The slow food movement is spreading through dining rooms and grocery stores nationwide. Farmer’s markets have become fresh-ingredient havens in a grocery store wasteland of chemical-injected produce. Books and websites devoted to the slow food movement have become increasingly available – and very popular, particularly in light of the eco-friendly trends that appear here to stay. Slow food is not food that takes forever to get to the table, it is actually a concept of dining that combines whole foods that are locally grown, dishes made with health of the body and soul in mind, and meals that are appreciated when eaten.
It is no surprise that the eco-gastronomic organization called Slow Food was started in Italy in 1989. The European appreciation for full sit-down meals and whole ingredients has finally persuaded Americans to abandon their fast-paced lifestyle and take pleasure in the art of eating.
WHAT IS SLOW FOOD?
According to SlowFood.com, the slow food movement was started to counteract fast food and fast life, and educate locals about their regional fare. What began as a group of 62 eco-conscious, food-loving members in Bra, Italy has now blossomed into an international movement of more than 80,000 enthusiasts. Its mission is to protect biodiversity in the world’s food supply, educate the population about fresh taste and connect producers through slow food events.
Slow Food has over 850 local chapters, or convivia, worldwide. Each convivia builds relationships with local producers, campaigns to protect traditional foods, organizes tastings and seminars, encourages chefs to source locally, nominates producers to participate in international events and works to bring taste education into schools.
Each convivia is member-supported and answers to the International Executive Committee. In addition, there are larger national chapters, including Slow Food USA. In addition, the University of Gastronomic Sciences that offers academic programs about the science and culture of food.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF SLOW FOOD
The Slow Food movement has 3 main goals: taste education, defense of biodiversity and interaction between food producers.
Slow Food conducts programs for all ages that educate members about the origins and processing of local foods. Individual convivia organize taste workshops, speakers and school gardens to raise awareness.
A nonprofit slow food organization, the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is devoted to organizing and funding projects for agricultural biodiversity and maintenance of culinary traditions. Three of its current major projects are Terra Madre, a world meeting of food communities; Ark of Taste, a project that aims to rediscover and promote endangered food products that are considered “forgotten flavors”; and the Presidia, the working arm of the Ark of Taste that assists artisan producers to keep their foods alive and thriving.
Slow Food views people differently than mass food producers. Slow Food has created the concept of people being slow food co-producers instead of merely apathetic consumers. A co-producer is a consumer that takes interest in who produces the food they eat, the manner in which it is produced, and the complications that arise during the process. Fairs, conferences, markets and other events are coordinated to bring together producers and co-producers to grow a wide-reaching understanding of the importance of food appreciation.
SLOW DOWN AND EAT SLOW FOOD
So where to begin?
Replace processed foods with whole foods.
Your pantry is stuffed with cookies, chips and pasta sauces with ingredients you can’t pronounce. The apples in your refrigerator are all perfect spheres and have remained “fresh” for an unusually long amount of time. Exchange these unnecessarily processed foods for simpler similar foods.
Eat clean food.
Clean food is organic and insecticide-free. Avoid produce that has been genetically modified — even if it more aesthetically pleasing. The key to living a gastronomically bountiful life is to eat as many of your meals made from food that is natural and minimally processed.
Share the slow food dining experience.
Slow down your meals to enjoy the taste of fresh food. Invite a friend over and cook dinner together. By making the actual food preparation an integral part of the meal, you can better appreciate the finished product — and chances are you will take more care in choosing your ingredients.
The less distance the food you eat has to travel, the fresher and, likely, more nutritious the food will be for you. Take advantage of your local farmer’s markets and enjoy the seasonal availability of the local variety of foods. Avoid paying high prices for out-of-season fruits and vegetables that are often bland and smaller than their seasonal local counterparts. You can also grow your own herbs or produce.
If you would like to take part in the Slow Food movement, you can donate or become a member at SlowFood. You can also find a convivia near you and get involved.
Central Pennsylvania convivium leader, Anne Corr, discovered the Slow Food movement in 2001. Since then she enjoys mushrooms, vegetables, cheese, ice cream and other whole foods cultivated and processed in the State College area where she resides. Her advice to the eco-gastronomic consumer is to eat at local restaurants and to stop buying processed and ready-made foods.
Corr recommends, “Baby steps, baby steps. Learn simple cooking techniques and cultivate a relationship with the vendors at farmer’s markets so feel good about where your money goes,” She adds, “Be thoughtful about what you choose to eat and enjoy cooking.”