Sustainable WNC

The Gateway to Sustainability in Western North Carolina

Archive for March, 2007

A Radical Idealist - Vandana Shiva

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

I probably asked more questions than I have answers.

I do know my own personal method of answering those questions is to find the simpliest approach to complex ideas. At least, that is the direction I have been heading and certainly applies to how I handle food.

There have been a number questions rattling around in my head since I attended Terra Madre in Turin, Italy last November. Terra Madre is a bi-annual convention of food producers around the world. At it’s second incarnation in 2006, 1000 chefs from around the globe were invited to attend along with 5000 producers and 500 educators.

At this conference, I heard Vandan Shiva speak. She left me with many radical questions about food - the “rights” of food and the “rights” of seed. Of particular note and deep impression was the idea of corporate ownership of the “invention” of life.

Additionally, at the closing session of the conference, she spoke emotionally about the destruction of the freedoms of farmers to grow food and the impact the loss of that freedom is having.

On Greenbean Radio, there is a link to her speach and to two documents: The Manifesto of Food and The Manifesto of Seed that are worthy of attention and your comments.

The simple answer I find, eat seasonally, buy locally, walk lightly.

Being “Slow”

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

At it’s most basic, I think of being “slow” as the preservation of Taste. The foods that cross our lips determine so much of who we are and who we have been and who we will become.

Until very recently, food has always been at the very center of culture and life. With the industrialization of food and the rapid pace of life the importance of the table has shifted. Slow Food is a response to that shift. I quote from a recent article in Slow entitled Complexity, Chaos and Love written by Cinzia Scaffidi: ” …think of Slow Food as a cultural movement defending the heritage of people’s material culture…” .

In a broader sense the Slow Food movement embraces these ideals:

The stewardship of the land and ecologically sound food production
The revival of the kitchen and the table as centers of pleasure, culture, and community
The invigoration and proliferation of regional, seasonal culinary traditions

At the local level here in Asheville there is a group of some 400 interested individuals sharing their stories and heritage, tasting local foods and sharing their community of the table. We have a Convivium, our form of “organization”, which you can find out more at

Eating Locally - Opportunity and Danger

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

35 years have passed since moving to WNC and starting a life as a chef. Having come to my work with a certain mindset - of cooking with what is available - there have been many opportunities to participate in the revival of a local food economy and culture.

We are fortunate that the opportunities continue to present themselves. Each season, a new surprise is revealed: another cheese, a different variety of tomato, a truffle producer across the mountain, wood fired bread, grass fed lamb, availablity grows. For the first time, to one that does not farm, it has become possible to eat mainly foods from our region, foods that are grown in a more balanced manner, foods that come from familiar hands, organic lands, according to season.

In this we are fortunate and a great opportunity presents itself. Around the culture of food is the opportunity to have a richer life, build a better community, revive the memory of taste.

There is also much danger to be mindful of, not necessarily from within the community of growers and “co-producers” (a Slow Food term for those of us who are not growers but eat locally), but from the greater community we are embedded. There is the pressure of development and losing more farming land, the continued commercialization of food, the expectation of any food at any time and in it’s extreme; the privatization of the seed and water.

So, it is to this - how to develop, promote, sustain and most of all to celebrate eating locally, that this blog begins.

-Mark R.