When you plunge an organic tortilla chip into a chunky bowl of organic, locally sourced salsa, it's hard not to let a smug smile spread across your face. But, hold up Senor Righteous, there's a whole new level of gastroguilt that's been heaped on the compost pile. Are the tomatoes in your salsa an endangered German Pink or Orange Oxheart heirloom variety? What about your tortilla chips? Are they made from Tuscarora White corn? If not, you're helping contribute to the slow elimination of endangered food species brought on by industrial standardization and large-scale distribution methods.
But take a deep breath, the U.S. Ark of Taste has your back. A program of Slow Food USA, the Ark of Taste has catalogued more than 200 rare regional foods--vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals, cheeses, shellfish--at risk of extinction. Each of the products that make it on the list must be "outstanding in terms of taste, as defined in the context of local traditions and uses; at risk biologically or as culinary traditions; sustainably produced; culturally or historically linked to a specific region, locality, ethnicity or traditional production practice; and produced in limited quantities, by farms or by small-scale processing companies." Every item found on the U.S. Ark of Taste's Web site includes a photo, historical information and a list of producers around the country that carry the item.
Move over localism, there's a new ethicurean movement brewing. And it's coming for your salsa.