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Locavore Adventures

One Chef's Slow Food Journey

Jim Weaver

Publication Year: 2012

America’s fast food culture reflects not only what we eat—foods that are processed and packaged for convenience—but also how we eat—munching as we multitask and not really tasting the super-sized meals we ingest. But in recent years, a more thoughtful philosophy about food has emerged. Developed in Italy, where fresh ingredients and artisanal techniques are prized, the Slow Food movement has rapidly gained a following in North America. The skeptics among us might wonder if it is possible truly to enjoy a Slow Food lifestyle—one based around local, seasonal ingredients—in our fast-paced world.

In Locavore Adventures, acclaimed New Jersey chef and restaurateur Jim Weaver shares his personal story of how he came to solve this problem—building a local slow food culture that is ecologically responsible and also yields delicious results. Weaver tells of his odyssey founding the Central New Jersey chapter of Slow Food, connecting local farmers, food producers, and chefs with the public to forge communities that value the region’s unique bounty. More than forty recipes throughout the book, from Hot Smoked Brook Trout with Asparagus Puree and Pickled Cippollini Onions to Zuppa di Mozzarella, will inspire readers to be creative in their own kitchens. Locavore Adventures is a thoughtful memoir about growing a sustainable food culture and a guide to slowing down, savoring locally grown food, and celebrating life.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I am extremely happy to introduce Jim Weaver’s book, for two important reasons. First, it tells the story of the Slow Food movement in New Jersey and, by extension, in all of the United States. Second, this book is an important sign that something extraordinary is happening around the nation, due in part ...

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pp. xi

I would like to thank my staff at Tre Piani for working hard at the restaurant and giving me the time to write this book. I’m also grateful to Doreen Valentine and Leslie Mitchner at Rutgers University Press, who asked me to write this book and who are both foodies and Slow Food members. Thanks to everyone who agreed ...

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Chapter 1. The “Ah-Hah” Moment, Slow Food Style

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pp. 1-11

The International Slow Food Movement came into my life when I had reached a turning point in my career as a chef. I was looking for a path that made sense, although I was not sure what that path might be. But once I learned about Slow Food, my reasons for doing this work started coming together. I felt that I finally had a mission: ...

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Chapter 2. The Valley Shepherd Creamery

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pp. 12-22

When you’re working toward a goal, sometimes you have a big-picture moment when something happens and you say, “Yeah, that’s it! That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re on our way.” That happened to me one late spring day in 2001. I was sitting on the patio of Tre Piani with a trio of fellow foodies, one of whom was involved ...

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Chapter 3. The Delaware Bay Oyster

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pp. 23-35

I’m speeding along a two-lane road in rural New Jersey, craning my neck for a glimpse of a bald eagle on the wing. The wetlands are lush with spring rains and teeming with eagles, cranes, and foxes. This wild and beautiful country would likely be a surprise to most Americans, who, thanks to generations of gangster films ...

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Chapter 4. On the Hunt for a Hot Tomato

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pp. 36-45

In 1820, as the legend goes, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson faced a huge crowd on the steps of the Salem County Courthouse in southwestern New Jersey. At his feet lay a bushel of round, ruddy fruit of uncertain origin. Despite its come-hither look—or perhaps because of it—this succulent crop had aroused citizens’ suspicions. ...

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Chapter 5. The Griggstown Quail Farm

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pp. 46-56

George Rude is a tall, burly man—a rough-and-tumble Vietnam veteran who prizes his gun collection, his trophy heads, and a plain, commonsense manner. Regular visitors to his farm still chuckle about the prim visitor from the city who paused during a tour to complain that a fly had just wafted across her line of sight. ...

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Chapter 6. The Hat Lady

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pp. 57-65

Pegi Ballister-Howells likes to say she wears forty-seven hats at once. Fortunately for the Slow Food movement, each of her hats represents her dedication to bringing good, clean, fair food from farm to table. And it doesn’t hurt that she brings the talents of forty-seven people along with her. ...

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Chapter 7. Getting the Word Out

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pp. 66-74

Pat Tanner likes to tell the story of when she and I met. A food writer with a huge following, Pat came to Tre Piani in the late 1990s to interview me for one of her food columns. “A young chef making waves” is how she kindly explained her visit. But later that night she told her husband, Bill, what she really thought of me. ...

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Chapter 8. Triumph of the Locavores

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pp. 75-86

To appreciate the Slow Food philosophy, you’ve got to start thinking outside the plastic fast-food box. Most people have become so conditioned to processed foods that it’s hard for them to get past that comfort level. If you’re trapped in a conventional way of thinking, it’s easy to throw a chunk of emulsified cheese ...

