Liz Goulding moved to the Lake Cliff Park neighborhood about a year ago, but she’s been a presence in Oak Cliff for longer, as manager of Urban Acres. Goulding, who now teaches environmental science at El Centro College, recently took over as leader of Slow Food Dallas. The group is putting on more events, starting with “Why local beer matters” this past May. Goulding and Slow Food Dallas also organize community farm workdays, and they’re planning cooking classes for the fall.
What is new with Slow Food Dallas?
This year we’re working on name recognition so that people know what slow food is about, which can be hard because slow food is about a lot of different things. There are a lot of ideas, and it’s a big umbrella. That’s why we’re trying to have events that are fun but also more than that. They’re social events where we’re learning something or we’re teaching others or we’re doing work. One of the things about slow food is enjoying your food. It can be sad to think about food sometimes because of all the horrible things we’ve created with our food system and all that, so if you’re not having fun it’s too serious.
The second event was “Why non-GMO and heirloom seeds matter.”
I want to put a positive spin on things. Even though there are some bad things happening, I want people to be able to look at the positive, and that’s why we focused it on heirloom seeds. I don’t want to do the exact same thing that everybody else is doing. There’s so much going on with our food system. Somebody already did the march on Monsanto [see page 21], and that’s great, but we don’t need to redo that.
And when you see how good heirloom vegetables taste, you understand why you would pay more for them.
Exactly. When you learn the difference between local artisanal cheese and Kraft cheese, you start to realize how much better it is, and you find it’s worth paying a little more.
Why are the farm workdays important?
There are several reasons. The obvious one is to help with the farm. We did one at Paul Quinn College, and we weren’t even there that long, like two hours, but if you have 20 people, you can really crank out some tomatoes. Until you see what it takes to grow a tomato and how you can spend all this time on your tomatoes and they don’t grow, or birds eat them all … then you have to pack them and transport them, and all that. Until you see what it takes, you won’t understand why food from a small farm costs more. We can talk about it all day, but until I started going out to the farms and working, I didn’t get it. I went out and picked purple hull peas in June.
Now when I see fresh peas, I don’t think “Gosh, that’s expensive,” I think, “Gosh, that’s a lot of work.”
How did you get involved with slow food?
I studied ecology and got a master’s in environmental science, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I worked at Pearl Cup and then Urban Acres, and I realized I could talk about food all day. I could read cookbooks all day. Food involves science, politics, sociology, philosophy. It’s all these disciplines wrapped up into one, so it never has to be boring.
Where do you shop for groceries?
The Tom Thumb [on Hampton] is not convenient for me. If I need something during the week, I wind up going to Whole Foods. I try to go to the farmers market, usually White Rock Local Market, whenever I can. I shop at Urban Acres as much as I can.
My mom lives in Rockwall, and she has a Costco card. That’s probably my guiltiest food thing is Costco. I eat out probably more than I should. We walk across the park to Jonathon’s or Spiral a lot. Those are our go-to places. I know I don’t cook as much as I should. So I’ve been reading Michael Pollan, and I’ve been inspired to spend more time in the kitchen.
Why are you so passionate about slow food?
It is too easy to make a poor choice. It’s too cheap and too convenient. Cost and convenience are killing us. If you look at what’s happened to our health as a nation in the past 50 years, I mean, there are a lot of factors in that, but food is a big part of it. It’s hard to tell a single mom that works 50 hours a week, “I’m sorry, but you have to cook from scratch.” I totally get why she makes that choice. But it’s up to us, to people who do have the means and the knowledge now, to make the better choices, and maybe a less convenient choice, otherwise the market is never going to change.
What are you excited about?
I’m really excited about okra. I look forward to okra all year, and we’re almost there.
What do you do with it?
Oil, salt and pepper on a cookie sheet in the oven at about 425 degrees until it’s brown and crispy. If the slimy stuff freaks you out, roasting sucks all that out and makes it crispy. I figure if someone doesn’t like a vegetable, they haven’t roasted it yet, because that makes everything delicious. That’s the thing about eating in season. You eat food when it tastes good. You don’t have to be a good cook. Even though I’m sad when it’s not apple season — but then it’s berry season, and then it’s melons and then we’re back around to corn again. There’s always something to be excited about.
What tips can you give someone who knows next to nothing about slow food?
A farmers market is your best bet. I say it all the time, but I do think White Rock Local Market is the best farmers market in Dallas. When you go, ask if they are local growers only. Can they bring food from anywhere? If they have figs that are from Marfa, they should say that. If you see a pineapple, you know it wasn’t grown here. But I would rather see people eating real food. That’s more important. I’d rather see people eating a conventional pineapple that’s real rather than an organic strawberry popsicle.
What else can we do to eat more sustainably?
Work on getting local meat, so work on finding local producers. There are people here that are doing local, sustainable, grass-fed meat. It’s more expensive, so that means you should probably make [meat] a component of your meal and not the center point of your meal.