The grocery aisles can present an exasperating challenge: affordable v. fair trade, organic v. grass-fed, local v. organic. While shopping at a store that you trust to make good choices can make this easier, it doesn’t negate the fact that retailers are businesses above all else. Sleuthing out the best products can be something of a hobby, but it’s no fun when you need to get food in the cart and out the door after a busy day at work. The Good Food Awards (goodfoodawards.org) is your culinary Sherlock Holmes Society.
The Good Food Awards is bringing together luminaries in the food world to judge artisan products on flavor and responsible practices. The parameters of responsibility have been defined by people in the industry who know best what is spin and what is concern for the earth and its inhabitants. The inaugural event, taking place next month in San Francisco, will judge products by United States regions in the following categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles and preserves.
This new event was born out of a 2008 food festival in San Francisco, Slow Food Nation, which welcomed a whopping 85,000 guests to celebrate artisanal foods. And there’s a St. Louis connection to both events: St. Louis native Sarah Weiner (Clayton H.S. ’98), Slow Food Nation’s content director, is executive director of Seedling Projects, a ‘do-tank’ whose first major initiative is the Good Food Awards. In many ways, it brings Slow Food Nation to the nation at large by providing a stamp of approval for American foods and producers with a sharp focus on sustainability and transparency.
“Conversation is a good word,” says Maude Bauschard, of the soon-to-open Maude’s Market, which will provide local produce to St. Louis’ South City. She is excited to help spread the word about the Good Food Awards to her food community. “Organics started out as a great federal standard but it is difficult to have the complicated conversation about food on the federal level with all its bureaucracy.” The Good Food Awards will be granted by region in order to hone in on those specificities that make artisanal products artisanal: place, individuality and care on the level that you can only have when you make something from start to finish.
The author of this article, who served as Curator of Charcuterie for Slow Food Nation, will be judging the charcuterie entrants for the Slow Food Awards. While Slow Food Nation was an idealistic food moment, a culinary castle in the sky, the Good Food Awards are meant to have concrete results. They will offer the clean food stamp of approval on a host of products, hopefully changing the way Americans eat (or at least showing them the foods that should be setting the standard in their respective industries).
Even confirmed foodies can benefit. For example, while I helped feed those 85,000 visitors to Slow Food Nation ‘good meat,’ I sometimes feel helpless in the coffee aisle, or the chocolate one. While creating guidelines that any eater can trust, the Good Food Awards will focus on the spirit of food made thoughtfully, passionately and deliciously.
Visit the Web site at goodfoodawards.org by Sept. 15 to submit your product. Or refer your favorite artisan food producer to the site, and help us give quality foods the national attention they deserve!
The Green Gourmet is a monthly LN offering that features columnists to bring the food movement to your kitchen. Marissa Guggiana is president of Sonoma Direct, a meat processing plant in California and author of Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers, coming out October 2010.