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Published: Tuesday, 7/15/2008

Slow food: Maumee Valley group celebrates first anniversary

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Salads and home-cooked dishes were served at the Slow Food Maumee Valley June potluck. Salads and home-cooked dishes were served at the Slow Food Maumee Valley June potluck.
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Hoen s Greenhouse in Holland was the setting for the June 16 potluck dinner held by Slow Food Maumee Valley. After one year, the group had a year s worth of programs to celebrate.

Not only does the organization have more than 50 paid members and an equal number of interested friends, it has held more than a dozen interesting programs, classes, dinners, wine tastings, or meetings. The mission is to foster awareness and appreciation of Northwest Ohio foods, farms, and culinary traditions, old and new.

For Slow Food Maumee Valley members, the source of food is important. We ask, does it taste good; is it environmentally clean, and is there social justice for people who produced it? says Paula Ross, one of the founding members of the group with her husband, John. Other founders are Michael and Julie Leizerman, Michael Szuberla, and Lucy Long.

We are asking questions about foods, says Mrs. Ross. For some, Slow Food means buying local. Others will buy only products that are fair trade (food produced by a small business or cooperative that is paid a fair wage for its products).

A homemade potato salad with sausage.
A homemade potato salad with sausage.
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For some folks such as Ms. Long, instructor of American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, heritage recipes are important. Recipes need to be handed down if they are in danger of disappearing, says Mrs. Ross.

The Rosses hosted the Inaugural Potluck in June, 2007. About 75 guests attended. Mrs. Ross made breads and homemade ricotta using milk from Calder Dairy (in Michigan). There were seasonal strawberries, Mrs. Leizerman s taboulleh, and a wonderful array of foods and wines.

One year later, the event was held at Hoen s Greenhouse on a sunny evening, with garden plants and blooming flowers surrounding a long table. The number attending was close to 40 with a buffet table as interesting as the first meeting.

Mrs. Ross made bread using seeds: two kinds of sesame, poppy, mustard, celery, and cumin. She also made Potato, Kielbasa and Gruyere Salad. The recipe appeared in Bon Appetit many years ago, she says. I used Ohio potatoes, gruyere from Brian Schlatter at C/J Grassfed, and kielbasa from Stanley s Market. The green onions and the horseradish came from the Toledo Farmers Market. I use Lebanese-style yogurt from the Toledo Market, and since they were offering fresh fava beans, I added them to the salad as well.

She and her husband also brought Strawberry Ginger Shrub, a colonial fruit drink mix from Tate s Farm in Pennsylvania, combined with fresh strawberries, gingerale, and lemonade. Served over ice cubes in glasses, it was a refreshing, fruity touch to the meal.

Rita McDougle made a cabbage pork tomato casserole and rhubarb pie made with rhubarb from her son s garden.

Jackie and Sarkis David, who own the Original Sub Shop & Deli at 402 Broadway St., brought a delicious flaky spinach pie (spanakopita) made with phyllo dough and Greek feta.

Ralph and Ginny Behrendt of Flying Rhino brought pickled beets and greens made with Syd & Diane s salad dressing, a local product.

Mary Weiss prepared strawberry pie with pecans in the crust. Polly and Pete Gerken brought a green salad from their garden which had watercress from their water garden.

Dan and Amelia Contrearas brought salad and cornbread muffins using cornmeal we stockpiled (cornmeal) at from the Apple Butter Fest, said Mrs. Contrearas.

Joanne and Bill Treuhaft had chicken Parmesan using local Amish chicken, tomato sauce from Hirzel, and Kettle Corn.

A pot of cool gazpacho was made by Sue and Mark Weinberg. Usually I want to use my own tomatoes from the garden, says Mrs. Weinberg. And I used red pepper in place of green pepper.

I used the yellow cornmeal I bought at Isaac Ludwig Mill at Providence Metropark in Grand Rapids to make Berry- Sage Thumbprints cookies, a recipe I received from Lillian Lagger of Oregon from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. The sage was grown in my yard and dried and crumbled. Each cookie is filled with blackberry preserves.

Spinach pie. Spinach pie.
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Slow Food is an international movement founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini of Italy. There are 850 Slow Food convivia worldwide, according to Mrs. Ross. Slow Food aims to protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of modern fast food and life. It promotes gastronomic culture, develops taste education, conserves agricultural biodiversity, and protects traditional foods at risk of extinction.

Among the foods of extinction is New Orleans French bread, Poppy Tooker told me earlier this year. After (Hurricane Katrina), it was decreased by half. She is the founder of Slow Food New Orleans.

Another Slow Food advocate is Henry Ford executive chef Nick Seccia, who holds Slow Food dinners At the Eagle Tavern. He is a member of the Detroit chapter although he has also worked with the Huron Valley convivium.

Last November, Mrs. Ross and Ms. Long attended the Slow Food International Congress in Puebla, Mexico where they talked with Slow Food leaders from around the world.

Last September, Slow Food Maumee Valley had a wine tasting at Walt Churchill s Market. In October it was a coffee class and brunch at Flying Rhino. The group visited Sandhill Cranes Winery in Jackson, Mich. in November.

It was the post-holiday soup potluck in January that the Weinbergs first attended. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy supporting local products, says Mrs. Weinberg. The couple also enjoyed the beer class and tasting at Toledo Botanical Garden with a St. Patrick s Day Green Potluck.

The next program will be a presentation at 6:30 p.m,. July 17 by Brian Schlatter, master cheesemaker for C/J Natural Meats in Defiance, Ohio (http:www.farmersmarketonline.com/cjgrassfed.htm). Learn about the history of cheesemaking and about his experience, which is a new addition to the Northwest Ohio food scene. After his presentation, there will be a potluck. The theme is cheese so dishes made with cheese, dishes that go with cheese, dishes inspired by cheese are recommended. Bring your recipe, your place setting and your own beverage. The event will be held at the home of Marian and Gary Silverman in Bowling Green. For reservations and directions visit slowfoodmaumeevalley@gmail.com or call Paula Ross at 419-536-0807.

Tentative plans for August are a tomato event. For more details, visit http://slowfoodmaumeevalley.blogspot.com/.

At the Henry Ford Eagle Tavern, the next Slow Food dinner is at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14. The theme is Blues, Brews & Slow Food BBQ featuring a tomato tasting, corn boil, heritage pulled pork, braised goat tacos, free range chicken, local squash pizza and Michigan desserts. Cost is $65 per person. Reservations at 313-982-6001.)

Contact Kathie Smith at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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