When I first saw/read the term slow food, I thought, ok, NOW what the heck…I am already doing my best to eat less saturated fat, less red meat, eat organic foods, take my vitamins, etc., is there something new I am missing?
So I did a Google search on the terms Slow Food and what I found was quite interesting. First of all the Slow Food movement has been around for more than a few years (been around since 1986), has gone international in its efforts, restaurants are getting into the ‘slow food’ act, and there’s more to slow food than meets the eye or stomach I shall say.
First of all, there are a variety of ways to be ‘slow food’, but let’s first start with wikipedia.com‘s important facts and a short history on slow food:
The Slow Food movement was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy as a resistance movement to combat fast food. It claims to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated food plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within an ecoregion. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement. The movement has since expanded globally to over 83,000 members in 122 countries.
Slow Food Organization
Slow Food began in Italy with the foundation of its forerunner organization, Arcigola, in 1986. The Slow Food organization spawned by the movement has expanded to include over 83,000 members with chapters in over 122 countries. All totaled, 800 local convivia chapters exist. 360 convivia in Italy — to which the name condotta (singular) / condotte (plural) applies — are composed of 35,000 members, along with 450 other regional chapters around the world. The organizational structure is decentralized: each convivium has a leader who is responsible for promoting local artisans, local farmers, and local flavors through regional events such as Taste Workshops, wine tastings, and farmers’ markets.
Offices have been opened in Switzerland (1995), Germany (1998), New York City (2000), France (2003), Japan (2005), and most recently in the United Kingdom. The head offices are located in Bra, near the famous city of Turin, northern Italy. Numerous publications are put out by the organization, in several languages. In the US, the Snail is the quarterly of choice, while Slow Food puts out literature in several other European nations. Recent efforts at publicity include the world’s largest food and wine fair, the Salone del Gusto, a biennial cheese fair in Bra called Cheese, the Genoan fish festival called SlowFish, and Turin‘s Terra Madre (“Mother Earth”) world meeting of food communities.
In 2004 Slow Food opened a University of Gastronomic Sciences at Pollenzo, in Piedmont, and Colorno, in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Carlo Petrini and Massimo Montanari are the leading figures in the creation of the University, whose goal is to promote awareness of good food and nutrition.
The Slow Food movement incorporates a series of objectives within its mission, including:
- forming and sustaining seed banks to preserve heirloom varieties in cooperation with local food systems
- developing an “ark of taste” for each ecoregion, where local culinary traditions and foods are celebrated
- preserving and promoting local and traditional food products, along with their lore and preparation
- organizing small-scale processing (including facilities for slaughtering and short run products)
- organizing celebrations of local cuisine within regions (for example, the Feast of Fields held in some cities in Canada)
- promoting “taste education“
- educating consumers about the risks of fast food
- educating citizens about the drawbacks of commercial agribusiness and factory farms
- educating citizens about the risks of monoculture and reliance on too few genomes or varieties
- developing various political programs to preserve family farms
- lobbying for the inclusion of organic farming concerns within agricultural policy
- lobbying against government funding of genetic engineering
- lobbying against the use of pesticides
- teaching gardening skills to students and prisoners
- encouraging ethical buying in local marketplaces
From time to time, Slow Food intervenes directly in market transactions; for example, Slow Food was able to preserve four varieties of native American turkey by ordering 4,000 of their eggs and commissioning their raising and slaughtering and delivery to market.
It is difficult to gauge the extent of the success of the Slow Food movement, considering that the organization itself is still very young. The current grassroots nature of Slow Food is such that few people in Europe and especially the United States are aware of it.
Statistics show that Europe, and Germany in particular, is a much bigger consumer of organics than the US. Slow Food has contributed to the growing awareness of health concerns in Europe, as evidenced by this fact, but on society as a whole, Slow Food has had little effect. An example of this is the fact that tourists visit Slow Food restaurants more than locals, but Slow Food and its sister movements are still young. In an effort to spread the ideals of anti-fast food, Slow Food has targeted the youth of the nations in primary and secondary schools. Volunteers help build structural frameworks for school gardens and put on workshops to introduce the new generation to the art of farming.
Slow Food USA
In 2008 Slow Food USA will host its largest gathering to date when 50,000 people descend on San Francisco for the Inaugural Slow Food Nation. Founded by Alice Waters it will be the largest celebration of American food in history.
