Everyone knows about fast food—mass-produced, iffy tasting, gobbled-down—but what about Slow Food?
Founded in 1989 by Italian activist Carlo Petrini in response to Rome’s first McDonald’s, Slow Food is an international organization dedicated to reclaiming our traditional relationship to food. It encourages people to resist the temptations of industrially grown and produced provender by inspiring them to eat locally, seasonally and with conscience—to protect the traditional food supply and enjoy its bounty. Its chapters, located in 132 countries including the US, are even called convivia—Latin for “feast.”
SF links people with “slow” food and its producers. Its Taste Education program sponsors events like Farm to Table Dining, a Buffalo, NY, series showcasing top local ingredients. Offered, too, are taste workshops, wine tastings, guest speakers, and visits to conscientious producers like Washington State’s Taylor Shellfish Farm. SF also hosts the annual Salon de Gusto, a tasting blowout of artisanal delicacies in Turin, Italy, and its American version, San Francisco’s Slow Food Nation.
On the “supply side,” SF's Presidium program helps artisanal food producers subject to extinction by agribusiness and other pressures find markets. Similarly, its Ark of Taste and Terre Madres programs work to preserve traditional food sources and to link farmers, breeders and fishermen with processors, distributors, agricultural experts and cooks. Recently, for example, coffee growers from Ethiopia, Honduras and Laos were brought together to discuss their work and possible solutions to common problems.
Kids aren’t neglected, either. Because you’re never too young to know food, the convivia organize after school events like visits to famers markets; they also help to create schools gardens—how better to understand food than to grow it?—and work to transform those dreaded school lunches into something Alice Waters would bless.
Supporting a movement that encourages people to demand the best food is a no-brainer for chefs, who strive to make each dish better than the last. If the SF message intrigues you, the first thing to do is to become a member. To start the process, or just learn more, click on http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/join_us/
or call 877-slowfoo(d). Once you join, you’ll be assigned to a convivium closest to you.
The more you participate, the more interesting and involving it gets. In New York City, for example, it’s entirely possible to cook for events at the Astor Canter, a food and wine-education complex; in Sacramento, CA there’s a SF Chef of the Month series. Convivium-member chefs are also routinely called upon to provide their services for taste-education gatherings.
SF is one of those happy things that help people do good for themselves while doing good for others. Food professionals should consider pulling up to its table.
Photos © Alberto Peroli 2006; Slow Food USA; Slow Food Archive