Do you make a weekly trip to the farmers market, seeking out the best and freshest local produce, honey, cheese, and fish? Do you prefer food produced using organic and sustainable practices? Is it important to you that those who nourish and provide the ingredients for your dinner be known and respected and fairly compensated? Would you rather invite the neighbors over for a locally sourced, lovingly prepared ethnic feast than to go out to the latest trendy fusion restaurant?
If so, then whether you know it or not, you're already a dedicated member of a worldwide movement known as "Slow Food." Officially begun in Italy in the 1980s as a response to the "fast food" incursions into regional cuisine, this way of looking at the world through food is much more than just a rejection of industrial food-it's a philosophy and a lifestyle.
The tenets of the movement are embodied in the three words "Good, Clean, Fair." Good food is first and foremost delicious and satisfying; it is also local, seasonal, and health-giving. Clean food is produced in an environmentally beneficial and sustainable fashion, with concern for animal as well as human welfare. And Fair food should respect the labor of those who produce it, and celebrate the cultures from which it emanates.
Slow Food USA, an organization with more than 200 local chapters, offers this simple statement that sums up the basic philosophy: "If you care about local farmers, ranchers, fishers; animal welfare; the joy of a shared meal; preserving food culture; protecting the environment or avoiding GMOs, we have a place for you at our table."
And indeed, Slow Food is about bringing all those elements together to create a joyful and respectful community centered around and celebrating food.
So what can you do to participate in this burgeoning movement? It's all about paying attention; learning and teaching; living and thinking locally; and enjoying the treasure of taking life "slow."
Become more familiar with your local food sources. Appreciate the food that arises from specific cultures. Find the time to educate yourself about where your food comes from. Encourage communal meals and events that bring together neighbors and generations around good, clean, fair food. And as the Italians say, ecco! Or, there it is. You're a card-carrying member of the Slow Food movement.
Did You Know?
The only real difference between white and red quinoa is color. Nutritionally, the seeds are about the same.
School Garden Projects
Gardening not only teaches kids where their food comes from, but also introduces them to the pleasure and value of growing things. Learn about school gardens and how to start one at edibleschoolyard.org, an organization started by noted Berkeley chef Alice Waters.
Neil Zevnik is a private chef in Los Angeles who is devoted to the idea that "healthy" doesn't have to mean "ho-hum." Visit him online at neilzevnik.com to learn more.
Photo: Pornchai mittongtare; prop Styling: Robin Turk; food Styling: Claire Stancer