The laboratories of the progressive food revolution at the moment are not San Francisco or New York but heartland cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Swoope, Virginia. It’s in places like these that advocates of good, clean, and fair food are regularly confronted with forceful and intelligent challenges to their ideas.
The result is ideas that push the progressive food agenda forward in ways that compel universal respect, regardless of ideological orientation. Will Allen’s Growing Power in Milwaukee is a prime example, a thriving urban farm network that combines low-cost techniques to provide large amounts of fresh food to the city’s low-income residents. Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley is another: its innovative use of tall-grass mob stocking practices allows it to graze about four times as many cattle as a conventional farm, undercutting claims that sustainable farming cannot feed the world. If progressive ideas are to sweep the country, they need to resemble these.
We’ve struggled with the question of how we can contribute something to this movement that would fulfill one of the hardest parts of Slow Food’s mission: extending and defending the universal right to pleasure in food, regardless of one’s place on the socioeconomic ladder. We’re not sure how much we can realistically achieve; but today, we’re announcing a project that we hope will make a difference for some people who really need it.
“Slow Food on a Fast Food Budget” is a short cookbook—more of a kitchen primer, really—that we’re in the process of writing. It’s designed for people on incomes so limited that they believe, perversely, that they can’t afford to cook for themselves and are forced to eat fast food. It assumes only bare-bones kitchen equipment and no previous knowledge. Our ultimate goal is to distribute copies of the book in food banks and community centers throughout the Columbus area.
We’ve benefitted from discussions with many people as the project has developed. We’ve pared the requirements down to an absolute minimum—a cast-iron skillet and six-quart Dutch oven, along with a few other tools. We’ve calculated ingredient costs meticulously for each recipe. We’ve included a section with practical kitchen wisdom that can help people save time and money. And we’ve thought about how to make the project pay for itself once it’s done: we’ll market it primarily to students, and we’ll publish it via Amazon’s print-on-demand service, pricing it in such a way that each copy purchased will help fund additional copies that can be donated.
While writing the book and fleshing out the recipe section, it occurred to us that we know a lot of people who know a lot about cooking who might be interested in the project and willing to help out.
So, on March 13, we’re holding a potluck. But it’s not an ordinary potluck: it’s a potluck designed to help us generate and collect recipe ideas for the book. And we’d like you to come, and bring a dish. It should be incredibly easy to cook, inexpensive, and so compellingly good that anyone, even someone who doesn’t cook very much, would go to the trouble of making it.
The details are on our Events page. You’ll find a form there to fill out and bring with your dish, telling us what ingredients are in it and how much they cost, as well as an excerpt from the draft of the book to give you an idea of the sorts of recipes we have in mind.
We hope to see you there.