I took the last post discussing my experience visiting Slow Food International’s University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, yet wanted to take a little more time to talk about the meanings and practices of Slow Food.
According to the Slow Food USA website, “Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization with more than 150,000 members and 2,000 food communities throughout 150+ countries. Slow food International states that “Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”
Yet for Life in the Food Lane blogger Francine Spiering, slow food means a more authentic experience with culinary sustenance. It is a whole body, whole lifestyle, whole world experience:
Slow Food for me is appreciating food in all its diversity. It is discovering regional cuisines and local ingredients. Raising a child to know the chicken, not the nuggets. Favoring individual chef-owner restaurants where the cooking is good and done with passion. It is a good wine, a microbrew beer, a signature cocktail. It is crusty great-smelling bread, artisan cheese, traditional charcuterie, and the ripe freshness of seasonal, local produce. It is always cooking fresh food at home (I believe the buzzword is “real food”), and taking time to enjoy food together. Slow is more than food. Slow is an unhurried lifestyle, even if you are in a rush. It means taking time for things and someones that matter to you. Slow is setting your alarm to watch the moon be eclipsed in a red-hued shadow, even if you have an early rise the next day. Slow is living the dream, when the dream is to cherish the life you live.
For me, slow food is going to your friends’ houses to pick up some fresh zucchini. It’s buying raw milk from a local dairy farmer. It’s discussing family over a long meal at a big table. And slow food in the US is hard to come by.
Bra, the birthplace of Slow Food International, serves as the perfect case study for understanding the meanings and practices of slow food. After visiting the university, I ate lunch at Slow Food’s restaurant – Osteria del Boccondivino in Bra. Set in a beautiful hidden courtyard outside the organization’s headquarters, the restaurant specializes on new daily menus that cater to the market’s fresh ingredients.
Additionally, the restaurant (and just about every other place in Italy) offers local wines you can drink with your multi-course meal. The restaurant’s wine selection specializes in Langhe and Roero traditions in the northern Piedmont area of Italy.
Likewise, the University of Gastronomic Sciences has the Wine Bank (la Banca del Vino) which serves as a depository of different wines from all over the world. Although it wasn’t open for tours when I was on campus for a visit, luckily I was able to check out Slow Food International’s pavilion at the Expo which featured raised beds and wine tastings from the Wine Bank. This still didn’t feel very Slow Foody. Back in Bra, however, my Airbnb host recommended visiting Giolito’s cheese shop down a back street of Bra. I was about 2 minutes too late, with the doors already locked for a lunch break, but they agreed to open the doors (probably seeing dollar signs and pure excitement in my eyes). That day they featured hundreds of different cheeses, some paired with special jams. Confronted with the option to try and buy a lifetime of affordable cheese from the shop owner himself – Fiorenzo Giolito – I opted for “I’ll try literally anything,” and was only pleased. I bought an equivalent to about $30 worth of cheeses and two jams (cherry and orange marmalade). THAT, unlike the restaurant, the pavilion, the university, felt like slow food. To have a conversation with someone about how the cheese tastes, where it’s made in Italy, and what the name of the farmer was, was priceless. Eating cheese for the next week was also priceless.
Because it is renowned for its quality and quantity of cheeses, this tiny shop supplies all of the cheese for Mario Batali’s restaurant chain Eataly.
They also host a biannual cheese festival in which more than 150,000 visitors converge on this small Piedmont town. You can watch in all of its spectacle here.
Mind you, I did eat lunch once at McDonald’s in Italy, and I completely regretted it. 😉