How the Piemontese's love of food took over the world
The Slow Food Movement: how the Piemontese's Love of Food Conquered the World
Since the 1980's, fast food joints and burger bars have become part of many italian cities' urban landscape: the golden double arch of Mc Donald's can be spotted all over the country, and kids and teenagers love it. Truth is, however, Italians in general still have lukewarm feelings towards the whole "fast food" concept. We are a nation of food lovers, a nation that considers eating a social moment and cooking a form of art, the expression of a culture we are still proud to show to the world, in spite of how battered and humiliated our country may be from a political and economic point of view.
It is to this all-Italian sense of tradition, culture and, indeed, love for food, the Slow Food Movement owes its popularity in and out of the country: born in the beautifully unspoiled hills of the Langhe, in an Italian region, Piemonte, with one of the strongest Italian culinary traditions, this movement has taken the world by storm and has become a true symbol of Italian passion for food and love of its history.
The association was born in Bra (CN) in 1986, the brainchild of Carlo Petrini and aimed, since the very beginning, to oppose traditional values and methods to the ever growing and imported ideology of "fast food and fast living": yes, because the Slow Food Movement was not, and still is not, only about food, but about life choices. Since its inception, the group has been embracing the values and the lifestyle many of us Italians may associate to our grandparents and their way of life: a simpler, more wholesome version of today's consumeristic world, with the ultimate goal of "promoting the idea of food as a source of pleasure, culture, history, identity and of a true lifestyle, as well as a way of eating, which is respectful of the land and of local traditions".
According to its manifesto, the Slow Food Movement stands for three, essential concepts, the good, the wholesome and the right, adjectives that manage to define simply, yet strongly the characteristics good food must possess: "good" relates to the pleasure brought by it, but also to the complex series of memories and implications derived by the emotional and sentimental value food can have for each one of us. "Wholesome", is associated to the fact food must ultimately be produced respecting the environment and its ecosystems; "right", stands for its conformity to concepts of social justice, when it comes to its production and commercialization. Clearly, the Slow Food Movement's creed invests more than culinary expertise and tradition: it truly embraces a new way of thinking about eating and living.
Throughout the years, the movement has grown and spread from Italy to the entire world: this is important to remember. Although clearly and strongly associated to a vision of food and cooking which will always be intrinsically associated to our country, the values proposed by the Slow Food Movement are applicable to every place and every nation.
In order to spread awareness and strengthen its message, the movement has created, throughout the years, a series of collateral associations and bodies for the diffusion of its message and ideas: the Slow Food Editore is the association's publishing house, which focuses on the world of food and nutrition, with an accent placed on recipe books, food and wine guides, manuals on how to truly appreciate all that is "slow food", as well as tourist guides, all revolving around visiting an area on the basis of its culinary characteristics. Slow Food Editore also publishes a bi-monthly journal, which is at the moment available only to its Italian members.
Extremely important to the development and diffusion of the message has been the foundation of the Universitá degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo (CN), which aims at preparing and training the chefs and culinary specialists of the future. Essential to remember, again, is the international presence of the Slow Food Movement, a fact witnessed by the creation of several national Slow Food "Convivia", all over the world: there is one also for the USA, check it out at www.slowfoodusa.org .
By Francesca Bezzone
Born and bred in Piedmont, I lived for 15 years in Ireland where I studied literature and history, graduating with a PhD in Classics. I love music, arts and literature and with lifeinitaly I managed to make of my passion, writing, a job. Ask me anything about Italian food or the history of World War Two and I'll gladly entertain endless conversations with you!