Founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, an Italian journalist outraged by the location of a McDonald's branch in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, Slow Food started as a long, slow lunch in Petrini's hometown of Bra, during which he and a group of friends agreed on the founding principles.
When I first heard the term Slow Food, I imagined a cult of yuppies, dedicated to chewing each bite of food 20 or more times, swishing, sniffing and primly sipping from their wine glasses. I didn't know that this was an international wine and food movement celebrating regional cuisines and products, organized in opposition to the industrial commodification of one of life's surest and simplest pleasures -- the food we eat.
Slow Food afficianados are organized into local convivia, branches which, theoretically, represent a historically, culturally and culinary homogeneous area. In the United States, California hosts the lion's share of convivia, most of them centered in the food-famous wine regions. Colorado currently has only one convivia, headquartered (natch) in Boulder.
All of these groups share common goals:
to have fun;
to promote local traditions and products of superior quality;
to spread the slow philosophy;
and to organize travel programs to visit other convivia.
Typical meetings might include a dinner in which food is matched with wine and/or ale; a theme meal; a dinner where local specialty foods are introduced, eaten and discussed; a tour of a local farm or vineyard.
But the Slow Food movement is not aimed at pleasure alone -- its basic principles are more far reaching, encompassing environmental and social concerns that grow more urgent as the technological world becomes more and more speeded up and bottom line driven.
The objectives of the Ark of Taste, the scientific and exploration arm of the movement, are to "save and protect small-scale quality food production from industrial standardization, hyper-hygienist legislation, the rules of modern retail systems and a modernity which meets 95 percent of the world's food requirements with fewer than 30 plants; and to protect it from a policy which is seeking to sweep biodiversity away altogether." In other words, they seek to preserve quality agricultural products and the autonomy of the farmers who produce them, as well as to teach folks to slow down and enjoy the thing that most distinguishes their culture -- their regional foods.
So if the razzle-dazzle world of high-tech wonders and drive-through meals has got you down, put on the brakes. Think about what you're going to prepare for dinner, where the ingredients came from, how the cooking techniques were handed down from generation to generation. Then savor and enjoy. You'll be part of an international movement aimed at putting us back in touch with our senses. And afterwards, if you're lucky, you can revive another of the endangered pleasures of the modern world -- the long, slow nap.
Slow Food USA national office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Slow Food Boulder, Colo. contact: Peggy Markel: email@example.com
For more information, visit the Slow Food Web site: www.slowfood.com
Slow: The International Herald of Taste is a quarterly magazine of the Slow Food movement published in five languages, addressing food and consumption, wine and culture, taste and technology from the scientific, historical, sociological, journalistic and literary points of view.
Official Manifesto of the International Slow Food Movement
Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.
We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed ot the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.
To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction.
A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.
May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.
Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food. Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.
In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.
That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?
Slow Food guarantees a better future.
Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movemnt, with the little snail as its symbol.
-- Adopted Nov. 9, 1989, at the Opera Comique, Paris, at the official birth of the international movment for the Defense of and the Right to Pleasure. Delegates from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and Venezuela endorsed the manifesto.