Slow Food: Celebrating the Taste on the Plate
I am not a big fan of diets but here is one, which arose my interest: Fletcherizing, advocated by Horace Fletcher, whose motto was “nature will castigate those who don’t masticate”. The diet has a paramount rule of taking your time whilst eating and requires chewing every piece of food for 32 times or for about a minute. Try it: it is not that easy.
Health benefits apart, it made me think of how the time spent on food consumption has been reduced through industrialisation and globalisation - with the birth of notions like “food on the go”, “fast food” and of concept of eating without leaving the work desk, buying pre-peeled potatoes. Luckily, recent years have seen a change in the world of food consumption: food itself is becoming more and more trendy and “health conscious” people start thinking about where their food comes from and how much love has been put into the ingredients before it reached their kitchens. With environment concerns growing the provenance of food is becoming more important and people start reflecting about how kind nature which provides us with food is being treated.
Here is, where the slow food movement comes in. In 1986, MacDonald’s launched a restaurant in the heart of Rome, close to the historic Piazza de Spagna and soon enough angry pasta bowl brandishing italians came to defend their generations old tradition of food veneration. Carlo Petrini - the founder of the slow food motion led a group of like-minded food lovers who gathered together in a protest against spread of fast food around the world. Agricola's - the forerunner of the Slow Food - main idea was to defend the interests of small scale producers and preserve traditional methods of food production, to revive the connection between food, taste and pleasure, which seemed to be getting skewedtowards food = quick energy source. Advocates of the slow food movement call for appreciation of traditional cooking, using fresh local and organic ingredients, but also taking your time to prepare a meal. Petrini together with other founding members of the movement believed that globalisation of food brings standardisation of taste and flavour with it and destroys many a flavours and limits variety.
The movement has conviviums (like minded communities of people furthering the ideas in the regions) all around the world. They work along different lines: the first one is education - in Germany slow food trucks are often visitors to schools teaching children about where food comes from, local farmers organise open days, so children get to know where their meat and milk come from. The next line emphasises involvement. Slow food supporters firmly believe that we are not merely consumers of food, but co-producers and try to further the relationship between local farms, dairies, fisheries, fostering awareness and responsibility for the foods that we put into our bodies. Next comes preservation of local traditions and foods. With their project "Ark of taste" - a red book of traditional foods in danger of extinction - Slow Food members catalog and draw attention to the risk of disappearance of the dishes and skills.
One of the main ideas of the movements is the celebration of food and appreciation of recipes, places and skills of production, respect the nature’s constrains and keep seasons in mind.
Personally, the basic principles of this movement appeal to me a lot and in my day to day life I try to follow them: eating food in seasonal, sourcing ingredients locally where possible, tring to make food a celebration for my family. You may argue, that I am lucky to have a passion for food, the skill, appreciation of my family and but most importantly the time to put my passion on the plate. Industrialisation and emancipation brought fast food to existence and it definitely has its place in our everyday life. Being a self-employed mum of three I feel the constraints of time and understand that it is not often easy or possible to put “the stove in the middle of the family’s day.” However, I also think fast food can be produced following the slow food principles: cooking a proper nutritious meal from scratch does not have to be a time consuming exercise (by the way, most of my veggie and meat recipes won’t take longer than 10 minutes preparation - take me by my word:)). I absolutely agree that food should pleasure senses and not be simply “fuel”. My cooking is based on a combination of knowledge derived from traditional recipes and mastery of basic skills ( which evolved from generation to generation of cooks): I love to make pasta and adore making sourdough bread at home and have a broad collection of artisanal traditional pasta making accessories, which I enjoy using, when I have time. But I am also an avid user of gadgets - I the results you can get with cooking some meats sous vide for hours and hours and would never want to do away with my electric whisk or even a blender - a lot of these gadget do save time on cooking, whilst preserving the fun of doing so and maximising the taste of the final dish to the extreme.
Food is something all of us need everyday - according to some estimates we each spend around 38,000 hrs eating, which is nearly 4.4 years. So I think it is only right to spend this time properly and with pleasure.