An Appetite for Slow
It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning at Alameda’s Ploughshares Nursery, and Vera Ciammetti and Steve Rich are setting up an outdoor table. They fill a basket with long crispy loaves, fresh from the Feel Good Bakery oven. They slice the succulent heirloom tomatoes picked up from Dan’s Produce. They daub this impressionist’s palette of variegated shades of orange, yellow, red and green with leaves of fresh basil. They sprinkle sea salt and drizzle olive oil from one of two bottles left from a fundraiser held at Pappo. They encircle a runny, perfectly ripe Brie with organic strawberries, slice more into a bowl with blueberries and open a jar of “grown-up” strawberry and Drambuie Blue Chair jam.
Ciammetti is the founder of Slow Food Alameda. Rich is a co-founder and co-president, along with fellow Islander Mark Hardwick. This newest Bay Area chapter of Slow Food USA (until recently they were called conviviums) had its launch at Rosenblum Cellars in February. “It was a membership kick-off drive,” says Ciammetti. “We thought about 20 people would sign up. In fact, we had a turnout of 300, and 150 joined that night.” Within seven short months, the Island chapter had more members than Berkeley and East Bay, both long-established Slow Food groups.
The Rosenblum event highlighted Alameda’s deep and distinctive food roots. Many, like Ciammetti, had been living the principles and practices of Slow since long before they heard about the movement. “My parents were immigrants from Italy so I grew up with the equivalent of Slow Food. My mom made her own pasta and bread and grew vegetables and my dad made his own wine,” she recalls.
Ciammetti learned about the official Slow Food Movement about eight years ago, joined the San Francisco chapter and immediately became active as a volunteer. She took a sabbatical this year from La Tavola Verde, her Island catering company, to direct operations for Slow Food Nation, held in San Francisco the last weekend of August. From there, she would spend two months working at Slow Food International’s headquarters in Italy.