ark of taste

Traditional Teleme Cheese, a Slow Food Ark of Taste and Unique American Cheese

By Guest Writer, Michael Salzman

Even the most knowledgeable cheese connoisseurs in California might not be aware of Teleme. Cheese snobs may find Teleme not refined enough. Still, chances are, if you were raised in the Bay Area or you’ve been lucky enough to have a good, open minded cheesemonger at your service, you’ve at least tried Teleme, and for those who’ve tried it, California cheese doesn’t get any better than Teleme! It’s the cheese of traditional Bay Area polenta. It’s the cheese that most local Italian families know as a breakfast option often served with fresh fruit. It has shown up in other Italian dishes and on burgers, adding rich, creamy texture and oh-so-cheesey flavor where cheddar and jack can’t do the job. It has won the praise of chefs, foodwriters, and cheese professionals.

To get better acquainted with Teleme, you should be aware that it comes in two varieties from two distinct producers, and this is where it gets tricky: one is Franklin’s Teleme [] made by Franklin Peluso at Mid Coast Cheese Company; the other is Tomales Bay Teleme Cheese made by Peluso Cheese. Franklin Peluso used to own Peluso Cheese before starting a second company and selling his family-namesake company—an element that confuses buyers and customers looking for the real deal. You see, Franklin’s Teleme is painstakingly made by an old-world recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation. It has rice flour strewn on its surface to control its moisture, it is never wrapped in plastic, and it is ripened in boxes that are not sealed. All of these elements create a superior, traditional product that shares qualities with cheeses made for millenia in Northern Italy—a family of cheeses known as stracchino cheeses. This is the Teleme that has been profiled in books on cheese and praised by food writers for decades.  

In spite of its importance to California’s food culture and its popularity, Franklin’s Teleme is in serious danger of disappearing. You may have noticed that it’s been missing from its normal places for most of 2019. Franklin, the last maker of real Teleme, has been without a production facility lease since December 2018. With no new facility lined up, it’s all too easy to surmise that Franklin, in his mid 70s, may decide to retire without passing on the family recipe.

Even more than my love of the cheese itself, it was the family element, the passing on of an old-world recipe from generation to generation, that attracted me to Teleme. A cheese with such a rich history is very rare in America. Once I learned that Franklin was the last man alive who knew how to make this cheese, I was compelled to nominate it for the Ark of Taste [], a product designation and recognition project of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity []. The nomination process requires a full product history and biography to fulfill all of the eligibility requirements. During the process of researching Teleme and Franklin’s family’s link to this cheese, I realized that more was at stake than the loss of a unique product. The story of Teleme is the story of an American immigrant family experience; it’s the story of the American dream; it’s the story of a traditional food community in San Francisco that expanded to the larger Bay Area and up and down California; it’s become the story of one man’s struggle with modernity and wanting not to compromise his identity, which is intricately tied to this cheese.

Traditional Teleme cheese [] was accepted by the Slow Food Foundation and added to the Ark of Taste in September 2019. It may be too late to save Teleme from extinction but at the very least I had the honor of chronicling its history for the Ark of Taste and brought its plight to the attention of many California cheese-lovers with a spring article in Culture Magazine []. Many people are now watching closely to see if Teleme reappears in stores to be fallen in love with all over again. Hopefully, a new generation of cheese-discoverers will then appreciate a part of California’s food heritage that needs two things to survive and thrive: adorants who love it for what it is, and a brave, new cheesemaker to take it over and create the next chapter of its amazing story.

Annual Project, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice, Regional Leaders Meeting

Learning from Slow Food Cascadia — What a Regional Gathering Can Bring to our Movement

By Charity Kenyon, Slow Food California Board of Directors

As we regionalize, Slow Food Cascadia is showing us the way by launching a regional gathering to inspire and nourish us. Slow Food USA focuses on gatherings, partnerships, and campaigns and is moving that focus throughout the network by creating regions. What might that mean here in the Pacific Region (California, Oregon, Washington, Hawai`i)? Warren Neth of Slow Food Cascadia demonstrated an answer with a festival in Vancouver Washington October 5, 2019. I was lucky to be there, joined by several Californians including a contingent from Slow Food Shasta Cascade.

What if we could organize similar events in our areas, to surprise us with hidden history of our region’s foods, all wrapped in Joy + Justice. What would it take? Let’s talk about it at our Regional Leaders Meeting February 22-23 in the Bay Area!

Some elements to emulate:

  • Leverage a food festival that Slow Food has participated in and continues to support.
  • Present the region’s food story with surprises.
  • Bring diverse voices from the region.
  • Invite a local college class.
  • Serve good food with meaning.
  • Include music and dancing.
  • Door prizes!
  • Good graphics, posters all over town, enthusiastic sponsors
  • Compelling, historical venue

We started at the Vancouver Old Apple Tree Festival. Slow Food Cascadia was all over it — and its presence has grown: its Urban Abundance Program was there with apple tastings (donates tons of fruits and vegetables locally), a cider press for local folks bringing their apples, a tasting area featuring Ark of Taste, and a cider tasting area — they’ve attended and participated since 2011.

