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‘Slow food’ movement comes to Lodi

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Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 9:24 am, Wed Mar 16, 2011.

Holding a brown lunch bag in each hand, one of Lodi's premier chefs said the contents of one bag represent what food is and the other shows what is wrong with it. He opened the bags. One featured a fresh Russet potato. The second bag contained a carton of McDonald's french fries.

Before a crowd of 70 winemakers, farmers and foodies at cellardoor Monday night, Ruben Larrazolo, owner of Alebrijes Mexican Bistro, said the fast-food item is a luxury. Although the fries are inexpensive, Larrazolo said their lack of nutritional value and immediate availability hurts the appreciation for real food. The American culture widely sees food as only something that satisfies a craving, he said.

"It fills your stomach but has no value," Larrazolo said. "Kids grow up with this attitude towards food, and I don't want food to go extinct."

In a country where fast-food chains dominate the landscape and obesity runs rampant, good, clean and fair food can be hard to find. But a movement focused on a traditional and methodical approach to cuisine is expanding rapidly in Lodi. Through the efforts of food-conscious members of the community, a Lodi chapter will soon be added to Slow Food USA, a nonprofit organization that promotes farm-to-table ideals.

Randy Caparoso, a sommelier and writer who lives in Lodi, helped come up with the idea in October. As he was dining with winemakers, the group began talking about the town's food culture. They soon came to the conclusion that a Slow Food USA chapter could thrive in Lodi.

"We were talking about how there is no real focus on community organizations that support the growth of the agricultural community and fruit producers in Lodi," Caparoso said.

The movement began to grow.

Caparoso hosted an informal meeting at his home on Dec. 15, 2010 to gauge interest in the community. About a dozen people showed up, but they were passionate about the cause, he said.

The next meeting was held in early February at Lucas Winery. More than 60 people were present, many of them registering to attend in the days before the gathering.

Since then, the group has appointed a board of directors and started drafting a mission statement. On Monday, it held a gathering at cellardoor and announced its first official event: an olive oil, vinegar and bread tasting at The Dancing Fox in Downtown on April 14.

While future events are still being discussed, the group has big plans. They look to host a cherry tasting in May and a community harvest dinner could be scheduled for August.

Food education will be a crucial part of the movement's success, said Ken Albala, the chapter's project co-chair, and history professor and food historian at University of the Pacific.

"It's important that people know where food comes from," said Albala. "I've seen some slow food chapters become just a way to sell a product. I'm not against helping our local farmers and winemakers, but my primary goal is educating the public and not just being a gourmet club."

The chapter will be chaired by Susan Tipton, a Chicago native who now resides in Acampo. Tipton is also member of Sacramento's chapter, and said board members from that chapter will help her begin the process for Lodi, she said.

"We want to align ourselves with businesses to help promote that we will work hand-in-hand with restaurants," she said.

In some of the finest restaurants in San Francisco and the Bay Area, San Joaquin County produce is a common ingredient. Besides promoting a thoughtful approach to cuisine, the Lodi chapter will look to pair restaurateurs and farmers so locally grown produce can be in area restaurants, Tipton said.

To join the nonprofit movement, members must sign up with www.slowfoodusa.org. Memberships start at $25 and users can receive member-only offers with a donation of $60 or more. The Lodi chapter will hold its next official meeting April 4. Those interested in attending should notify Caparoso at randycaparoso@earthlink.net.

Despite its rapid growth, Caparoso said the group is only starting and needs more help and input.

"We need more growers," he said. "We're missing that."

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:42 am on Sat, Mar 19, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    I spent over 3 months in Thailand eating much more food than I do in USA... I lost 10 pounds eating more... the difference was that I was deprived of eating fast foods. No bread, deserts, candy, butter, or sodas.... just local home made food from local farmers... Ate chicken, pork and fish, bananas, mangos and sticky rice daily... but also bamboo, chilis and many other stir fried vegetables.

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 4:18 pm on Wed, Mar 16, 2011.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 1880

    In college i knew a kid who ate sweet yellow potatoes raw like an apple. I still prefer them "fried". In quotations because most of the time we do homemade fries we bake the potatoes as thick chips rather than have all the extra oil of frying.

  • Susan Tipton posted at 8:57 am on Wed, Mar 16, 2011.

    Susan Tipton Posts: 3

    Jordan, thanks to you and the Lodi News Sentinel for spreading the word about Slow Food Lodi! Just to clarify, as a member of Slow Food Sacramento I have met with board members to discuss our role here, but I am not on the Slow Food board in Sacramento.

    Slow Food is community support for Good, Clean and Fair food. It is about enjoying foods that are local, seasonal and sustainably grown. Through educational outreach and advocating for farmers and artisan producers, we aim to celebrate food as a cornerstone of pleasure, culture and community (seeing local products in area businesses would be a side benefit).

    Slow Food USA is a political organization that helped pass the Hungry Fee Kids Act, allowing schools to serve healthier lunches. They have been working with the U S Dept of Agriculture to explore how corporate monopolies affect food and farming in the U.S. Slow Food is working to conserve heirloom varieties before they are lost and provide support for organic and bio dynamic farmers.



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