As a pioneer in Rome’s slow food scene, the Academy’s Rome Sustainable Food Project has become a required stopping ground for chefs and food-sustainability advocates. This was in full evidence in the last weekend of October, when the RSFP hosted the opening reception for the CLIMAVORE Assembly, a conference held in Rome that explores new cultural and artistic tactics for ecologically driven action and policymaking.
For the reception, Head Chef Fausto Ferraresi, RSFP Chef and Supervisor of Interns Sara Levi, and Sous Chef Giorgia Lauri envisioned a creative, delicious, and mostly plant-based meal to the AAR community and 120 conference participants.
Everything about the menu for the evening’s festivities was deliberate and carefully considered based on the RSFP’s philosophy of ecological sourcing, regenerative agriculture, minimal waste, and root-to-leaf use. The RSFP prepared a risotto made with organic Carnaroli rice from Tenuta San Carlo, a regenerative rice and grain farm in southern Tuscany where AAR Fellows visited recently on their Fall Trip. Accompanied by a bright green pesto of cauliflower and broccoli leaves, the risotto featured parts of the plants are usually thrown out or composted, but which RSFP utilizes frequently for their nutritional value, flavor, and to actively reduce food waste in every way possible.
The kitchen also showcased a number of preservation techniques they use daily, particularly with excess produce from the RSFP Orto (vegetable garden). The age-old techniques of pickling, salting, and aging offer solutions to food waste by allowing excess produce from the garden to be used for months after being harvested. In recent weeks, Andrea Francini, groundskeeper and head of the RSFP Orto, has been dismantling the tomato plants as they reach the end of their life cycle. But what to do with the green tomatoes? Some of them were pickled (using a recipe from our Carne cookbook), others were made into a green tomato kimchi, and the rest were cooked into a sweet green tomato jam. Each of the three preparations was featured on the menu: homemade sourdough bread crostini spread with a soft, locally produced goat cheese and pickled green tomatoes; crispy smashed potatoes from the beloved Azienda Bernabei farm (Barnabei’s portrait hangs the kitchen) topped with the tomato kimchi; and for dessert, small thumbprint cookies filled with bright green tomato jam.
Other delicious bites on the menu included a Borlotti bean hummus with roasted cauliflower (the same cauliflower whose leaves were incorporated in the risotto) from Azienda Agricola La Piana di Alsium, who deliver their gorgeous produce to our kitchen every Tuesday morning; fried panelle (chickpea flour fritters) with rosemary and sage from the RSFP garden; slow-roasted San Marzano tomatoes from Azienda Bernabei; and a three-day sourdough crispy pizza rossa using the RSFP sourdough starter (that is many years old and which the RSFP chefs have fondly named Kiki).
For dessert, the RSFP served a chocolate cake which was made with dried breadcrumbs from leftover bread from the dinner table. The cake thus modeled zero-waste practices even at the sweet end of the meal. Over the weekend, the RSFP participated in additional CLIMAVORE Assembly events, held on Saturday at the Museo delle Civiltà in EUR and on Sunday at the Campidoglio. Sara Levi shared an account of the convening:
“We heard from so many different people, celebrating successes great and small and focusing on the huge challenges ahead. One moving story came from Freya Rowe of Raasay House, a family-owned hotel and restaurant on the Isle of Raasay, in Scotland, who made the difficult choice of removing their trademark salmon from the menu when they realized that wild salmon, which for centuries was the defining food of Scotland, was no longer a sustainable choice. They opted instead to focus their menu on bivalves and seaweed, and despite the protests of their customers, they succeeded in pivoting to a more sustainable menu whilst doing their part to educate people on what it means to make responsible choices in the face of climate change. They are now collaborating with CLIMAVORE on an exciting new project that involves the collection of discarded mussel and oyster shells from restaurant kitchens to create a new building material in the form of beautiful bricks made entirely from seafood industry waste products. These bricks are currently being used to make monumental mural artworks that will be displayed in various cultural institutions to raise awareness around these important topics. Beautiful!”
“What really struck me was the interconnectedness of all these diverse institutions in the common mission to make positive change. A compelling theme that came up, which resonated strongly with our mission at the RSFP, was thinking about the significance of the dining table as an institution, as a site of nourishment, as a symbol of the choices and actions that can impact the food system overnight. Institutions can make changes but they take time, precious time that the earth can no longer afford. But as cooks and consumers, the choices that we make daily, and what we put on that beautiful dining table in the cortile, can and will directly impact our food system, so we must think clearly and assume our responsibilities.”
“Throughout these two days, with all this talk of activism and the climate crisis, I could not help but be constantly reminded of Alice Waters, our founder, and what she continues to teach us every day. Eat locally. Learn where your food comes from and how it’s produced. Eat seasonally. Shop at farmer’s markets. Create community. Plant a garden. Conserve, compost, recycle. Cook together, eat together, and remember: Food is precious. All of these actions are choices, and they make a difference on a small scale but they can inform decisions on a much larger scale.”
“I think I can speak on behalf of everyone at RSFP in saying that we are proud to be invested in this change and to know that the choices that we make daily, at the American Academy and in our own homes, are benefiting our local food systems. We are also compelled to think more critically, as an institution, about our social and environmental impact. We are compelled to think bigger, and to participate in these broader conversations in order to collectively offer more creative solutions and educate a wider public about the impact that their choices have on the health of our planet.”