The Cascadia Festival was across the highway at an old aircraft hangar all afternoon and dancing into the evening. Two big, festive gathering areas — one for programming and one for food and drink. The opening ceremony conducted by an Upper Chinook Elder and Chinuk Wawa Instructor grounded us in place. Food history of the region was the backbone of both two-hour sessions, with a break for salmon and wine tasting.

Fish was the centerpiece of the first summit session. Kamiah Koch, a descendant of Cascades Chief Tumulth, a signer of the 1855 Willamette Valley Treaty, told the moving story of joining her cousin to gather lamprey at Willamette Falls — yes, they are climbing the wall behind the falls using that weird rasping mouth and are very elusive. Others explained tribal and nontribal salmon fishing within the Columbia River and in the ocean and the history of the wild Olympia oyster. A fascinating history of salmon canning (there weren’t can openers yet! People actually collect old cans and study the history of labeling as a marketing device — flowers worked!) And we learned the historic role of native Hawai`ians in the areas fisheries. Ever think about how Salmon Poke came to be? No salmon in Hawai`i. It started here. 

Summit session 2 was more eclectic. We had presentations on the Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Manifesto adopted at Slow Food Nations 2018, two local book authors (one on natural beekeeping and one on making peace with (and rethinking) invasive species — I bought both books). Josh Volk of Slow Hand Farm in Oregon presented on Slow Tools, started by Elliot Coleman and incubated by Stone Barns — tools designed for small farmers. Tao Orion of Three Sisters Nixtamal in Portland convinced us to look more closely — they are organic, non-GMO, and traditionally made. Two presenters from Washington State Department of Agriculture presented on their Focused on Food program — reinforcing relationships with local policy makers and the importance of participating in policy reform. And Paula Barbeito of Slow Fish International brought the Slow Food International perspective to the gathering.

And we celebrated — Joy + Justice. Tommy O’s Hawai`an luau topped off the day with traditional hula dancing organized by festival sponsor Ke Kui Foundation, dedicated to cultural programs and events keeping alive the Hawai`ian traditions of the Vancouver Portland area. Who knew?

Everything was focused on the region and its food history. Every element of the programming had a regional tie. Every one had surprising information to impart. And we came to the table together over a great meal.

Interested in learning more? In the Campaigns folder of our Slow Food USA Network Hub you can find an interview with Warren Neth about how he and his team did it and what it takes. Find pdf’s of programs, flyers, sponsor letter to help frame yours. And enjoy the photos taken by Giselle Lord of Slow Food USA.

Annual Project, One Seed One Community

Home Gardens, Agrobiodiversity and Community Seed Saving

By Guest Writer, Hillie Salo

According to the CA Legislature:
Noncommercial seed sharing activity contributes significant value to the health of our communities and to the resilience of our food system.

Home gardeners create “ecological niches” which serve to preserve the diversity and adaptation to local environmental condition. Unlike larger production systems, home gardens harbor many species in small areas often with a few crop varieties and species that are not well represented in larger fields.

Diversity is the foundation on which selection for local adaptation to changing conditions like climate is based. These home gardens can be considered agrobiodiversity reservoirs in a micro- regional scale, being important areas for in situ and on farm conservation and including native and exotic plants.

In situ conservation is the conservation of species in placeseeds are planted and produced in the place where they are intended to grow. In situ conservation is different than ex situ preservation. Ex-situ conservation is the preservation of components of biological diversity outside place, away from where they grow. An example of ex situ preservation is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway; where seeds are saved for future crises, under stable conditions and not influenced by evolutionary forces.

In situ preservation allows communities to select for the seeds that survive challenging local conditions, with the best flavor or traits desired; building these traits into the genetics of the seed; seeds that may prove useful as we go forward in climate change.

In the community, Seed Libraries are our tools to build that local adaption in our local foods creating a reservoir of seeds found no where else in the world.

One Seed, One Community is an opportunity for communities to come together to support and encourage regionally adapted varieties by engaging in community plant selection.
For the 2020 growing season, there are two One Seed One Community suggested options. The Diversity tract with a new bean, the Jacob’s Cattle Bush Bean, found on the Ark of Taste, and the Adaptation tract with second generation Tuya Gvnagei aka Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean, also found on the Ark of Taste.

We as a Slow Food community can come together with One Seed One Community to build that genetics into the foods we eat, so that we can continue to see them on our plate. Beans are a nutritious easy food to grow and save. In just 3 generations, beans have shown signs of adaptation. More info:

Annual Project, One Seed One Community

Defend the Future Save a Seed

By Guest Writer, Hillie Salo

Responsible Consumers: Seeds are the Starting Point, Think About It!

