Exciting news for this week. Over break I made contact with my sources for producers and distributors. I’m happy to say all of them were very receptive to the project and agreed to meet with me during the summer. One of my contacts, the Dardens of the Darden Country Store, has invited me to visit them tomorrow. They produce smithfield (also called country) hams in a very traditional style, using the same smoke shack they’ve used since 1951 and sourcing their pigs locally. This week they are salting and hanging their hams, the first step in the long process curing ham. I will be taking pictures and notes, and hopefully helping them to hang the hams. I’ll post tomorrow and describe how it went.
The local food movement is the single greatest change in food production and consumption in America in decades. Local and slow food’s origins lay in the heart of Italy, where men like Carlo Petrini, author of Slow Food Nation, have worked diligently to preserve and protect Italy’s food culture. Many attribute its American beginnings to pioneering California chef Alice Waters, who in her Berkeley restaurant Chez Pannise and cookbooks popularized menus founded on the local bounty of her area. The behemoth Wal-Mart has joined in, announcing its intention for greater utilization of local food sources in its many stores. Even with the great growth since the 1980s, local and slow food still remains on the periphery of the food industry.
I aim to better understand this movement by exploring the local food system of Hampton Roads and comparing it to the Parma region of Italy, the birthplace of slow food. By studying and working with the farmers and artisans, middlemen, and chefs of both of these regions, I hope to grasp not only the skills and work required, but also the logistics and costs associated with local production and consumption. The dissemination of the knowledge of the bounty available to everyone in their own region is key to the success of the movement. It is my desire that my research aid in this regard.