Eat Slow, Live Long: The Benefits of Slow Food
Ours is a fast society. It’s all about speed – get rich quick, lose weight fast, get there fast – so who has time to waste on food? Naturally, we have fast food. Its fast, it’s fatty and it’s tasty and notorious for being all kinds of nasty to your health. It goes down quick and sits on your waistline and arteries, giving you double chins and potbellies. But it sure saves time, doesn’t it?
Now slow food is, well, SLOW! It’s full of natural ingredients and nutrients and requires plenty of time to prepare. Slow food has one big advantage over fast food, though. It’s slower to settle on the waistline, unlike its fast counterpart. Do we hear the stampede of heel-shod feet? Naturally, slow food is gaining its following from women for sure. But it is slow in growing its popularity, in comparison to the meteoric rise of fast food.
The big drawback is that slow food is expensive with all its unique, natural and seasonal ingredients. It also requires a little bit of time, skill and patience to make slow food taste good. It’s more of a lifestyle really. It’s about wanting to smell your locally grown bean filter coffee (or at least, fair trade), rather than gulping the instant variety in a rush. It’s about waiting for the summer fruit to ripen and then biting into the freshly picked fruit and savoring the flavor, knowing you won’t taste it again until next summer.
Slow food is also much more than just a lifestyle. It’s a movement like the Renaissance, but a tad bit low in scale. It was started sometime in 1986 by an Italian man called Carlo Petrini, as a fight against the biggest propagator of fast food – McDonald. It was a concept that led to the birth of the Slow Food organization which now has presence across 132 countries and boasts of 100,000 members.
The objective of the Slow Food movement goes beyond just food. Among its many nobler efforts we find formation of seed banks aimed at maintaining food sustainability and ecological heritage, organizing events to foster local tastes and culinary styles. And no, we don’t mean Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The Slow Food movement is out to educate people about the goodness of eating slow food and savoring the flavor slowly, about the disadvantages of fast food and current agricultural trends, such as genetically modified food. It also encourages family farming, organic farming, and kitchen gardening and buying from local farmers.
Just how much of it is actually making and impact on the world is anybody’s guess, despite their growing network of members. The movement has caught on in Europe much more than the US, the fast food hub of the world. Slow food also has major critics because its tenets are against the corporate economy and consumerist lifestyle of the world. Of course, if we do stop to smell the roses, we might actually see how it benefits us.
Let’s take one of the basic principles of the slow food movement – buying local and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Buying local is a great way to cut down on global CO2 emissions by avoiding packing and transportation costs. Slow food is all about changing today’s rush rush lifestyle which consumes everything on its way into the older, slower and cleaner lifestyle which was kinder to the environment. Slow food encourages all the eco-friendly habits that environmentalists are trying to instill the world over.
Another instance is the movement’s stand on genetically modified (GM) food. Slow food says absolutely NO to GM crops, because they are not natural and in the long run, detrimental to the local ecology. They urge citizens to create seed banks to preserve the natural ecology and also encourage the use of local farming techniques and culinary methods.
Slow food is all about kitchen gardens, of which we already know the benefits. But consider the lifestyle benefits as well. Gardening with kids and the family can give you time to bond, teaching the next generation the benefits of slow food and actually train them to survive on their own if necessary. You can read aloud Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson as encouragement too!
Buying organic – Now that’s become more of a fashion than a conscious habit. If the organic part is genuine though, it means the food you are eating has fewer pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals. Moreover, organic food (kitchen garden with kitchen compost qualifies) is higher in nutrients and is good for your immune system.
Scientists are already predicting that global warming alone will soon cause food crisis in the world. Following the slow food tenets might let you build a Noah’s Ark for the next generation. By encouraging local farming and local buying, the slow food movement also intends to discourage developed countries from buying fertile land in developing countries and cultivating genetically modified grains on their soil.
Take it one step further and cook with the kids. That way you can get them hooked on slow food (instead of them going out and getting hooked on fast food) and teach them to cook as well. That way, when the kids fly the coop, knowing how to cook can keep them out of the fast (read: junk) food lifestyle.
Slow food also encourages sitting down to meals together and sharing food with others. Cooking for friends, getting them to come over, can serve more than one purpose. Apart from spreading the slow food lifestyle, it is also a way to bring back the social togetherness of the yesterday. Dinner table conversations keep families together. Even restaurants provide slow food. Eating out can be a slow food experience as well. For the next birthday, anniversary or special occasion, why not celebrate with a bottle of wine from the local vineyard paired with some healthy, local cuisine?
By Maria Belgado