Have you heard about SLOW FOOD? It’s an international movement, based in Italy, which promotes local production of food, preservation of regional culinary traditions, and healthy eating. Today, there are 100,000 members in 132 countries. Slow Food Yucatán is an official chapter of the international Slow Food movement, and there are new members joining every day…including Yucatán Today!

Slow Food is a nonprofit, eco-gastronomic, member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat – where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility. The Yucatán chapter celebrates our diversity of local food production and rich culinary heritage, and aims to preserve, promote and enjoy it for generations to come. Slow Food Yucatán will promote the healthy growing and eating of locally farmed and produced food, and preserve the region’s unique culinary history. This in turn provides economic benefits to the local farmers, and healthy and delicious benefits to everyone who eats in Yucatán.

There are some super creative people who got the Yucatán chapter underway. David Sterling of Los Dos Cooking School launched the local convivium and was on the Board of Directors for several years. He was known for his divine cooking classes and culinary skill, and shared his cooking flair and love for Yucatecan ingredients with visitors from all over the world…including Martha Stewart! He knew many of the local people who are growing organic food here, and enjoyed learning ancient recipes from local Maya women. He thought many locals don’t appreciate all the fabulous ingredients available here, and tried to change that! He was interested in local organic honey and chocolate among many other things. In the years he managed Los Dos, his entire modus operandi was to collect and preserve Maya recipes and the body of Yucatecan culinary heritage.

Christina Baker of Casa de Piedra restaurant at Hacienda Xcanatún has been presenting Slow Food concepts to her restaurant guests for years. Although not a member of the organization until recently, she and her chefs have instinctively known that delicious food that brings people back time and time again is even better when it is fresh, healthy, and organic. It’s no wonder that her restaurant has received one international award after another for its consistent cuisine quality and commitment to perfection.

Monique Duval is proprietress of a fabulous “whole foods”-type bakery and café, that is so much more! She also prepares all of her own cultures for sourdough breads, kefir and yogurt; her marvelous organic garden produces arugula, lemongrass and more goodies for tasty creations like homemade pizzas; and she has also already had a fantastic “Slow Food”-type activity on her own, teaching school kids where bread comes from, starting with growing their own wheat! Monique’s Bakery and Café, and Flow Holistic Center, are located at Calle 79 No. 191A x 36 y 38, Montes de Ame, behind Gran Plaza.  Tel. 195-6389. Open Tue/Thu/Fri/Sat 8 am – 4 pm.

Colleen Casey Leonard manages Hacienda Petac. She has always been interested in healthy food. When fishing with her husband, they often traded their freshly caught fish for local fresh fruits and vegetables, a true organic win-win. Her goals are to help increase the availability of quality produce, and to provide a bigger and better “for table” organic garden at Petac; and she has bee hives on the property, too.  Colleen has been using the beeswax to make pigmented encaustic wax for use with her current artistic endeavors. She is a trained artist/sculptor and photographer with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications.  She and her husband Capt. Lance Leonard have a small artisanal smoked fish business as well.

Lucy Medina is an accomplished tropical gardener, polyglot, licensed pilot and practicing psychotherapist. Lucy is also well versed in traditional Maya cooking. At her finca in Muna she is farming New Zealand red deer to fill the Yucatecan appetite for venison. Some of it has already been employed in dishes at the restaurant Néctar, as well as at Los Dos. She feels she can be a helpful contact for the group, as she knows many of the local producers of organic food.

Aliza Mizrahi, current Chair, has a B.Sc. in Chemistry from Berkeley, and a M.Sc. in Forestry and  Environmental Studies from Yale. Her “solar” is a veritable history book and working laboratory full of traditional Maya plants and others that were once native to the region and now on the verge of extinction. She is a valuable resource on local plant and agricultural traditions, and participates in a weekly study group practicing organic growing with local farmers.

You should join if you like to eat, if you care where your food comes from, if you want to support local farming of Yucatán produce, meat, herbs, and the local artisanal production of baked goods, cheeses, jams and other foodstuffs, if you love eating fine food and care about the ecology of this earth, and if you love living in Yucatán and want our farmers to produce the food we eat. Once you are a member, you will receive notices about local SLOW FOOD YUCATAN events.

Some of your money goes to promote the international organization of Slow Food.  As Slow Food Yucatán grows in membership, a percentage of each membership fee is transferred back the Yucatán chapter to fund our local programs. Join us if you want to have fun! There’ll be tastings and trips; educational events and seminars.  Why join? Because everyone has to eat. So why not eat deliciously? Fresh. Local. It’s better for you. It’s better for the environment. It’s better for the farmers. It’s better for everyone.

The Board of Directors of the Yucatán chapter of Slow Food is pleased to announce the first project of their organization: The Slow Food Farmer’s Market.

The concept for the Farmer’s Market evolved as a result of the Board’s stated mission: (1) to encourage the “Slow Food” lifestyle among residents of Yucatán; (2) to nurture and support local organic farmers and artisanal producers by providing them a venue for selling their wares; and (3) to provide a meeting ground for people of like minds, giving Slow Food members and supporters an opportunity to meet and share.

FAST FACTS

• It is held every Saturday between the hours of 9 am and 1 pm, and Wednesdays from 6 pm – 9 pm.

• The market is located at Café Orgánico, Centro Comercial Colón, Calle 33-D x Ave. Reforma, x Colón y Cupules.

• Vendors who wish to sell their products at the Farmer’s Market must send a solicitation describing the product and retail prices to Aliza Mizrahi, email: [email protected]

• Vendors will be approved for the Farmer’s Market according to the following criteria:

– The product is artisanally produced (homemade breads, cookies, preserves, cheese, etc.)

AND/OR

– The product is organically grown.

AND/OR

– The product is produced by individuals, families or small cooperatives.

AND/OR

– The product is grown locally – within a 160 km/100 mile radius of Mérida.

• Each vendor will be charged a fee of $25 pesos every Friday for the right to set up their wares. All fees will be applied to future Slow Food projects.

• Approved vendors must bring their own tables. Tablecloths will be provided by the organization.

• Vendors will be responsible for setting up, cleaning up, manning their tables, charging and collecting money, and all other responsibilities pertinent to running the market.

Many of you have generously written to us, asking how you can participate in the Slow Food Yucatán Convivium. Now you can!

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

• Let us know if you have any vendors who would be appropriate for the market. Be sure to give us their names and contact information as well as a brief description of the product.

• Volunteer to help run the market. While each vendor is responsible for his/her own table, there will be other associated tasks, such as directing customers to parking, helping with clean-up, taking over tables when vendors need to excuse themselves, etc. The market will also provide a great platform for soliciting new Slow Food members. There will be flyers available explaining Slow Food principles, membership benefits, etc. Volunteers could help speak with customers who are interested, and encourage them to join.

• Tell your friends and neighbors about the market. Bring them with you!

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Aliza Mizrahi, email: [email protected]

For further information about the movement or if you wish to become a member, visit the Slow Food Web site (www.slowfood.com).