SLOW FOOD. Slow Food Arcigola, founded in 1989 by Carlo Petrini and known simply as Slow Food, is an international movement headquartered in Bra, Piedmont, Italy, and organized around small, local chapters. Formed in 1986 in opposition to an attempt by McDonald's to place its golden arches in the Piazza di Spagna area of Rome, Slow Food's mission is to cultivate public appreciation for locally produced foods, wines, and authentic tastes. Pleasure and conviviality at the table are brought into harmony with humane, wholesome conditions of production. The movement encourages opposition to fast food and the fast life to improve the quality of life. While aiming to educate the public's palate, it advocates biodiversity in foods; local food and artisanal production; conservation of traditional foods and foodways and the environments that produce them; and measures to make traditional foods economically viable.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century the Slow Food movement counted sixty-five thousand members in forty-five countries on five continents. Chapters, called convivia internationally, numbered 560 worldwide, 340 of which were in Italy, where they are called condotte. The group's activities include public education forums, such as guided taste workshops, school programs, and conventions; and publications, such as guides to wines, cheeses, restaurants, food and wine cultures and their histories, and tourism. Slow Food is committed to philanthropy, including Le Tavole Fraterne or Friendship Tables; financing solidarity projects; and international charity programs, including sponsoring a soup kitchen in an Amazonian indigenous hospital and a school cafeteria in Sarajevo and rebuilding a cooperative cheese factory in Umbria, Italy, that was damaged in the 1997 earthquake. Through the Ark of Taste projects, begun in 1996, the movement advocates identifying and safeguarding endangered food "treasures," for example, charcuterie, cheeses, grains, vegetables, and local breeds; small, quality food products, such as lardo di Colonnata —lard packed in salt and herbs, served in thin slices on bread—and Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) cheeses; and agricultural and food heritage sites, such as, cafés, pastry shops, inns, and restaurants. The Slow Food presidia have focused on these areas to guarantee their economic and commercial futures, to protect the land from degradation, and to create new job opportunities. Small, quality food producers need protection against the industrial food complexes that control ever larger market shares and large-scale distribution. The industrial complexes often influence laws that threaten the very existence of traditional producers.
In the tradition of avant-garde manifestos, The Slow Food Manifesto (Paris, 1989) states, "We work towards the rediscovery of the richness and aromas of local cuisines by opposing the leveling effect of the Fast Life . . . which has changed our lives and threatens the environment and landscape." The movement's apt symbol therefore is the snail—small, cosmopolitan, prudent, and slow. The manifesto warns against being "too impatient to smell and taste" and "too greedy to remember what [we] have just devoured." Opposing fast cheap food and the values and systems of globalized food production, Slow Food can be firmly placed in the biocultural ecology movement. The mission statement of Slow Food USA reads:
Recognizing that the enjoyment of wholesome food is essential to the pursuit of happiness, Slow Food USA is an educational organization dedicated to the stewardship of the land and ecologically sound food production; to the revival of the kitchen and the table as centers of pleasure, culture and community; to the invigoration and proliferation of regional, seasonal culinary traditions; and to living a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.
The success of its agenda and the growth of its membership—attributable to the rise of an ecological consciousness among educated, affluent consumers, that fosters a concern with the quality of foods and their sources—have encouraged Slow Food to expand its publications, such as the Slow journal, published in Italian, French, English, and German; and to open offices in Switzerland (1995), Germany, (1998), New York (2000), and to make plans for an office in Paris. The group's highly successful international taste fair, Il Salone del Gusto, first held in Turin, Italy, in 1996, is a review of quality food and wine. With the theme of biodiversity, the fair between 5 and 9 November 1998 attracted 126,000 visitors and featured 300 stalls displaying Italian and foreign artisanal food in three halls devoted to charcuterie and cheeses; gastronomy; and pastry, cakes, chocolate, and coffee. Participants experienced tastings, conferences, seminars, and cooking and tasting courses.
The biennial Slow Food cheese fair was first held in September 1997 in Bra, Italy. The 1998 cheese fair was organized as a market devoted to the 127 European DOP cheeses. The Slow Food movement has also organized Excellentia for people to experience various wines; La Settimana del Gusto, a week of low-cost menus in restaurants throughout Italy to encourage those under age twenty-six to participate in quality food experiences; and Il Gioco del Piacere, biennial blind wine tastings attended by over fifteen thousand people.
See also Artificial Foods ; Fast Food ; Natural Foods .
Slow Food Editore, established in 1989, has produced about sixty publications, largely in Italian, devoted to the pleasures of wine, food, and conviviality. Among its best-known publications are the quarterlies Slow and Slowine; Osterie d'Italia [Taverns of Italy], a guide to traditional eating establishments; Vini d'Italia [Wines of Italy], a comprehensive guide to Italian wines with Gambero Rosso; and L'arca, the review of the Slow Food presidia project. Slow Food also publishes monographs on cheeses, beers, wines, and oils. Among them are Formaggi d'Europa [Cheeses of Europe], which includes the 127 European DOP cheeses; the taste manuals Dire, fare e gustare [Saying, doing, and tasting]; and Giacomo Leopardi, Il piacere del vino [The pleasure of wine]; Italian regional recipe books, such as Anna Gosetti della Salda, Le ricette regionali Italiane [Regional Italian recipes]; books on food history, such as Il gusto dell'agro [Savoring the sour], a history of vinegar; tourism books, such as Venezia: Draghi, santi e capesante [Venice: Dragons, saints, and scallops]; and reprints of classics, such as Silvano Serventi, Il cuoco Piemontese [The Piedmontese cook] (Bra, Italy: Slow Food, 1995), an eighteenth-century text on Piedmontese cuisine. The Slow Food Web site is available at http://www.slowfood.com.
Luisa Del Giudice