Members of the Slow Food Movement are fighting back.
Thursday, August 5, 1999
Members of the Slow Food Movement, however, are fighting back.
"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.," reads an excerpt from the Official Slow Food Manifesto.
The movement began in 1986 when McDonald''s announced plans to export a set of golden arches to Rome. The very idea of hawking Big Macs at the historic Piazza di Spagna was enough to set on fire the hair of more than a few concerned gastronomes. Chief among them was food and wine writer Carlo Petrini. With the help of a war-surplus transmitter from a U.S. tank, Petrini started up his own pirate radio station.
Although the burger palace got built, so did a movement that has since swelled to more than 60,000 members in 35 countries united in the desire to preserve the pleasures of the table and protect gastronomic heritage. Their efforts have resulted in events like the 1998 Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy, where 350 small food producers from around the world exhibited their goods-cheeses, meats, olive oils, vinegars, breads, chocolates, liqueurs, and more than 3,000 wines-to an audience of 126,000 people.
The movement takes the protection of craft-based food industry seriously. Through Slow Food''s Ark Project, the goal of linking scientific backbone with an advertising arm to protect endangered food and drink from the flood of industrial takeover has resulted in some diverse feats. Among the first U.S. inductees into the Ark is Alabama''s Dixie Red Delight apple and California''s red abalone, both on the endangered list.
Restaurant support of Ark products is especially encouraged, achieved by forging one-on-one relationships with grower/producers and chef/owners. Other Slow Food projects provide financial support to a Brazilian hospital for infectious diseases and lunch programs for Bosnian school children, as well as other educational outreach aimed at kids.
The nuts and bolts of all of these projects begins simply enough, at the table. There are 17 chapters, or convivia, in the U.S., where food lovers come together to explore culinary traditions and cooking styles from a local level outward. Opportunities to exchange food culture with convivia in other parts of the world adds another interesting layer. French magistrate and epicure Brillat Savarin said that "the destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they feed themselves." He also noted that "the table is the only place where the first hour is not dull."
If you happen to agree with Savarin and would like to join the newly forming Slow Food Monterey Bay Convivium, contact me at 394-5656, ext. 146.