True awareness about what is on your plate begins with the first link in the food chain: the seed that creates the plant, flower and finally the fruit.

From Seeds According to Slow FOOD

USA Slow Food’s Plant a Seed is a wonderful program, introducing young people to the exciting world of growing your own food and peeking their curiosity with joyful new flavors. Next step is to give them tools to face the challenges of climate change. 

That is what One Seed One Community aims to do, by encouraging folks to save and share seeds. Each year, a Bean has been chosen from the Ark of Taste for the community to grow and complete life’s circle from seed to seed. 

Saving seeds over a period of time can lead to adaptation to the environment in which they were grown. Beans have been shown to present signs of adaptation over a period of just three growing seasons.!po=9.57447

This year OSOC has spread to various places in Northern and Southern California. Seed Libraries and many Slow Food members in 

Ukiah One Seed One Community 

San Diego 

Santa Monica

Santa Maria

San Louis Obispo 


Silicon Valley

San Leandro 

East Bay

San Francisco



and others are leading the charge in saving the Cherokee Trail of Tears bean.

An individual gardener’s gene pool of a plant variety often is not more than what can be held in the palm of the hand. A very small gene pool indeed! Seed Libraries are a community project that gives the community access to a diverse gene pool. As well, they can give low income, first time and community gardeners the potential to bring fresh healthy food into their lives. 

In the circle, Seed Libraries make seeds available, and the community grows and returns seeds to have a fresh stock of seeds available every year. Seed Libraries need community support in returning seeds. More often than not more seeds are taken than returned. OSOC invites the community to Save a Row for Diversity! to replenish our Seed Libraries. This year we are saving the Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean.

Slow Food chapters across the state may consider reaching out to their local Seed Library to start a One Seed One Community project for next year. Each chapter could challenge their membership to commit to raising so many pounds, maybe 2 pounds, 5,10,15, 25 pounds to donate to their local Seed Library and other community groups. Perhaps a school garden…

If you send your beans out to the community, and they are returned and grown again, we are well on our way to building a local diverse seed stock and food security. Local food begins with local seed. Seed the local Revolution!

Do you have a suggestion for next year’s bean?

Slow Food’s Position Paper on Seeds

Manifesto on the Future of Seeds

Heirloom Seeds to Cultivate the Future

Slow Food Europe’s section on Seeds


It’s Back to School Time & Time to Improve the School Lunch Program

By Keith Schildt, Slow Food California Board Member, Southern California Governor

With the end of summer comes our thoughts of students returning to school and a reminder that there is still a lots of work to do to improve the quality of school lunches across the state and the nation .  At the federal level, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) presents an opportunity to make school lunch healthier and more sustainable. The bill is in early legislatives stages in both the House and the Senate and Slow Food USA has been weighing in on key aspects of the bill. We are especially excited to be supporting the Farm to School Act, which among other things will increase annual mandatory funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program from $5 to $15 million (learn more about this proposed legislation here: and Kids Eat Local Act, which seeks to make it easier for schools to source local food (learn more about the Kids Eat Local Act here Kids Eat Local.

The Slow Food California Policy Committee is supporting legislative advocacy efforts at the federal level by Slow Food USA. For an excellent summary of SFUSA’s position on CNR, see the following link.

At the state level, the SFCA Policy Committee actively supported AB479 – a bill that would establish the climate-friendly “California School Plant-Based Food and Beverage Program” aimed at increasing plant-based food in school lunches. The bill passed through State Assembly and the California State Senate Education committee. It now becomes a 2 year bill.  We also supported AB-958, the Organic to School pilot program which unfortunately did not pass.  We now must work with our allies, including Friends of the Earth and NRDC to advocate with the Governor to ensure that he puts resources in next year’s budget to support healthier, climate friendly school food programs, including the Plant-Based School Food Program and organic food for kids.


With October being the official National Farm to School month and with Slow Food USA encouraging engagement with World  Food Day on October 16th, the CA Slow Food Policy Committee suggests chapters consider featuring a school food themed activity in October.   We are happy to help connect you with speakers who can share updates on the national and state school lunch policy initiatives supported by Slow Food California and by SFUSA and ways Slow Food members in your region can get involved.  It could be as simple as organizing a potluck and inviting a few guest speakers, including a local school food director or farmer who is selling produce to local school districts. Or perhaps Slow Food members might want to volunteer in a local school garden project for a day. Please let us know if you want to brainstorm or would like a speaker to come to a local chapter dinner or meeting to share the latest information on upcoming policy opportunities at the state and federal level to increase access to healthy, locally sourced, climate-friendly school food. More details  here. Contact if you are interested.