Slow Food

Learn all about the new concept of Slow Food. The planet saving rival to Fast Food.

Article by David McCandless

Save-? Planet-? Eat-? How-?
It's about growing, producing and consuming the right kind of food in the right kind of way. Food that is authentic and locally grown in an organic and sustainable way, consumed slowly so as to relish the taste and sensation.

But I do that already. Every night.
It's more than getting an organic box delivered. Slow Food encourages people to discover, savour and cook their own food, rather than just going to restaurants all the time – although this isn't frowned upon as long as you eat out authentically and –

You're getting it. Not by coincidence the Slow Food movement's logo is a snail. And it's no surprise that they oppose global fast food and its degrading effects on the environment.

Is fast food really that bad?
Apparently so, and it's not just the glumpy textures and taste, the additives, the flavourings, the fat, the sugar, the design of the outlets, and the surly teenagers slapping it on a tray for you. According to Eric Schlosser, the author of explosive best-seller Fast Food Nation , the entire world's food supply has become dominated by aggressive American fast-food chains. As well as flattening taste, the industry is responsible for staggering amounts of air and water pollution, and is contributing to world-wide epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

"Somehow mankind has existed for thousands of years with Chicken McNuggets," says Schlosser, a paid-up member of the Slow Food movement. "And I'd argue that our future survival depends on living without them." Hence the solution to fast food – slow food.

Why now?
The food world is in crisis, say the Slow Foodies (our term, not theirs). As the environment degrades and fast food dominates, ancient flavours and recipes are being lost forever – together with the animals breeds and vegetables that create them. Five species a day at the last count. And this is where saving the world comes in.

Being aware of where your food comes from helps you to support and save traditional foods – to save taste essentially. It's eco-gastronomy. Not only that but you'll save yourself.

How so?
The better food you eat, the better your health and life will be. You are what you eat, says Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of the movement. "When I wear a pair of Armani pants they do not become a part of Carlo Petrini," he says. "But when I eat a slice of ham, it becomes a part of Carlo Petrini."

Which part of Carlo Petrini does the ham become?
Never mind.

Hold on – what if I haven't got time to eat slowly?
That's your own fault. It's up to us to organise our time in order to live and eat in the best way possible, says Petrini . There are recipes that can help. Minestrone and slow-cooked pasta sauces, for example, can last over a week. Inventive use of leftovers can also be time-saving. Ravioli and pizza were created to stop people throwing leftovers away.

That's it? Leftovers and pasta?
No. The Slow Food award – the Nobel Prize of gastronomy – has been handed out recently to vanilla growers from Chinantla , Mexico , Turkish beekeepers, pastry chefs from Athens , and Kurdish apricot farmers. All true, authentic food from authentic sources. You know, the stuff you see on a hi-shelf in an intimidating deli but daren't ask for.

Anything British?
Well, the UK is a great cheese nation, as well as being renowned for its real ales, game and oysters

Expensive foods then?
True. Slow Food don't do Happy Meals. But Petrini rejects the idea that it's just for the middle classes and above. "Gastronomic pleasures are and should be for all," he says. "In the end we are talking about one of the only things in life that is impossible to give up: food."

Hey – I could give up food anytime I wanted.
Well, if you decide to keep eating, Slow Food have local chapters scattered around the world you could join. They're called convivia , after their civilised and convivial bringing together of food lovers (and not unconnected to the amount of fine wines quaffed at these meets). Members are expected to promote gastronomic pleasure.

Sounds good. Where do I sign up? is a good start. You can find out about their food-festivals, and order their gastro guidebooks for travelling foodies. Maybe you could even study at their own University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy .

Eh? I could do a degree in-?
Yes, a masters degree in Taste. The course is not like "home economics" – all nutrition and food science. Instead, students learn how to taste and appreciate authentic foods, learning gastronomic traditions direct from farmers.

Can they really beat the all-powerful fast food industry?
Educate the world to have good taste, and industrial food will start to lose, is their strategy. They seem quietly confident. After all, as Petrini says: "We have pleasure and flavour on our side."