A Look at Our Radio Roots by Patrick Martins
Since Slow Food began, we have seen fads melt and trends rise and fall. We’ve seen the food world morph into fashion, where sizzle rules the day no matter where the steak came from.
But the spate of fancy events and color photographs and chef competition shows on television has done little to help American independent farmers sleep at night—or to improve the chances that our planet might survive the current onslaught of corporate farming and the looming realities of climate change. We are drowning in recipes and food porn—when it comes to the real issues that concern our farmers and the health of America’s food supply, the food media is failing. It isn’t much more than a beauty pageant.
The revolution needed a voice, something to punch through this insipid wall of tawdry, feel-good fluff—so in 2009, largely inspired by Carlo Petrini’s 1975 pirate station in Italy, Radio Bra Onde Rosse, we began the Heritage Radio Network, an Internet-based radio station out behind Roberta’s restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Carlo rescued an old military surplus transmitter to start his station; we built ours out of a couple of recycled shipping containers and put a garden on the roof.
Brandon Hoy, and Carlo Mirachi had opened Roberta’s a few months earlier, and were at the vanguard of a new generation of restaurant at once cool and sustainable. Roberta’s was unlike any other in America — the restaurant itself was built by the owners themselves out of an old auto body shop with rescued and recycled materials, in an industrial district that nearly burned to the ground during the great blackout of 1977. Now it is very much at the hub of a fantastic new food movement, and the food that comes out of the pizza station and kitchen is delicious. This is also where I met my coauthor, Mike Edison, whose book I Have Fun Everywhere I Go—itself a romp through slow culture—had resonated with me. I invited Mike to talk about his work on my radio program, The Main Course, and he became a frequent guest and a good friend, eventually beginning his own show.
Heritage Radio now reaches millions of listeners a month. We produce our own content that directly competes with the food coverage on NPR, CNN, and every other major news portal. At the core of the station are thirty fantastic weekly shows—hosted by a diverse group of chefs, authors, visionaries, lunatics, journalists, historians, and hedonists — about food technology, beer, cheese, food history, politics, and cocktails, to name just a few of the myriad, plus a few outlier shows covering alternative music, arts, and pop culture. The station started as some- thing of a clubhouse for subversive foodies but has grown into a legitimate media outlet—we are a source for hard news and opinion, a beacon for like-minded progressives who do not view food as simply fodder for the style section.