This time around, we would like to introduce you to Slow Food, a synonym for good, clean and fair food. These three simple adjectives define the food’s concept: how important is good food for people and the planet? What can we all (producers and consumers) do to protect food biodiversity?
Food that is Good for People, Good for the Planet
The Slow Food movement believes that it is essential for people’s health and the health of the planet to change the way we produce and consume food:
“Fast and industrial food harms not only human health, but contributes also to the destruction of ecosystems, the livelihoods of small farmers and the collapse of livestock breeds, fish stocks and species. If we want to survive on this planet into the future and be able to sustain the increasing population growth, then consumers need to promote sustainable production and consumption methods and oppose the destructive mechanism proposed by the food industry, which follows solely monetary interest and not the long-term goals of maintaining a harmonious balance of resource use and recovery. The trend of exhausting our soils, resources like water or fish stocks, currently leads to the collapse of ecosystems and to the extinction of many species; the decline of bee population is one prominent example in this context. This is why Slow Food advocates for good food and the preservation of food biodiversity.”
The Responsible Fashion Company by Francesca Romana Rinaldi, co-author Salvo Testa, clearly defines this concept, considering (agricultural) food sector an example of best practice in corporate responsibility (from pleasure to health, from environmental balance to labour exploitation), representing particularly [best practice] in terms of marketing and communication.
Slow Food International
Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic organisation with a network of around 100,000 members in over 150 countries and 1,500 convivia worldwide. Started in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1968, the Slow Food movement’s initial aim was to defend regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life.
The association is coordinated by an International Council, with organisational structures at a national level in Italy, Germany, United States, Japan, Great Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands and recently, Brazil, Kenya and South Korea.
Food Biodiversity and Quality Artisanal Product
What does Slow Food concretely do today to preserve food biodiversity and promote quality artisanal products?
With its two international projects, the Presidia and the Ark of Taste projects, the Slow Food organisation works very closely with small-scale producers of artisanal quality productions that belong to the cultures, history and traditions of the entire planet:
“The Ark of Taste functions as an online catalogue to point out the threat that certain traditional products are undergoing and invites people not to forget about their existence and to consume them again. With the Presidia project, Slow Food offers producers positive technical and financial support to improve their production methods and better their livelihoods. Last but not least, with the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance, Slow Food tries to connect producers and chefs, encouraging chefs to use the regional products of their area and to highlight the use of these products on their menus.”
Slow Food also organises Earth Markets with quality artisanal products and, during events, it prioritises artisanal products from small-scale producers the organisation works with. By raising awareness, Slow Food tries to make people aware of the difference in tastes and the importance to be able to choose from a wide variety of foods.
Sustainability, Responsibility, Eco-Friendliness, and…
Food must also be diverse, nourishing, culturally desirable and adequate based on the specific geographical location and context of a person’s diet.
According to the Slow Food’s philosophy:
“The nature of food is traditionally different based on the cultural background of a geographical area, and people should be able to continue to eat what is culturally desirable for them. Preserving food traditions and biodiversity as well as the variety of tastes is currently a main challenge and an aspect where the current food system definitely needs to change.”
“Go Slow in Your Life. Go Slow in Your Community”
How can you be a responsible consumer? A good consumer is always aware of where their food comes from and what their food contains.
The Slow Food movement encourages “responsible consumers [to] favour seasonal, local food, cook meals and avoid processed and industrial products. Industrial products such as instant and fast foods should be avoided because they generally involve high carbon footprints, long unsustainable food chains, an unethical financial exploitation of farmers and the destruction of local economies and markets, high levels in waste production and the addition of artificial and unhealthy flavour enhancers.”
The Slow Food movement provides concrete steps: “One can become a responsible consumer by buying the primary ingredients instead of an instant meal, buying food from farmers markets, getting involved in gardening and urban gardening or community-supported agriculture projects or favouring sustainable packaging and growing methods as well as local varieties and a diverse diet.”
Following the Slow Food principles, another important manifesto, the Eataly’s Manifesto, says: “We are in love with food.”
Eataly is the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world. Founded by Oscar Farinetti in Turin, Italy, this non-profit, eco-gastronomic, member-supported organisation aims to offer the best products at the lowest price points by the support of the local farmers (fishermen, butchers, bakers and cheese makers). They believe that the best way to promote a real understanding of high-quality food and drink is to share with all of us the stories of the people who are the producers and the places behind what they offer because, “the more you know the more you enjoy.”
And what about Rawism? Well, this is definitely a new and up-and-coming healthy food trend! We talked about raw foodism with Vito Cortese, Italian Master Chef and founder of Nudo&Crudo, the most influential raw food in Italy, who explained to us that raw does not mean cold as food is still somehow warm, even if its temperature is within 42°C degrees to preserve important nutrient values and digestive enzymes not contained in cooked food.
Lorena Loriato, part of this great team, represents Nudo&Crudo in London and the UK market; she is the only Italian raw chef in London. You can read all about Rawism here.
How to become a Slow Food member?
Slow Food is open to all: “The diversity of our members is one of our greatest strengths. As a grassroots organisation, our members are invited to play a direct and active role, bringing the Slow Food philosophy to life locally and helping to change the global food system by becoming part of an international network of like-minded people. Members join local chapters known as convivia, autonomous groups that form the building blocks of the association.”
One can support Slow Food by embracing its philosophy in daily consumption habits or easily become a Slow Food member by signing up.
All around the world, local Slow Food convivia organise myriad events every week to share knowledge of local foods and producers. They bring the Slow Food philosophy to life with conferences, discussions, film screenings/festivals, taste education courses for children and adults, promoting farmers’ markets or supporting local and international campaigns.
In order to find out what is going on, in a specific location, it is best to contact the area coordinator or a local convivial leader to get more information about upcoming events, or visit their local Slow Food websites.
Slow Food International is currently organising its presence during the six month Expo 2015 in Milan, its participation will include its own Slow Food area. Other international Slow Food events that are happening this year are Slow Fish in Genoa, Italy, (May 14-17) and Cheese in Bra, Italy, (September 18-21), as well as AsiO Gusto in South Korea and Indigenous Terra Madre in India. More information about the international events can be found in the Slow Food Website.