Slow Foods Ark of Taste and foodways preservation

I am often frustrated by walking into the grocery store to ad lib a dinner and being greeted by the same old poor, pathetic, beat into the ground vegetables. Let’s see, should it be broccoli or cauliflower. Oh look, they have kohlrabi however it looks like hell. Carrots, onions, potatoes (white, yellow, or red – literally my options), wilted arugula, spinach, food service mushrooms, pre-sliced shiitake so thin they dissipate to nothingness when cooked, and the flavorless assortment of green, yellow, and red peppers. No wonder no one likes to cook at home. These vegetables are boring and overused. I hate to think that there are so many people out there having to choose from so few choices. I then move to the meat, fish and poultry area. Yep, same stuff as last time. While we are bored of our grocery store produce section, there are many exciting vegetables, fruits, herbs, meats, fish and poultry on the brink of extinction. Luckily, Slow Foods has developed a concept called the Ark of Taste.

The people at Slow Foods are working to find and document foods and food ways that are on the brink of extinction and revitalize them. This of course is not just limited to vegetables. It also includes beverages, grains and cereals, cheeses, meat and poultry, cured meats, nuts, fish and shellfish, wines, honey, and syrups.

According to their website (, 93% of North American food diversity has been lost since 1900. To me, this is a staggering number. In a mere 100 years, we have managed to reduce our food diversity this much. We have traded our bounty for frozen pizzas, microwave popcorn, pop tarts, and a multitude of convenience foods.

Locally, there are a number of people doing their part to save local South Carolina foods that are near extinction. Sean Brock, the Chef at McCrady’s, took to saving a native species of corn called James Island Red along with the guys at Anson Mills. This is the link to Brock’s blog post on the corn :

A group called the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities is working to preserve heirloom poultry (

Carolina Gold Rice, the staple of which the Coastal South Carolina regional economy was based, went all but extinct after the depression. Anson Mills and the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation are working to revitalize this long-grained rice.

Caw Caw Creek Pastured pork is raising free ranging, heirloom pigs that are being use by some of the top chefs in America. Buyers include Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard, and Thomas Keller. The varieties raised include the Ossabaw Island Hog, a species that is in critical condition. It is estimated that there are only 2000 remaining on the island and only some 200 in other places.


~ by Schwarvin on August 15, 2008.

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