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Slow Food

(article, Carlo Petrini)

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h3. From Chapter 1: "Appetite and Thought"

The Slow Food project was born in Italy in opposition to the fast food that landed on our shores and tried to take over, so the awareness that the issue was international was there from the start. The name we chose for our project, and the irony behind it, have caught on. Its force and its bite come from the choice of an English-language name conveying a stance that people all over the world immediately understand. 

h1. About the book and author

In the late 1980s, appalled at the arrival of McDonald's in Rome, the Italian journalist and activist Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food, a "nonprofit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization" with the stated goal of working "to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world." 

Slow Food is both a history, in Petrini's words, of the Slow Food movement and a series of arguments in favor of the Slow Food manifesto, which declares, in part, that  "a firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of the Fast Life."
Excerpt reprinted with permission of Columbia University Press (2004).


In taking a stand against McDonald's and Pizza Hut, multinationals that flatten out flavors like steamrollers, we know that we have to fight our battle on their ground, using their weapons: globalization and worldwide reach. If fast food means uniformity, Slow Food sets out to save and resuscitate individual gastronomic legacies everywhere; if haste threatens the enjoyment of tranquil sensory pleasure, slowness is an antidote to hurry and the gulping down of nourishment; if the new ways of absorbing nutrition create stereotypes that trample local cultures, Slow Food urges people to recover the memory of regional gastronomic practices. 

If hamburgers are being consumed mechanically and giving the same stimulus again and again to the sense organs of the young, then we have to undertake a campaign of permanent education of the taste buds; if the places in which fast food is eaten are aseptic and nondescript, let's rediscover the warmth of a traditional osteria, the fascination of a historic café, the liveliness of places where making food is still a craft; if the handing down of knowledge about material culture from generation to generation seems about to cease as lifestyles and eating habits become industrialized, then let a new international movement keep the knowledge alive and tell people where to go to find it.

If deranged habits of nutrition and fraudulently labeled foodstuffs threaten our health, then let's rediscover the well-being that comes from healthy food; if the invasion of agriculture by the chemical industry and senseless management of the land are menacing the environment, Slow Food supports growing methods that respect nature; if consolidation of the media is wiping out alternatives, the construction of an international movement fosters the exchange of information, analysis, historical research, and techniques of production.

Slow Food was born in Italy, but it does not speak for food and wine "made in Italy." On the contrary, the spread of the movement means receiving new input, mingling countless voices, discovering allies who think alike while respecting one another at a distance. It also means running the risk of misunderstanding and betting your trust on values like pleasure and quality that can vary enormously even within the bounds of Europe. But such a variety of people have joined or expressed support that Slow Food has become like a nerve center, getting and soliciting news about resources, products, and dining rituals that are universally enjoyable precisely because of their singularity.

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In order to learn how to find slow pleasure, one has to travel, read, and taste, abandoning the temptation of entrenched isolation; to eat a different kind of food in every street in the world is the best answer to fast food. Close to one another and yet distant, the members of Slow Food find their strength in this gift of ubiquity, but in a way radically opposed to what the media and McDonald's have to offer: slow culture is growing, it is heterogeneous but strongly cohesive, and it creates an elite without excluding anyone.

Being part of an international movement makes it possible to create real gastronomic identities that are not the result of ignorant fantasy or a media campaign; to practice cultural relativism in a sound way, learning and teaching that taste and distaste are the result of historical processes and cultural sedimentation; to overcome gastronomic chauvinism by incorporating diversities. Tradition, as a cultural goal, can only be recovered with a polycentric and multicultural approach of this kind.

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