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Chapter 9. Salumeria Biellese

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pp. 87-97

A definition of happiness: to be a restaurant owner with a space to fill. That’s where my fiancée Kim and I found ourselves in 2006, about six months before our wedding, as we looked at the empty space we were already imagining as Tre Piani’s small-plate and wine bar, Tre Bar. Our restaurant had already earned a reputation as a supporter ...

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Chapter 10. Foie Gras Adventure

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pp. 98-111

Foie gras has been treasured for centuries—enjoyed by ancient pharaohs and enshrined in French law. Its mellifluous name rolls off the tongue like warm butter off a china plate. Some say it may be the first gourmet food invented by humans. Yet its back story is not for the faint of heart. Foie gras translates as “fat liver,” ...

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Chapter 11. Educating the Classes

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pp. 112-121

A school cafeteria doesn’t sound like the kind of place where Slow Food reigns. Most young people eat fast food, right? They crave fats and carbs and will scarf through any pizza, no matter how processed. Vegetables? About as popular as a pair of out-of-style jeans. So you know something new is going on when a cafeteria full of ...

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Chapter 12. Viking Village

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pp. 122-136

If you want to understand the New Jersey seafood industry, Viking Village is a good place to go to look at the big picture. Since the 1920s, this historic outpost, located at the northern point of Long Beach Island, has been at the center of New Jersey’s commercial fishing industry. A major producer, Viking Village sits in the town of Barnegat Light, ...

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Chapter 13. The Best-Possible Canvas

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pp. 137-147

Celebrated chef Dan Barber says that “to be a great chef is to be able to control.” He means control over what goes on in the kitchen as well as what comes into the kitchen—namely, the food. You may remember that I introduced you to Dan in chapter 11. He’s the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill, a top-tier restaurant in New York City. ...

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Chapter 14. Going Local and Digging In

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pp. 148-156

When it comes to the food business, somebody is always on the move. Around the world, food is constantly being shunted from one place to the other. Local distributors are up before dawn, busily loading their trucks. Chefs and their teams arrive in the kitchen long before the maitre d’ greets the first guests, ...

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Chapter 15. The Brothers Moon and the Bent Spoon

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pp. 157-172

Will Mooney’s stars aligned when he was a kid of fourteen hawking fresh local produce from a farm stand in Cranbury, New Jersey. By the early 1980s, when young Will was plying his roadside trade, an entire generation of Americans had grown up relying on efficient but impersonal supermarket chains for most of their daily food. ...

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Chapter 16. Getting Your Hands Dirty

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pp. 173-184

If you don’t understand how the words New Jersey and farms fit into the same sentence, well, clearly you haven’t been to the Garden State. Out-of-staters tend to picture us as an urban outpost, a slightly smaller Big Apple that hasn’t fallen far from the tree. But here’s the truth: yes, we are part of the tri-state metropolitan area, ...

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Chapter 17. So Where Are We Now?

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pp. 185-194

It used to be that the term slow food made people ask, “Are you talking about cooking in a crock pot?” No longer. Today most people understand that we’re talking about supporting a food supply that’s seasonal and locally grown and based on sustainable agriculture and environmentally sound practices ...

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Chapter 18. Conviviality

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pp. 195-201

On a sweet summer night in 2010, I gathered together at Tre Piani many of the people who have joined me in bringing Slow Food to our own corner of the planet. We are local farmers, chefs, food-business owners, educators, and activists. Whatever our calling, we all are doing our part to promote food ...

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Chapter 19. Off the Soap Box and onto the Chapters

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pp. 202-212

It’s great to see people’s eyes light up when they taste the “real thing” at a farm-to-table Slow Food event. As they crunch into a right-off-the-farm asparagus stalk or bite into a garden-fresh blueberry, even sixty-year-olds can look like kids. But where can the uninitiated become part of the Slow Food experience? ...

Appendix: The Slow Food Manifesto

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pp. 213-214

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About the Author

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pp. 215

Jim Weaver is chef and owner of Tre Piani in Princeton, New Jersey, one of the best-known Italian restaurants in the state. The founder of Slow Food Central New Jersey, Jim has run some of the top professional kitchens in New Jersey and has also worked in Italy and the Caribbean. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813552279
E-ISBN-10: 0813552273
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813551708

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 14 color and 45 b/w photos
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Weaver, Jim, 1962-.
  • Cooks -- United States -- Biography.
  • Slow food movement -- Middle Atlantic States.
  • Locavores.
  • Slow Food (Organization).
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