Steven Shaw, a food writer and a founder of the food Web site eGullet, says the Slow Food movement succeeded because it “mixed hedonism with a leftist political agenda”. It is also antitechnology and antiglobalization and that message is not realized by the average member.
These arguments parallel those of the anti-globalization movement, Greenpeace and green parties against global export of monocultured foodstuffs, especially GMOs. A central point related to these arguments is that transport prices are artificially low because the true cost of fuel (including the protection of shipping lanes and military interventions around the world) are not factored into the price of goods, and are instead paid for indirectly through personal taxes.
Ok, now that you know a little bit about its history and reasoning, how to you actually practice slow food while living in a city for example, as I do. Now I do not necessarily purchase directly from local farmers, though I do support my local farmer’s markets. For me, I eat less processed foods, stay away from fast foods of any kind. I also do my very best to make everything myself that my family eats.There are levels for which I stop at in terms of making certain foods myself, such as tomato paste for example, but when I look at the back of the can, I see that the product has come from New Jersey which is a lot closer to me than California.
On the SlowFoodUSA.org site they mention that their members try their best to:
In the United States, members of Slow Food USA’s 200 chapters celebrate the amazing bounty of food that is available and work to strengthen the connection between the food on our plates and the health of our planet. Our members are involved in activities such as:
- Raising public awareness, improving access and encouraging the enjoyment of foods that are local, seasonal and sustainably grown
- Caring for the land and protecting biodiversity for today’s communities and future generations
- Performing educational outreach within their communities and working with children in schools and through public programs
- Identifying, promoting and protecting fruits, vegetables, grains, animal breeds, wild foods and cooking traditions at risk of disappearance
- Advocating for farmers and artisans who grow, produce, market, prepare and serve wholesome food
- Promoting the celebration of food as a cornerstone of pleasure, culture and community
For me, I try to eat more whole foods, foods made from scratch, less processed foods (though I still can’t give up my Triskets) – I do have my limits. If I ran a small farm, it would be very different, but since I do not, I make sure to enjoy the food I prepare and eat. It is not about stuffing one’s face quickly to get on with life, but to take life at a more calmer pace, taking the time to enjoy the actual process of creating vitamin-packed fresh meals and without the TV on, to sit down with family and enjoy the time together.
Several things I have learned since becoming a ‘slow food foodie’:
- I actually feel and know I am healthier since I am eating more raw foods, less processed foods and am even losing weight.
- Time spent in the kitchen has not cost me any more, but in fact has cost me less over all.
- The high quality of food is far superior to anything I can get and eat at restaurants, unless say I am splurging at a 4 star restaurant – which quite frankly is not very often.
- I am learning great new recipes and eating foods that I would have not otherwise.
Almost all of the recipes I have on my dinner and jam blog are homemade slow food recipes. I did not seek out to become a slow food foodie by any means, but when I learned more about slow food, I learned that I was already do a lot to support the ideals of the slow food movement, though I am looking forward to doing more this coming autumn.
So try it, making your own bread really is not that hard at all, making your own cookies if you want something sweet is also rather easy along with finding local animal-friendly butchers (sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?) – but they do exist. My eggs I buy at the local grocery store come from a farm not 8 miles away.
Restaurants have also gone ‘slow food’ as they are partnering up with local farms to provide the restaurants with locally grown produce and food. And many restaurants have even gone so far as to point out that they have gone ‘slow food’. Ask the next time at your favorite restaurant, where they get their food from, you might be surprised.
Tips to help yourself and your family to become more ‘slow food’ friendly:
- When you buy your food products at the store next time, try and buy those foods which are in season.
- Read the labels to see where and how far the plant/factory is located from your town/city to see if a similar product has had ‘less travel’ distance in getting to you.
- Get the kids involved in selecting recipes to try, in order to make dinner together. Known fact, that kids who are involved in the cooking process, usually eat better food and eat what they hand they hands make.
- Support your local farmers markets, try food co-ops, go grocery shopping and share the ride with a neighbor or friend.
- Prepare your meals at home using as many local ingredients as you can.
- Take the time to relax while eating your meals. Be more gracious as you sit down to eat.
- Take the time to actually sit down at the table period. Too many families regardless of their size tend to eat and run away into their own ‘Private Idahos’ and computer gadgets…
Come back to reality and become one with yourself, and do yourself the best that you can, by becoming a slow food foodie – you will be healthier, happier and frankly, will have a more happiness in your life knowing you are doing more of your share to be more green in your kitchen by going ‘slow food’.