Monday, January 30, 2012

Meatless Monday: Slow Food Arrives in New Haven

Slow Food International is a global grassroots organization founded to “counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” Its origins can be traced back to a protest in response to the arrival of McDonald’s near Rome’s Spanish Steps in 1986. Today there are over 100,000 members in 1300 local chapters.  One of the newest is right here in the New Haven area — Slow Food Shoreline, founded in the late summer of 2011.

The chapter’s board has been very busy over the past few months, making their presence known up and down the Connecticut shoreline. The board members were the invited guests at New Haven Green Drinks on January 18. Chapter chair Michael Cook presented a summary of the group’s history and goals with his talk: “What is the Opposite of Fast Food?” In New Haven, everyone is connected. Chris Randall, executive director of the New Haven Land Trust, was in attendance, camera in hand. You can see his photos from the evening here.

The next scheduled event is Slow Food Shoreline’s first monthly Food Swap, this coming Saturday, February 4th at Woodland Coffee. What is a food swap? According to information on the group’s website, “A Slow Food Swap is part silent auction/part village marketplace/part fun-loving open house where your homemade, homegrown, and foraged creations become your own personal currency for use in swapping with other participants.” Read more about it here

What else is on the calendar? On February 11, Slow Food Shoreline will be tabling at the opening of “Big Food: Health, Culture and the Evolution of Eating,” a hands-on exhibition at Yale’s Peabody Museum. And, Slow Food Happy Hour returns at New Haven’s Soul de Cuba on Monday, February 13 from 5- 7 pm. 

On December 11, I attended my first event as a chapter member — an Art Tour at the Yale University Art Gallery, led by board member Vanessa Lamers who is also a graduate student at Yale and a Wurtele Gallery Teacher at the museum. Our guide took us on a tour of food-themed pieces in the gallery’s collection — from an Assyrian tablet dating from 900 BC to a modern-day sculpture by the artist Marisol. At each piece, after listening to  a short description of the artwork and its historical context, we were asked a couple of questions to guide us in our thinking. Why did the man in the Assyrian tablet have wings? Was he plucking dates or watering them? Why are there oranges on the floor in Manet’s painting of the woman reclining in Spanish costume? What was Marisol trying to tell us in her self-portrait “Dinner Date,” where the meal before her is a TV dinner? [A particularly interesting question for s Slow Food group to consider.] This afternoon of guided reflection was a welcome break in the busyness of the holiday season and a good way to meet chapter members.

The group contemplates “Dinner Date”
Such study has been proven to increase one’s observational skills. In fact, we in the Slow Food group were being guided in our observation of works of art in much the same way new medical students are taught to observe. All first-year students at the Yale School of Medicine are required to spend time looking at paintings in a visual tutorial which has been a part of the school’s curriculum since 1999. According to a 2009 article in Yale News, Dr. Irwin Braverman had been trying to find a way to increase observational skills of medical students. Linda Friedlaender, a curator at the Yale Center for British Art, was frustrated by the misdiagnosis of her close friend’s illness. A chance meeting brought the two together, and the class was born. The program was proven so successful that by the time the article was written, a decade later, over 20 medical schools were including a similar program in their curriculums.

Have a great week. I hope to see some of you locals at one of the next Slow Food events in and around New Haven. I’ll “see” the rest of you back here next Monday.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

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