When I first heard of the emerging Slow Food movement several years ago, I was skeptical. After all hadn’t I been cooking for many years using the finest and freshest ingredients available. Why did I need to join a group that was espousing the very same beliefs I felt that I had been living my entire career.
I learned that the Slow Food people gathered together in small local groups called conviviums. I didn’t even know what that word meant, so I was wary (I don’t like change). Turns out the root of the word is convivial, which basically means a group of people who are fond of eating, drinking and being social. When I reseached the events they were having it seemed like there was nothing new for me to learn, and most of the events were held during times when I had to work, which was basically all the time.
My conversion was slow (as it should be). Now I am a very passionate advocate of both the Slow Food and sustainable movements. For me the change occured when I began writing my food column for the local wine country newspaper. My column focuses primarily on artisans, farmers and food entusiasts. As I got to know these people, I began to see a common thread of intense dedication and integrity towards both healing our planet as a whole and promoting a solid sense of community and sharing through food.
The Slow Food movement began in Italy in the mid 1980’s and was founded by Carlo Petrini and friends, as a response to a McDonalds that was about to open in Rome. Carlo felt that the culture of good food and its traditions across the globe were in danger of being lost to the world of fast food corporations. He wanted to preserve the individual time honored heritage of all countries traditions, as they relate to food production. In short, Carlo set out to help preserve the very soul of who were are as global people.
Since that time, the movement has grown exponentially into one of the fastest growing idealolgies on the planet. In response, many of the worlds larger corporations are jumping on the band wagon, if for no other reason than it makes good marketing sense to appear to be doing the right thing.
As chefs, we have a responsiblity not only to feed people to the best of our abilities, but to do it in a way that nurtures our customers. I have found that the more I support my local farmers and artisans. And the more I attempt to cook without using shortcuts, the happier I am as a cook. Inherently I begin to feel as if I am truly making a differance in the world. As a chef I am often too busy to help in any other way and my involvement in the Slow Food arena has become food for my own soul as well.