July-August 2011 | GARDEN VARIETY




Slow Food Delmarva’s mission is to educate people to eat better with farm-fresh local foods

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Stephen Cherry

The only thing slow about the Slow Food movement is the rate at which the food is prepared for consumption. Were it named instead for the rapid groundswell of public interest it has engendered, “the wildfire movement” would be more descriptive because like leftover candy corn on November 1, it just seems to be everywhere these days.

According to sources that include David Bean, the co-founder and director of Slow Food Delmarva, the genesis of the movement came in 1986, when Italian Carlo Petrini established Arcigola in response to, even protest of, the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps of Rome. In 1989, the founding manifesto of the international Slow Food movement was signed in Paris by the delegates of 15 countries, largely to address the ongoing encroachment of big international business interests. Today, the movement includes over 100,000 members worldwide in at least 132 countries.

Its philosophical underpinnings are something of a melting pot. While there is a definite gastronomic foundation, it is accompanied by a rejection of the effects and consequences of large, corporate food-processing entities not only in terms of quality and health value but also the treatment of the animals it harvests as food sources.

“Whether you want to call it Slow Food, organic or free-range, I can tell you unequivocally that chickens raised by this method look much better, are much healthier and taste dramatically superior to chickens raised in the alternative, highly commercialized way,” asserted Hari Cameron, executive chef at the prestigious Nage in
Rehoboth Beach. “And it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Isn’t a chicken that has lived in sunshine, used its muscles normally and fed those muscles on a diet of its preferred food sources going to be healthier and therefore taste better? Of course it is. It’s also a much more humane and ethical way to treat the things that ultimately become the sources of our sustenance.”

In other words, the Slow Food movement is everything fast food isn’t — and more.

“As central to the Slow Food movement as any other aspect,” said Bean, who just celebrated the first anniversary of Slow Food Delmarva, “is the emphasis it places on community and locality. It seeks to directly link the local farmer with the local chef and the local chef and bread baker with the community itself, with nothing in-between. So, an intended consequence of the movement is to have a stimulative effect on local economies, beginning with the agricultural side, on through the retail side — meaning stores and restaurants — and ultimately on the consumer end.”

When Susan and David Ryan opened Good Earth Market in Clarksville, Del. eight years ago, they hadn’t realized they were simultaneously establishing themselves as local trendsetters for what would become a red-hot food revolution.

“It’s hard to know whether David and I unwittingly helped start a local trend or merely responded rapidly to something that was already under way,” said Ryan. “I started out just wanting to have a little farm stand, but it took on a momentum that made it expand dramatically into what it is today.”

What the Good Earth Market is today essentially represents two prongs of the Slow Food movement in that the facility is a 10-acre U.S.D.A.-certified organic farm married to a 3,500 sq. ft. retail store that sells not only the farm’s harvest of fruit and vegetables — especially their 16-variety signature crop of amazing heirloom tomatoes — but also top-quality organic chicken (the Ryans organically raise chickens for their personal consumption), beef, diary, spices, condiments, and cut-to-order herbs in addition to various and sundry health-and-beauty products that embrace the ethos of the Slow Food movement.

Roughly twice a month the Ryans host cooking events at the market that feature elite local chefs demonstrating their favorite Slow Food recipes for an eagerly salivating crowd. On June 4th Cameron was there preparing gourmet dishes like Chesapeake oysters in a rhubarb champagne mignonette, chicken paillard and sautéed sugarsnap peas in a honey-smoked paprika and sherry vinegar gastrique, and a grilled prime beef with arugula and smoked strawberry pickles — all while musician Paul Cullen (formerly of the classic-rock supergroup Bad Company) serenely strummed his guitar in the midday sun. The Ryans have also brought in epicurean talent from places like Patsy’s in Bethany Beach, Kool Bean Bistro in Ocean View, The Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michael’s, and Matt Haley of SoDel Concepts (Bluecoast Seafood Grill, NorthEast Seafood Kitchen, Catch 54, et al.)

On July 29th, the Good Earth Market goes Hollywood when they host an event featuring cooking celebrity Alejandra Schrader, who is currently appearing on the Fox-network hit MasterChef with Gordon Ramsey.

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