Slow Food Nation: Slow Sips and Charcuterie Snacking

Last weekend, I was privileged enough to attend the Slow Sips and Charcuterie Snacking workshop as part of Slow Food Nation (for full disclosure Foodbuzz purchased my ticket on the condition that I would write something about it). In actuality, Angela and I were only coincidentally in San Francisco for the weekend but it was nice to have the opportunity to attend.

My ever so brief synopsis can be boiled down to the fact that Medlock Ames has some nice wines (the Rose, which was specially crafted to pair well with Charcuterie, is quite nice), Boccalone has a decent mortadella, and Surry Farms “Surry”-ano is the best ham I’ve ever eaten. It was better than any Italian prosciutto or Spanish serrano than I’ve had. The “problem” with the mortadella was that it was far outshone by the ham.

While the workshop was technically about wine and charcuterie, the real theme (like much of Slow Food Nation) was about sustainable farming practices.  All three producers (Ames Morrison, Ed Surry, and Mark Pastore) discussed how they incorporated sustainable practices and how they were actually important to them.

But the event got me thinking about the whole concept of sustainability.  I think that sustainability is a noble goal.  I think it’s something to strive for.  But, with all do respect to those who attempt to practice it, I think we’re, in many ways, missing the point.  Ames Morrison talked about how their first year they had to build lots of terraces with Kubota tractor.  How sustainable are they?  Ed Surry is from Virginia and had to get on an airplane (bringing a in-the-process of curing ham) to get to Slow Food Nation.  Mark Pastore also has a restaurant, Incanto, which only serves Italian wines which means they must be transported long distances (under controlled conditions) to get there.

I don’t mean to single those three out.  Not unsurprisingly, I had to take an airplane to get there.  A larger portion of my food than I want to admit comes from farther away than it should.  Let alone the distinct lack of sustainability of the iPhone I purchased over the weekend.

I really do applaud what all those who strive for true sustainability are doing. But aren’t we all missing the bigger picture? Does it matter if my produce is sustainable if I’m driving to work every day? Does it matter if I keep buying the latest gadget?

The food industry, in many ways, including this push for sustainability, is attempting (and, surprisingly, succeeding) in undoing the industrial revolution.  We concede to go along with it because we feel we get a better product, it’s better for the environment, and, the part that’s frequently missing from such calculations, we’re rich enough to afford it.

But that won’t be true of everything we consume.  Much of what we use and consume is heavily industrialized.  We very much live in a throw away society using cheap labor from abroad, almost none of which is sustainable.  Eventually, we will be forced to make tradeoffs.  We will be forced to give things up.  We won’t be able to afford everything we want.  And when we look at the balance, we will be paying a very heavy price for sustainability.

So where does that leave us?  I really don’t know.  The issue extends far beyond food but the ramifications are huge.  I doubt our society is truly capable of living sustainably.  I suggest for now that we do what we can within our individual limitations.


3 Responses to “Slow Food Nation: Slow Sips and Charcuterie Snacking”

  1. 1 Nate September 9, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Thoughtful post.

    Unless we all move back to using horses and wind-powered boats for transportation, almost all of our food will be unsustainable. And if we did somehow successfully move to sustainable agriculture, we won’t be able to have many of the foods we currently enjoy.

    I think we should just do our best to take care of the land and manage our energy usage wisely so that we will still have something worth passing on to future generations.

  2. 2 Matt September 9, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Nate – I think you’re right. I’m pretty sure that it would be the end of modern culture if we tried to make everything sustainable. It would most likely be a return to pre-industrial technology and I doubt that’s anything anyone’s willing to put up with.

    The bigger issue that I see is that buying “sustainable” will become similar to what happened with recycling in the early 90’s. Namely, that it will people will think they’re doing their part simply by buying sustainable and won’t need to do anything else.

  3. 3 Mike of Mike's Table September 20, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Lots of good issues raised here and I entirely agree…sort of like how everything is “green,” “organic,” etc these days. We definitely have a long ways to go. I’d certainly like to grow everything I eat in my backyard and be more self sustaining, but realistically, it just won’t happen. Ultimately, my meat has to come from somewhere. Same for the nuts and fruits/veggies that aren’t going to grow where I live. Plus, to really make that all work, it would be a full time job…but I already have one of those. :-/

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