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November 8-14, 2006

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Slow Going

By Gretchen Giles

Here's a cheering fact for the upcoming holidays: It's more difficult to butcher heritage strains of turkeys and pigs than it is commercially raised poultry and hogs, because the former are differently sized. They're, um, normally sized, without overstuffed breasts or genetically plumped loins. While an opinion writer in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat recently predicted that one day soon we won't have to eat the carcasses of dead animals, but rather will be able to tuck lustily into "tasty vats of meat" produced à la Margaret Atwood's warning tale Oryx and Crake, there are some who still like a turkey to wattle and a pig to waddle.

But curiously, given the craze for all things heritage, there is a glut, if you will, of heritage turkeys available for Thanksgiving tables. Supporting both 4-H and FFA programs, Slow Food Russian River has paired students with heritage animals, and offers organic heritage turkeys for $7.50 a pound this holiday.

These tasty trotters, which the New York Times describes as "the essence of turkey," are sized between eight and 25 pounds, and drop off/pick ups will be individually arranged; a $40 deposit per turkey is required. For details, go to or call 707.824.8448.

Meanwhile, North Bay residents who attended the larger-than-massive recent Slow Food Terra Madre convivium in Italy have returned, still not certain what they witnessed. Sheryl Cahill, owner of the Station House Cafe in Pt. Reyes Station, went as an observer under the aegis of Marin Organic. "My goal was to hear stories from around the world and try to find out what issues there are, and put our situation here in perspective," she explains. "It seems that everyone is facing very similar problems, and they all have to do with globalization. Small producers all over the world are feeling that the pressure to succeed means that they have to participate in the very problem that's putting them out of business in the first place: mass market production."

Reflecting on the conference, Cahill says, "The most poignant moment for me came when, in this massive hall filled with thousands of people from nations all over the world, [oyster rancher] Kevin Lunny, who is essentially a neighbor, spoke about how the support of local restaurants was so important to his success."

Now that her jet lag is gone, Cahill realizes that ruminating upon the information she gleaned at Terra Madre is the next step. "I didn't come back with any answers," she says. "I only came back with questions. And the big question right now is, what else can I do? We do not get all of our produce locally at the restaurant yet. How can I do that?"

Moreover, Cahill is careful not to get too precious. "It has nothing to do with being pretentious," she says. "I can be a liaison between producers and consumers. What can I do to help work against the corporatization of food?

"Doing it here matters," she says. "And it tastes good."

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