“The Rome Sustainable Food Project has reestablished the connections between food, agriculture, art, and scholarship. The dining table at the Academy isn’t just delicious, it’s an idea that brings us back to our senses and can be a model for educational institutions everywhere.”—Alice Waters
OK, technically its birthday is 26 February 2007, but the tributes to the American Academy’s Rome Sustainable Food Project (RSFP) on its second anniversary have been continuing well into March….
Let’s start with some excerpts from an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal about the RSFP. This appeared in the Styles section (p. 10) of the 15 March 2009 New York Times:
“[T]wo years ago the academy challenged Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and her team of chefs to lure fellows back to the table. The academy wanted its new food service to be in line with its conservation goals, [AAR Director] Dr. [Carmela] Vircillo Franklin said, so ideally, it would be a cafeteria that could feed the 50 to 70 scholars and their families each day with nutritious food that was mostly local, leaving a minimal environmental footprint….”
“The academy, with its small size and proximity to the Italian countryside, has run with the concept. It now offers a menu that mainly relies on ingredients that are delivered by local farmers, grown on the academy’s sumptuous grounds, or foraged by the academy’s fellows in field trips to local meadows and forests. All food scraps are composted and not much is thrown away. In a town where residents talk a lot about food, the new food at the academy quickly became the talk of Rome, and a dinner invitation became a coveted commodity.”
Excerpt from Alice Waters 15 March 09 feature on CBS 60 Minutes
And again, the NYT, quoting AAR executive chef Mona Talbott: “she said the work has paid off in unexpected ways: ‘We came with a mandate to create a new model for institutional dining—to change the culture of institutional food so that it’s seasonal, nutritious and local. But it has become more than I ever expected. We have created a real community.’”
There’s much, much more, with a welcome focus on the spirit of volunteerism that permeates the RSFP, for which you will want to read the full article.
As it so happens, at 1 PM next Saturday (21 March) in Ojai California the Academy celebrates the first two years of the Rome Sustainable Food Project by hosting a Garden Luncheon with Alice Waters and friends. This luncheon—one that is expected to be but the first in a series of such gatherings—also inaugurates a RSFP friends group. Tickets to the event itself are $250 per guest. And there are a range of other options for supporting this great initiative. Contact Jennifer Dudley at the American Academy for more information.
And this just in…a documentary by RSFP alumnus Zach Shapiro about the AAR Kitchen is in the works.
This movie project (teaser above) has already prompted its own Facebook group.
That’s in addition to the Rome Sustainable Food Project’s own Facebook group, which to date has the best collection of images and info on all that Mona Talbott and her team are cooking up.