SLOW FOOD/REAL FOOD
SLOW FOOD VS. FAST FOOD
Slow Food is a buzzword these days but what exactly is it? To me, it’s the opposite of fast food. It is made with healthy, often locally grown, farm fresh ingredients. To make it takes time and care and intention that it be delicious and nourishing.
The Slow Food movement has become a network of highly motivated, active leaders (cooks, growers, food suppliers) who are committed to initiating and implementing projects that result in more good, clean, and fair food for all. The movement supports food heritage, traditions and culture that make eating a pleasure as well as nutritious. It has roots in social justice which supports good food and nutrition for all. Often this involves education. By coming together in an organized way, large groups of individuals through these networks have tremendous potential to impact the national and global food markets.
Slow Food is also the name of an organization that promotes local food and traditional cooking. It was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 and has since spread worldwide to something like 160 countries. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, slow food strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.
For over 25 years, Slow Food has been on the cutting edge of making change in our food systems. Successes include building links between local and international, tradition and innovation. Slow Food USA, based in New York, also has an office here in our own state, in Denver. For the past several years, they have sponsored a huge festival in Denver in July called Slow Food Nations in which 20,000 people from all over the country come to celebrate and taste “real” food.
In a way, New Orleans, where I am from, has always known what slow food is. Cooking red beans and rice was a tradition in homes and restaurants at least as early as the 1800s. Monday was traditionally “wash day” which in the old days was an all-day affair and putting a pot of beans on the stove to simmer all day was an easy way to have dinner ready at the end of the wash day. The same idea applied to gumbo of various sorts, seafood and chicken/sausage being two of the most popular. These delectable one pot meals were made with all fresh ingredients from back yard farms and the seafood bounty of the Gulf of Mexico. They too were best simmered all day, sometimes for several days, on the stove top, to elicit the best flavors. Walking through the French Quarter and other neighborhoods, one can still smell the tantalizing aromas of these slow-cooking foods which remain traditions to this day.
Likewise, other cultures like French, Spanish, Italian, and Mediterranean, have long cooked with fresh local ingredients and people regularly took their time to gather food, cook it, and enjoy it with leisure. In America, as 20th century life picked up to a faster and faster pace, this way of living was lost along the way. In the 1950s, busy stay-at-home moms grasped on to the convenience of canned and frozen foods, and ultimately pre-packaged “tv dinners” to make their lives easier. Slowly over years, accepted food portions grew as did the amount of sugar, salt, and non-food ingredients that were chemical and nature began to creep into our food source. Likewise, pounds began to creep around waistlines and today, an inordinate number of Americans are overweight as a result.
The Slow Food movement is an effort to return us to some of our old ways of gathering food locally, cooking “real” food and not food in cans or that has been overly processed. It’s a healthier way of enjoying eating and our lives.