it came to us and the fact it was not particularly well defined. Every Sept. SF holds a "day of action" which is supposed to be used to mobilize and energize the membership. We'd already been told to expect it to be centered around the upcoming Farm Bill that will be wending it's way through Congress in 2012. So when we received notice of the $5 Challenge, it was pretty late in the game and were a bit confused as to what the purpose was, how it supported the Farm Bill (turns out it didn't) and what the intent was.

                                        Our board discussions were more about frustrations with the National organization than the message because we knew we could spin it whichever way we needed to make it work for our community. Cowboyardee hit the nail on the head up-thread when he said the issues in the piece had been simmering for some time and, as far as I know, go far beyond the $5 Challenge.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Josh, himself, is a great addition to Slow Food. He has done a lot to make the movement less elite and perceived as less elite. All of the major projects SF has sponsored have been great since he's come on aboard. The organization as a whole isn't very well organized and board meetings do tend to focus on irritations with "national." Most of the chapters have a difficult time because they have very few volunteers and a lot of people who want and or expect to go to events.

                                      2. re: JudiAU

                                        Poppy Tooker just tweeted: "Sad tales of Slow Food USA Cheap food cheap message not good Josh, not good at all. The ARK was the heart of Slow Food. "


                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          You know, there is nothing in the Ark that says the food needs to be expensive.


                                          One of the foods being preserved by the ARK is heirloon miralton, um, chayote. This makes me laugh because of my struggle with a chayote that took over my yard and house. There is an Adopt a Mirilton program ... that seems like adopting Audry from Little Shop of Horrors.


                                          Maybe Katrina destroyed a lot of it, but it wasn't because it was a difficult to grow plant that "“backyard mirliton vines” became a common sight crawling over fences and into trees all over New Orleans, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and smaller rural communities.

                                          Anyway, $200 heritage turkeys aside, there are so many foods on the ARK list that are not expensive even if you were to buy the most expensive version you could find ... and some of it is the food of poverty ... of eating cheap food ... starting with that miralton.Yes, I understand from the site that it is a special variety but as the Slow Food site says fhey arrived in Louisiana "After their historic introduction from the Caribbean during the 1804 Slave Revolt in Haiti"

                                          Louisiana tasso? Where did that originate if not in the homes of the poor as flavoring for gumbo and jambalaya?

                                          And how about poi ... really?

                                          Even if buying these products from small artisan farmers or vendors, it is not going to break the bank.

                                          And wouldn't these foods benefit from a larger public awareness? Would Sebastopol Gravestein apple orchards be plowed under for condos if people were aware of their significance and sought them out ... maybe as dessert in that $5 meal.

                                          Coincidentally, Deer Tongue lettuce, another ARK veggie, was on my Eating on $3 a day menu.

                                          Hmmm ... looking at that list, If Louisiana French bread is on the list, I wonder if SF Sourdough bread could be put on the endangered list. Tadich could get nominated.

                                          You go, Josh. There's nothing sad about it at all. You might just be saving the heart from cardiac arrest. .

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Wow. I used to have a lot of respect for her. I hate nasty tweeting.