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The year of the goat?

Slow food and Rabelais Books ruminate
By TODD RICHARD  |  January 9, 2008


François Rabelais, racy author and advocate of the eat, drink, and be merry lifestyle, was quoted on his deathbed as saying he was “off in search of the great perhaps.” His adventurous spirit is captured at Rabelais Books, where proprietors Don Lindgren and Samantha Hoyt Lindgren sell food books old and new, and offer an experience to savor. While Rabelais the man said farewell to this mortal coil with those words, the store has adopted this “perhaps” as a place where shoppers and eaters can find exciting and satisfying food experiences.

The desire to free people from the shackles of commercialized eating, chained to big-box groceries and chain restaurants, prompted the formation of Slow Food USA in 1986. The organization now boasts 170 conviviums across the country, all embracing ideals that are sensible, sensual, and ultimately achievable. Support of a socially just farming system, preservation of local and regional culinary traditions, and the simple encouragement to slow down and enjoy your food are the motivators for Slow Food membership and, not surprisingly, for Rabelais Books as well. The Lindgrens are active in Slow Food Portland, and have assembled the talent for its next event, the Annual Slow Food Portland Writers’ Night, to be held at SPACE on January 24.

One featured writer will be Margaret Hathaway of Gray, a founding member of Slow Food Portland and author of The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles in Search of the Perfect Cheese (Lyons Press, 2007) detailing her and her husband’s trek across the country, breaking loose from their former urban comforts to consider a new career in goat farming. The book chronicles meetings with several farmers, livestock auctioneers, artisanal cheesemakers, and ... goats.

Also reading that night will be James Peterson, winner of several awards from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his wildly popular and authoritative cookbooks. His latest tome, simply entitled Cooking (Ten Speed Press, 2007) is intended to be the only book you would need in the kitchen. This ambitious amalgam of cookbook, education guide, and photo gallery is certainly not the first book to attempt being the Bible of the kitchen, but Peterson sets himself apart cleverly. While most recipe books discourage deviation, his recipes leave ample room in which the reader can improvise and customize, connecting meaningfully with the recipes and establishing their own personal takes and tastes.

Joining them will be Melissa Pasanen and Rick Gencarelli, authors of Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont (Studio, 2007). Founded more than 120 years ago as a model for agriculturally based living, the farm is now both an educational non-profit and registered national landmark. Gencarelli, head chef of The Inn Restaurant at the farm, holds court over the preparation and service of the farm’s entire yield of ingredients sourced in his backyard.

Also appearing will be culinary historian and author Sandra Oliver, who has received accolades for Saltwater Foodways (Mystic Seaport, 1995), an exploration of 19th century food traditions in the East Coast’s seafaring communities. Her preservation of historical traditions and techniques further secures this connection between the culinary simplicity of then and the simplicity that so many desire now.

Don Lindgren sees the Annual Slow Food Portland Writers’ Night as a vehicle to free people to truly enjoy food: “I’d say that there are some, even many, people these days that define themselves by what they don’t eat, rather than what they want to eat.”

This self-imposed restraint has served as an impetus for Lindgren to present a range of food-related interests and events to the community, both as a retailer and as part of Slow Food Portland. Perhaps he takes his cues from Rabelais himself, who bravely egged his readers on, encouraging them “to shake off and break that bond of servitude wherein they are so tyrannously enslaved; for it is agreeable with the nature of man to long after things forbidden and to desire what is denied us.”

SLOW FOOD PORTLAND WRITERS’ NIGHT | 6:30 pm January 24 | at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St, Portland | $25 | 207.774.1044 |

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  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Samantha Hoyt Lindgren , Todd Richard , Culture and Lifestyle ,  More more >
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