When was the last time you enjoyed a nice home-cooked meal and a
glass of wine? If you’re like most people you probably don’t
remember. Fast food has become the norm in a world where everything
moves at lightning speed. Luckily, the Slow Food Movement is here
to remind us to slow down and savour the flavours and aromas of
slowly cooked food.

The Slow Food Movement is about more than food, it’s about a
lifestyle change. Slow Cities, restaurants, and gardens are popping
up around the world. There’s even the fully accredited University
of Gastronomic Sciences. People are starting to realize that there
is a connection between the foods we eat and the health of our
environment.

Defining the Slow Food Movement

Slow Food began as a non-profit organization in Italy in 1989
and quickly blossomed into a social and political movement. It
gained momentum through articles, books, and seminars. The goal of
the organization is to counteract the effects of fast food and
bring back a genuine interest in traditional food and its
preparation.

There are currently 80,000 Slow Food members and over 850
convivia (local chapters) worldwide. Chapter members share a common
view that fast food is to blame for the rise of food-borne
illnesses, the advent of new pathogens, antibiotic resistance (from
the overuse of drugs in animals), and extensive water pollution
(from feedlot waste). Each chapter promotes the Slow Food lifestyle
through taste education, workshops, school collaborations, and by
bringing food producers and consumers together.

Taste education aims to help people rediscover the joy of eating
by sharing the knowledge of where their foods come from and how
they are prepared. Learning activities include trips to orchards
and farms, and teaching people how to grow foods and use the
ingredients they harvest. At taste workshops, experts teach
participants to taste and compare foods and match them with wines
and other beverages. Local chapters help schools set up gardens and
teach children how to cook with fresh ingredients.

Objectives of the Slow Food Mission:

– Forming and maintaining seed banks to preserve local crops
and food systems

– Creating regional “Food Arks” to celebrate and protect local
food culture and culinary traditions

– Stopping the standardization of taste

– Promoting small-scale food processing

– “Taste Education”

– Political activism to promote and preserve family farms,
organic farming, healthy agricultural policies, and consumer
information

– Lobbying against government funding of genetic engineering
and the use of pesticides

– Encouraging ethical buying in local marketplaces

Food Protectionism

One of the main goals of the Slow Food Movement is protecting
endangered food products. The organization does research, holds a
vote among its members and places food products they deem to be
“endangered” on an Ark of Taste. Each region has its own Ark of
Taste. The ark highlights disappearing local and regional foods and
seeks to preserve them. Once an item is on an Ark of Taste, a
presidium, a small scale project devoted to the preservation of
that food product, is formed. Presidias are the working arm of the
Ark of Taste. In the past, presidias have tried to preserve and
reintroduce endangered foods by encouraging restaurants to use ark
foods in their dishes, promoting the product via media campaigns or
simply by making the product more readily available to ordinary
people.

Slow Food and Biodiversity

Biodiversity is a major concern of the Slow Food Movement; to
this end they created the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity in
2003. The foundation is a nonprofit organization with a goal of
defending agricultural biodiversity around the world. The
foundation suggests members abide by the following guidelines:

– Choose organic products

– Buy locally grown food

– Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables,

– Avoid excessive packaging

– Consider the treatment of the food producers and harvesters
before purchasing food

– Broaden our diets

– Minimize food waste

– Remember the pursuit of pleasure and give everyone the right
to choose

What about Organic and Genetically Modified
Foods?

Slow Food supports the principles behind organic food but it
does not encourage organic agriculture on a massive scale. When
organic food production moves to a large scale it becomes much like
conventional monoculture cropping, which is not environmentally
sustainable. The organization is against genetically modified foods
because there is not enough research into long term effects. The
movement believes the genetically modified foods should contain
accurate labels that give consumers the knowledge they need to
properly choose what they ingest.

Living the Slow Life

The Slow Food Movement has encouraged the growth of Slow Cities.
In these Slow Cities, municipal leaders try to improve the quality
of life of their citizens by adhering to a set of guidelines that
promote healthy living. Some of there guidelines include closing
certain areas of the city to car traffic at least once a week,
adopting policies that safeguard the city’s characteristic
infrastructure, protecting cultural and traditional foods, and
creating space and opportunity for direct contact between consumers
and smart producers.

Criticism

The Slow Food Movement has been criticized for having
anti-technology and anti-globalization views that are not truly
understood by all of its members. Groups that share the movement’s
plant and animal protectionist leanings, feel that the Slow Food
Movement has become more interested in promoting their organization
rather than the cause. Others criticize the movement for being
elitist and too expensive for ordinary people.