Activities for Module IV Apples, Beets, and Zinnias: Sustainable Horticulture
Activities for Section E: Slow Food Activities
- Activity 1: Nominate a local food specialty for the Ark of Taste
- Activity 2: Take a small slow food bite
- Activity 3: Let your imagination go wild
Activity 1: Nominate a local food specialty for the Ark of Taste
Purpose: Students will learn about the concept of endangered foods and will think about specialty varieties and foods from their own region.
Advance preparation: Print out a description of a food on the US Ark, such as Beaver Dam Pepper or another food listed in the US Ark. Figure out how you will share the example with the students (verbally, through paper copies, or on the board or an overhead). Print out the criteria and categories of foods for the Ark and decide how to share the information with students.
Estimated time: 10 minutes or more
Introduce the concept of endangered foods and the Ark of Taste to the students by explaining it and/or handing out the criteria and categories sheet.
Ask the students to nominate a food from their area for the Ark. They have to explain how the food fits the criteria for inclusion in the Ark. You may require students to nominate a horticultural product, or you may allow them to nominate an item from any of the food categories. This can be done as a discussion for the entire class, or students can work alone or in small groups. If students work alone or in small groups, you can ask them to share their nominations with the whole class, or you can make them fill out a written nomination form.
Activity 2: Take a small slow food bite
Purpose: Get students to think of realistic ways to incorporate some slow food principles into their own lives
Advance preparation: Decide whether you will do this activity as a whole class discussion or small group exercise. Have some examples ready (see below) in case the class needs prompting.
Estimated time: 5 to 15 minutes
There is a reason fast food is so prevalent. Most of us have too much to do and too little time already. It is often hard enough even to find the time for a sandwich on the run. Preparing and enjoying a slow food meal might seem overwhelming.
Luckily, you don’t have to do it all at once. Odessa Piper is the founder and former owner and chef of L’Etoile Restaurant in Madison. In 2006 Ms. Piper received an honorary degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in large part for bringing many of the ideas of Slow Foods to the Midwest. In her speech at the 2006 commencement, Odessa Piper told the crowd: “Hey, if all you can afford to eat is fast food, you can still eat it slowly. And don’t discount the big solutions that can emerge out of small acts of faith in an idea.” (Odessa Piper UW Madison Spring Commencement Address)
Divide the class into small groups. Ask each group to
- Brainstorm three ways you can take a small step towards slow food. Or give examples of how you are already applying slow food principles. Explain how each action ties into one or more of the ideas of slow food.
- Share their ideas with the rest of the class.
For extra credit, students can implement one idea with their families and report on the response.
A few examples of do-able slow food actions:
- Take time to eat whatever food you have slowly, with family and/or friends.
- Appreciate the food and the work that brought it to you. You can just think about it yourself or talk about it with others at the table.
- Buy some food at a farmers’ market. Talk to the vendor/grower about how they grow the food and why they do it that way.
- Grow some food yourself. It can be as small as a pot of herbs in a sunny window or as large as a big vegetable garden.
- Gather some food yourself (berries, nuts, even fish)
- Give yourself enough time to prepare a simple meal without rushing.
- Prepare an old family recipe, maybe together with an older relative.
Activity 3: Let your imagination go wild
Purpose: Students will think about the origin and sustainability of favorite foods and will work on communicating key sustainable agriculture principles creatively and effectively.
Advance preparation: You may wish to provide students with an example. You could talk about a personal ideal slow food feast (such as a special Thanksgiving meal) or you could print out a menu from one of the websites below. You should also decide whether you want students to work as individuals or in small groups.
Estimated time: 30 to 50 minutes or more, depending on how finished a communication product you want the students to develop.
Now, let’s go far beyond the small step activity. Dream up your ideal slow food feast. Don’t let considerations of time and money rein in your ideas. But do stick as close to the principles of slow food as you can. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is the food raised with care for the environment?
- Is the food processed with care for the environment?
- Are the people who raise and process the food fairly paid and honored for their work? Do you know who they are?
- Are all the foods available at the same time (for example, you probably would not want to put fresh morel mushrooms and fresh local raspberries on the same menu)
- What is special about the food? (think about history, special varieties, preparation, presentation, and of course taste)
- Where, how, and with whom will you enjoy it?
Next, design a way to tell others about your feast. It can be a menu, a brochure, a poster, a website, or any another format that will let others know about the foods in your feast and how they reflect slow food principles.
If you need inspiration, you can search the web for ideas. Fine restaurants often put a lot of thought into letting customers know about the foods they offer. For example, check out the websites for restaurants such as Devotay in Iowa City, Iowa; L’Etoile in Madison, Wisconsin; Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California; Stone Barn in New York.