Posted by: A Part of the Solution | August 15, 2010

Why Slow Food?

I just finished the online application and donation making my farm a member of Slow Food USA. For those of you reading who don’t already know the Slow Food movement, it started in Italy in 1986–originally to keep a McDonald’s from building on the Spanish Steps in Rome. Since then, the Slow Food organization has grown steadily with over 100,000 members in 132 countries around the world. Nowadays, the Slow Food mission encourages its members to preserve traditional recipes prepared by established methods using cultivars and livestock breeds appropriate to and characteristic of local ecosystems. Could there be a better match for this farm?

Slow Food is a powerful voice in the locavore movement. Slow Food encourages chefs to form relationships with farmers. Slow Food supports the  preservation and recovery of food folkways disappearing all over the world as agribusiness and convenience eating gain common currency and erode regionalism as expressed through diversity farming and seasonal food awareness and preparation. Slow Food supports seed saving and the redevelopment of now-rare livestock breedlines.

Slow Food is biggest in its country of origin, Italy. Of Italy’s agricultural land, about 28% is certified organic, and it is estimated that almost another 28% produces organically–though without the official certification and inspections in place. Italy is a place where people have been growing the same cultivar of peppers in the same valley for the last three-hundred-and-something years. And it is a place where people want to continue in their practices and traditions without industrial intervention.

Slow Food in the USA is necessarily a different matter. While there are breeds of farm animals in north America which have a specific tradition in defined locations, like the Florida Cracker cattle, most of our nation’s food folkways travelled across one or more oceans to get here–or were adapted to Old World conventions using New World ingredients. In the US, Slow Food may not always be able to focus heavily on preserving a single regional specialty; but it can, and does, focus on preserving biodiversity wherever it may be found as well as promoting the quickly disappearing food traditions in small communities throughout the country.

I say three cheers for any organization that wants me to make mushroom catsup, black walnut catsup and even tomato catsup. I say tra-la for Slow Foods when they want me to save Aunt Mary Jo’s Rose Geranium-Crabapple jelly recipe. I say hurrah for the people who hope we succeed in raising free-ranging Tamworth pigs, and even publicize the superior pork products this noble breed creates through its habits of foraging. And I say we all need to think a little more carefully about what we choose to eat, where it comes from, how it was produced, and whether this is the right time of year to be enjoying such food.

I know I’m a better cook through my intentional relationship with our farm and what it provides. I know I spend more time working out how to make food which reflects my location and the time of year. And I know this practice contributes to my health, and the overall maintenance and condition of the region in which I live and work. That’s why Slow Food is on my list–today, and every day.

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