Slow Food movement targets fast food culture

Valentine’s Day seemed to be a great opportunity to talk about the Slow Food movement… Wow! Doesn’t that international organization have a catchy, nifty title?

What better time of the year is there to cook a fine meal with specially selected ingredients, then linger over it with your Valentine..

We’re all familiar with the concept of “fast food.” After all, who among you have not eaten (and, admit it, enjoyed) a burg at McDonald’s, or a bucket of chicken at “KFC” or other such providers of North American “quick cuisine”?

Although many of us heartily enjoy our ‘burgers, many of us also are aware that there’s more to cooking and eating than a hastily devoured meal in a “plastic-looking” restaurant.

So sure, the title “Slow Food” is innovative and catchy.

But what is this movement? The organization’s website at explains:

“Slow Food is an international response to the effect fast food has on our society and life. It questions the validity of the fast food philosophy as an unconscious credo that erodes our culinary heritage in the guise of efficiency.

“Slow Food was founded in Italy in 1986. It came into being in Bra, in the famed Langhe area of Piedmont. Led by Carlo Petrini and an amiable group of food and wine lovers, the association rapidly grew to gain international support.”

Today, Slow Food has more than 60,000 members, in 40 countries. The organization is comprised of more than 500 Convivia, or Chapters… including one in Toronto.

Developed as a backlash to fast food chains and the creeping prevalence to homogeneity of food culture world-wide, Slow Food provides a healthy reminder to us all that food is more than an afterthought. Food should be savoured. The building blocks of our meals should be wholesome and healthy.

But more than this, the Slow Food movement encourages us all to slow down, buy or grow the ingredients to our recipes with special interest, cook with care, and create meaningful meals where we actually sit down with our loved ones to eat what we’ve taken the time and effort to create.

Now, doesn’t that sound delicious?

In fact, all of us realize that food and water comprise the fundamentals of life. We are all-too-familiar with Walkerton and e-coli contamination of water. And we are equally concerned with food contaminants. It’s not just the threat of “mad-cow disease” that is troubling us. Let’s give the beef industry a bit of a break. It’s not only beef that’s at issue here.

Our entire food supply is something that we need to have a long, hard look at. Here in Canada (and the Pontiac) we grow good food, and most of us have access to it. This is a good thing yet in the last few years increasing numbers of the general public have questions regarding biotechnology and “transgenic” foods.

Unsurprisingly, the Slow Food website shares the association’s views on biotechnology.

“Biotechnologies have reached a phase in which so-called ‘transgenic’ products - products deriving from processes of genetic manipulation - are being marketed. The discussion norms with which to regulate the circulation of new living organisms is thus now open. Not that biotechnological innovation is a total novelty. Micro-organisms have been patentable for a long time, and the production of new vegetable varieties entitles the ‘inventors’ to royalties.

“Yet, seeing that biotechnological research now involves animal species and the human species itself, and that from many quarters the proposal has been put forward to establish a sort of long-term patent covering both transgenic products and the industrial processes used to achieve them, there can be no doubt that the present debate has taken on a radically different complexion.”

Further to this, the Slow Food organization’s manifesto floats a warning that ought to be heeded by us all.

“Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model. We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods. To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction.”

Does this sound like New Wave gibberish? If it does, I ask you to reconsider and to remember that each of us express our basic concerns differently.

What the Slow Food association is saying is actually nothing new at all… After all, who among us hasn’t heard that old saying, “you are what you eat”?

What does it mean? Thinking about its varied meaning leads me another reason why the Slow Food organization was formed. Its manifesto says that it was designed, “to protect the small purveyors of fine food from the deluge of industrial standardization; to ensure the survival of endangered animal breeds, cheeses, cold cuts, edible herbs - both wild and cultivated - cereals and fruit; to spread the teaching of taste; to make a stand against obsessive worrying about hygienic matters, which kills the specific character of many kinds of production; to protect the right to pleasure.”

Think about it.

And, check out that website, because there’s a wealth of products, literature and even awards and competitions to learn about.


Katharine Fletcher is a freelance travel writer who wishes her readers a happy Valentine’s Day from her electronic cottage near Quyon. Contact her at, or at voicemail at 458-2090.