Notes and photos from a Slow (Food Nation) Reporter

Eight days after returning from San Francisco, Jessica Tzerman reflects on the birth of a Slow Food Nation and shares pictures from the event.

By Jessica Tzerman

The five outdoor ovens of the Bread Pavilion greeted visitors at the entrance to the Taste Pavilions. Artisan bakers kneaded and shaped bread all day long, serving sourdoughs, baguettes, wood-fired pizzas, focaccia, and Indian naan. Animal-shaped loaves were on display across the walkway at the Bread Museum, which housed a collection of photographs of bakeries, mills, and bakers. Photo by Will Mischner.

I knew it would draw a crowd, but I had no idea that more than 60,000 people would show up for the first-ever national Slow Food event. From the time I arrived on Friday morning until I left Monday afternoon, it was impossible to escape the buzz surrounding SFN '08: Inaugural Edition. First, the logo was impossible to miss: Big orange signs stamped with black silhouettes of animals, people, and the Statue of Liberty standing alongside an Every(wo)man-type of farmer, separated only by an "equal" sign. Got it. A democratic, free society is one that treats animals fairly and supports a robust farming economy of real-live, small-scale producers.

But it wasn't just the exceptional branding that made the event a success. People were talking about those signs in every restaurant, bar, bookstore, and hotel in town, yes, but the organizers and volunteers also pulled off one heck of a show. From Gavin Newsom's Bruce Wayne-esque appearance at the VIP preview Friday night to the unbelievably passionate and knowledgeable artisans and producers who manned the 15 Taste Pavilions all day Saturday and Sunday to the incredible array of musicians (Phil Lesh!) who staged concerts for Slow Food Rocks to the vibrant Civic Center Victory Garden that embodied the very essence of the Slow Food philosophy, SFN was a truly amazing event.

As the last day drew to a close, I toasted SFN '08 and San Francisco with a nice glass of organic wine. Now that I've been back in New York for a week, I'm thinking Brooklyn would make an awfully nice location for the follow-up edition in 2009.

-Jessica Tzerman

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