Food slows down

Il movimento Slow Food, nato in Italia, ha ormai guadagnato popolarità a livello internazionale. La sua missione è di educare e incoraggiare la biodiversità, promuovendo cibi della miglior qualità. Come dice Jean Anthèlme Brillat-Savarin nel suo libro La Fisiologia del Gusto, il destino delle nazioni dipende dal cibo con cui sono nutrite.

Slowing down is not a luxury many of us have, at least not without some type of retribution. Busy lifestyles often mean poor food choices and so at times we find ourselves in line waiting to buy a Big Mac and fries. The fast life however, does not have to mean fast food.

Food is slowing down with a movement called Slow Food. It began in Italy in 1989 in order to combat the ever-growing fast food lifestyle. More than ever, it seems that people care less about the quality of the food and more about how cheaply and conveniently that food can be obtained. Many neglect or are simply uninterested in what is most important about food, such as, where it comes from and how it tastes.

The Slow Food movement promotes foods they like to call good, clean, and fair, or better food that is not only tasteful, but also grown in an environmentally friendly way with just compensation to its cultivators. The movement also brings attention to and encourages local food growth and its traditions.

The movement's mission, among many, is to be educators and promoters of biodiversity. Interestingly, certain crops, just like animals, are threatened to the brink of extinction. Without intervention, variety among certain foods can be lost forever. The movement has created a safe haven for these types of foods called the Arca del Gusto, or Ark of Taste. The Ark reports endangered crops and agriculture in hopes of spreading the awareness of their distress. A focus of theirs is to revive the use and cultivation of these rare and delicious agricultural gems. In Italy, more than in the United States, food is grown and sold within the region. Although in Italy this a normality, certain crops still find themselves in danger of disappearing due to the nation's growing problem of food standardization.

Slow Food Italia has listed on its Ark, foods from every region. Some products are perhaps not very well known but this is all the more reason for them to make the list. It only seems right that regional food be diverse among a regional people. Members of this Ark include: cheeses like Canestrato and Maiorchino, salamis such as marcundela and Susianella, vegetables like lampascioni and legumes like zolfino beans. Zolfino beans have the movement to thank for their very survival. When the movement began, in fact, zolfino beans were almost extinct.

As listed on the Slow Food website, the crops must be outstanding in terms of taste -- as defined in the context of local traditions and uses, at risk biologically or as culinary traditions, sustainably produced, culturally or historically linked to a specific region, locality, ethnicity or traditional production practice, and produced in limited quantities, by farms or by small-scale processing companies.

The very movement that began in Italy has been gaining popularity on an international level as chapters of the movement are found in all parts of the world. Alice Waters, food legend in her own right and owner of the famous Chez Panisse in Berkley CA, recently brought much attention to the movement here in the US. Her methods and philosophy recently inspired a vegetable garden at the White House.

So we are left to contemplate a quote by Jean Anthèlme Brillat-Savarin, who wrote the book Physiologie du goût (Philosophy of Taste). He said something interesting in his work, The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they are fed. With that in mind, then it's definitely time to slow down with our food.

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