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Krupp: Retro Food

04/26/12 7:55AM By Ron Krupp
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(Host) For the past ten years, there has been a renewed interest in the growing, preparing and preserving of local food. Commentator Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who tells us more about this Retro Food movement and where it's heading.

(Krupp) The Mad River Localvore Project began in the Mad River Valley six years ago. More than 250 people signed up for the first Eat Local Challenge. The participants realized it wasn't going to be a piece of cake since there was no local flour, eggs or butter.

Since that time, the food scene has changed dramatically in the Mad River Valley. Walk into many grocery stores and you can find Red Hen's Cyrus Pringle bread, made from 100 percent Vermont grown wheat. Red Hen owner Randy George worked with Addison County grain grower Tom Kenyon to grow a wheat that would be suitable for bread making. Now there's an abundance of meat and vegetables in the Mad River Valley at  farmers' markets and local farm stands. Restaurant chefs serve chicken from local farms and fresh salad greens throughout the year. There's a community orchard and local apple cider vinegar. Cheese, butter and eggs are available. 

There's another local food initiative - called the Slow Food Movement - where local ingredients are prepared from scratch. Slow Food was born in 1986 when its founder, Italian Carlo Petrini, protested against the construction of a McDonald's in Rome - with a bowl of local pasta. Slow Food has grown into a network of 100,000 members in 153 countries.

The New York Times Magazine once described the Slow Food Movement as a "gastronomical version of Greenpeace: a defiant determination to preserve unprocessed food from being wiped off the map."

In the United States, the interest in retro-food has involved support for food sources ranging from Najaho-Churro sheep, America 's earliest domesticated farm animal, to the Green Mountain potato, developed by the University of Vermont in the 1880's.

The Slow Food movement in Burlington meets once a month on Sunday evenings with potluck suppers. A recent theme was Russian food which included a poor man's caviar composed of mushrooms, nuts, onions, cilantro and peppers - along with a cheesecake made of fresh Vermont buttermilk, ground almonds, butter, farmers' cheese, lemon, spices and eggs. The meal also featured plenty of vodka and a plum cordial.

Some seventy years ago, many Vermont farm families lived off the land. They had large gardens, a milk cow and barrels full of fresh and hard cider and vinegar. They raised chickens, pigs, sheep and steers. Glass jars of preserves, pickles and tomatoes lined the shelves of root cellars. Before refrigerators and ice-boxes, there were small ice houses in shaded north-facing slopes filled with sawdust and large blocks of ice for preserving food. Today, many of those old ways seem new again.

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