Eugene Weekly : Food : 8.27.2009


Smells Like Clean
Food from the dirt you can see
by suzi steffen 

Photos by Tom Barkin

First, they dig the pit. Then they find the right kind of stones — big enough, flat enough and dry enough — and build a fire that will heat the football-sized rocks to intense temperatures. They’ll prep the cauldrons, cut up the carrots and onions and celery, pour in the water and lower the big cookers into the rock-lined pits. Then come the grates and the meat: whole lamb, whole goat and cabeza de vaca beef. The rocks do their work over many hours while the pits are carefully covered.

Meanwhile, other volunteers at the Slow Food Eugene event Sunday, Aug. 30, will set up tables, make the zucchini salad, unload the wine from High Pass Winery and the Ninkasi beer. The kicker for this weekend’s event? All of the food, with one very small exception, comes from one field at the Deck Family Farm in Junction City.

“The whole point is to do something in this town that we can’t do in other towns,” says organizer and Slow Food Eugene vice-president Ed Durkey. Durkey moved to Oregon a few years ago from a state where, he says, “You wouldn’t be able to do that, and they’d think you were a Communist if you tried.”

Maybe it’s not quite that bad, but with large-scale agriculture and factory farms promoting monocrops, Durkey and the rest of the Slow Food folks want to help smaller farmer thrive in a more traditional, and more balanced, way. 

“The principals of Slow Food are that food should be good, clean and fair,” Durkey says. The “fair” part of that means that “the people who work in food production should be paid a decent wage,” he says, which is why Slow Food Eugene doesn’t accept bulk discounts from the supplying farmers — though the farms that host the one-field meal do donate their space for the actual meal. Sunday’s meal is the third one; last year’s was at Winter Green Farm near Noti, and the whole one-field thing got started at Creative Growers, also near Noti. 

Durkey says, “We just wanted to do a pig roast, and so we start the pig roast, and David Hoyle [of Creative Growers] was like, ‘I have extra vegetables as well,’ and Adam [Bernstein] from Adam’s Place was the chef, so we put the whole meal together at that farm.”

This year, the chef is Brendan Mahaney from Belly, with advice and help from Jorge Navarro. Navarro, the longtime proprietor of Café Navarro, “led the whole effort to get the pits dug,” Durkey says. The rest of the menu includes homemade salsas, zucchini salad, tortillas and pico de gallo. Because the Decks couldn’t grow quite enough corn, Durkey says, the group ended up using some cornmeal from Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie (near Portland) for some of the tortillas, which will be made by the tortilla-makers from Plaza Latina.

“This is the cleanest meat you’ll ever have,” Durkey says about the Decks’ lamb, goat and beef. Grass-fed beef, he says, “has a lighter, more pleasant aroma” than factory beef. “It doesn’t smell like corn and antibiotics and shit and mud. You can tell it’s derived from the green grass that it’s eating.”

A few tickets remained for the event as the Weekly went to press, but get them fast at Long’s Meat Market, either Newman’s Fish Market or at Brown Paper Tickets (

One Field Meal: Mexican Barbacoa. Deck Family Farm, 25362 High Pass Rd, Junction City. 4:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 30. $25, $5 kids.