The local chapter of Slow Food, an international organization that began in Italy as a reaction to fast food culture, has spent the last few years working to become a champion of local foods. Advocates of childhood nutrition, they've engineered several school gardens. In cafeterias, they're promoting reform with a return to whole, nutritious foods. Slow Food Charleston was most recently led by Carol Addlestone, who resigned her duties as chapter leader to Susan Bass. Addlestone, however, will remain active in the organization. We had a chance to chat with Bass recently to learn more about who the new chairwoman is and to find out what Slow Food has planned for Charleston in the near future.
City Paper: So, what have you been up to this Saturday?
Susan Bass: Well, I've been very busy. I went to the Farmers Market and introduced myself to a new purveyor of local, free range chicken, Michael Milligan of Chucktown Chicken. He has Rhode Island Reds as his laying hens and is about to get 500 new chickens. I talked to Karen Kennerty of Kennerty Farms, who always has beautiful produce. Then I went over press information for Slow Food with Carrie Agnew.
CP: What life experience has led you to become chapter leader of Slow Food?
SB: I've always been involved with food and wine in some respects, starting with my first job after college in agribusiness banking. I started in Chicago and took a new job in the same field in San Francisco. In California, I first learned about wine making and grape growing. In New York, I lived a block from the Union Square Farmers Market. It's huge. I took wine tasting and food culture classes, cooking classes. Tom and I (her husband, Tom Bradford, director of Charleston Moves) travel a lot. Wherever we go, we love to get into the food culture of the locavores.
CP: What made you want to work withthe organization?
SB: I think my passion for food — and wine — I can't leave that out. It ties into my earlier experience in agriculture, living in areas where there's always been a rich tradition of farmers markets. Since I moved to Charleston, I've thought it's time for me to give back. This job is not only something I love, but I feel strongly about getting people to eat better — not only through access to food but through education — in grassroots ways. Slow Food is one organization working toward that.
CP: What role does Slow Food have in Charleston's vibrant food culture?
SB: I see us as promoting locally grown food. If that means helping people learn how to farm, we should do that. We should also help famers sell to markets. We've put a lot of focus on schools and school gardens. Burke High School made it as a top-15 finalist for Michelle Obama's healthy recipe challenge. Confetti Soup is the name of the recipe. Craig Deihl of Cypress helped the students create the dish. If we win, it will bring a whole new awareness we can build on to bring health and nutrition to schools.
CP: What's the chapter working onthese days?
SB: We are toward the end of the recipe challenge and moving ahead with Leadership Dorchester. We are working with Chefs in Schools in Dorchester and Charleston counties to provide training to food service workers on how to make healthier dishes with readily available ingredients.
CP: What do you hope to accomplish during your term? What changes will be made?
SB: I think the shifts made will be organic. But as we get involved with the school system with the children and gardens, you are going to see a natural progression to other projects. The things I would like to continue to see for the success of Slow Food Charleston is to keep a dedicated group of committed volunteers. I want everyone to feel as crazy about this stuff as I am. I also hope to utilize technology to make all this outreach easier. We've been doing that.
CP: You have a few upcoming events. Tell us about them.
SB: We have a film series that Melissa Clegg, the committee chair for education, was able to get Whole Foods to sponsor. After each film we pair with a restaurant. The first, after this Saturday's Vanishing of the Bees, will be with Nate Whiting at Tristan. He's creating honey-inspired hors d'oevres and a signature cocktail for $10. It's a great deal. On Friday, we're hosting a book signing of Jessica B. Harris's book High on the Hog with a reception at 18 State St.