Labor Day weekend is upon us. Anyone planning to fix up some scrumptious slow food?
The "slow food" movement is taking off all over the place. Its premise is simple: connecting people with the sources of the food they eat. Joining the movement is as easy as going down to the local farmer's market. But it has a lot of larger implications because it draws attention to the cultural and environmental impacts of individual food choices.
I had an amazing slow-food feast recently at an event called "Pig on the Beach," which featured a whole pig slow-roasted in a sand pit on Cannon Beach.
The potluck feast was hosted by a new group called North Coast Slow Food at the Wave Crest Inn - and 85 people showed up.
Despite the group's name, I was pretty impressed to hear how quickly the organizers managed to get a whole pig (probably the freshest, tenderest, most flavorful pork I'll ever eat) from a local farm to my fork.
Here's the timeline of events, according to North Coast Slow Food organizer Kristin Frost (also founding manager of Cannon Beach Farmers Market and an Oregon State University Extension agent in Clatsop County):
1. Harvest the pig
- "My husband Mark and I purchased the weaner pig from farmer Lance Waldron of Lance's Farm Vittles in Bay City, Ore., on Thursday, Aug. 19.
- Our pig was harvested on Friday (Aug. 20) afternoon by Lance and Mark. Lance and Mark bled the pig, then scalded and scraped the pig and popped the toenails off.
- The next step was to remove the intestinal tract and then the heart and lungs.
- The pig was then well-rinsed and Mark brought it back on ice Friday night to Cannon Beach."
2. Dig the pit
- "Saturday we dug the pit on the beach, collected the wood and the rocks.
- In the Wave Crest Inn's kitchen a large amount of burlap was then soaked in wine to get it ready for wrapping the pig."
3. Watch the fire (for five hours)
- "Sunday around 6 a.m. we started the fire and then had an every two-hour changing shift of "fire pit watch" by Slow Food volunteers.
- Back in the kitchen, the pig was stuffed with fruit steeped in Salal berry liquor, then stitched up and wrapped in the wine soaked burlap.
- At 11 a.m. the coals looked good, so the pig was brought down to the beach and lowered into the pit on to a grate."
4. Roast the pig (for four hours in this case)
- "The fire pit was then covered with sand, and it was established that given the size of the pig, we'd check its 'doneness' around 2:30 - 3 p.m.
- At 2:45 p.m. we uncovered the pit and Mark and Hank Johnson took pitch forks and lifted the pig out of the pit.
- A cursory check showed it looked quite perfectly cooked, so back to the Wave Crest Inn it went to be unwrapped and to finish getting it ready for the party."
5. Party on.
- After the feast, the head and organs of the pig were made into head cheese, the intestines were saved for sausage casings. Pretty tidy work.
- Frost said the slow food group is just getting started with semi-regular potluck events, but it's expanding on the success of the Cannon Beach Farmers Market, founded in 2008.
"It became apparent that people on the North Coast were starved for good local fresh food – be it coast grown produce, foraged mushrooms, pasture raised meats or just caught seafood," she said. "Local chefs, farmers and food-loving citizens gathered to start Slow Food North Coast as a way to showcase our local seasonal bounty. We are holding monthly potlucks around the region to engage our Slow Food North Coast community and to start raising awareness of local agricultural issues – and to build funds to help with local food projects."
A couple slow food resources for you: