Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest

21
January
2009

In the Mood for Slow Food

Slow Food USA, an organization devoted to the practice of using local whole foods in preparing meals, originated in Italy, not surprising, and has inspired an international slow food movement.

December-January 57

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Sixty bucks a year gets you into their inside track, in touch with a local chapter, and, importantly, informs subscribers about and supports local food networks. Slow Food’s philosophy: “It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work. We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become a part of and a partner in the production process.”

Cooking with food from nearby. It got me to thinking about my own slow food heritage. Unnamed as a movement then, many of the habits of my grandparents and parents in regard to our meals were as Slow Food has now been defined and politicized.  My grandmother participated in hardcore ranching and farming, held her own in her vegetable garden,  was a member and leader in three garden clubs, and in the midst of all that cooked three solid meals a day. (What she accomplished in the evening is another story.)  I was often nearby when she started her loaves of bread, made sour dough biscuits, or put together a pot of beans before breakfast, harvested vegetables for lunch and dinner; I was the recipient when she served it all up a few hours later. She also had a coop of chickens.

Lucky for me. I see now what it gave me. Early experiences reemerge in my own habits of cooking, of preserving certain things, keeping a small garden, filling a table with food, family and friends when I can, and feeling a certain ease with it all.

Whatever the food rituals were, slow food, whole foods or not, they’re passed on.  What that looks like is different in every household – it could be a meal from scratch every single night, or one each week, a trip to the Farmer’s Market for fresh whole food for one local meal or many.  Or, it could be processed foodlike substances we’ve come to love for their seductive taste and convenience, hate for their nutritional vacuum and relentless presence.

There are those in the movement for slow food and sustainability whose voices are knowledgeable and eloquent. I give them a big shout out today and invite you to watch the following videos and check out related links. Two video interviews with Mark Bittman are less than five minutes each and reveal his down to earth approach with food and cooking.  He’s captivating and he gets you to thinking.  Thanks again to Cooking Up a Story for the video resource.

It’s difficult for us to slow down for anything, but the Slow Food philosophy is a winner on so many levels.

How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman

Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, Mark Bittman

Flying Tomato Farms is a blog authored by a farmer and writer, a good writer I might add. This is a link to her reflections about Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food.

From Joan Dye Gussow’s essay, “The Many Wonders of Plants” (Center for EcoLiteracy), in which she repeatedly mentions children and their learning about food:

But today, we have the supermarket. A young child, seated in a grocery cart as it moves down aisle after dazzling aisle, would find it daunting to connect the colorful packages she sees with anything in the natural world; and so would her parents! The products that turn up on supermarket shelves seem to have been constructed not from plants, but from “ingredients” that have themselves been manufactured somewhere “out there.” To trace the origins of Froot Loops that have no fruits, and chocolate creme pies that have neither cream nor chocolate would defy most adults. For most children, as we know, to imagine back from the supermarket to the real source of foods is all but impossible. This is not an accident. The manufacturers of the products filling the shelves profit most from foods with the least obvious relationship to the Earth. More than 25 years ago, a food-industry analyst, commenting on processors’ vulnerability to rising costs, noted that “The further a product’s identity moves from a specific raw material — that is, the more processing steps involved — the less vulnerable is its processor.” More than 25 years later, the supermarket aisles are filled with products so far removed from anything nature produces that even that analyst might have been surprised.

Joan Dye Gussow’s book, This Organic Life: Confessions of an Urban Homesteader, is a biographical account of making her own and later a community garden. Seventy-plus years old now, she is a professor of nutritional education who became a forward thinking organic farmer decades ago.


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2 Responses »

  1. Interesting info, thanks for sharing 🙂 It *is* interesting how there is now a label and “movement” for a practice that was once simply a way of life, not requiring conscious effort.
    Joan Dye Gussow’s comments especially struck me as this is something I have been thinking about for a while now but have not really been able to put into words. Your post made me think about it, and for me, I realized that so much about one’s attitude/lifestyle/viewpoint comes from what one is/isn’t exposed to as a child.

    What one sees, internalizes, and experiences becomes the “norm” and the automatic behavior. For me, for example, cooking bread at dinner each night, speaking a particular language, and eating a vegetarian lifestyle is normal, as that is what I grew up with. I think that is *is* possible to live within the world of grocery stores etc. that are somewhat removed from the growth process when there is active engagement and an effort to understand where food comes from. When a parent/caregiver naturally speaks about, e.g., how fresh a peach looks as if it was recently picked from a tree, or speaks of the apple tree in the house next door, a child can pick up on that and learn more. But yes, it takes an effort, whereas in other times/places it would be automatic.

    One of the most exciting things I have been reading about is urban gardening in schools with students. They plant, tend, and harvest their own veg, learning the science, ecology, economics, and community that goes along with it. And interestingly, the children have been found to not only enjoy eating their own grown food more than if the same item were simply delivered as part of a school meal, but also to eat more “nourishing” foods and appreciate where it comes from. It may not always be practical, but having just that small pot or patch to tend can make a huge difference.

  2. Mangochild, Thanks for sharing your own perspective. Different food experiences from childhood, but a common connection around it all now.
    And yes, now that it doesn’t happen naturally, and that the aisles of grocery stores are the known, I think we need to make conscious efforts to introduce children to whole/real food.