What is slow food? The Slow Food Movement is a social movement in response to our rapidly changing lifestyles. Specifically, the spread of fast-food. As a result of fast-food and processed food taking over the culture, many valuable aspects of our relationship with food have been lost.
Slow food is an opposition movement to slow the drift away from the tradition, culture, and quality of locally sourced and prepared food. So, what is slow food? It is a grassroots solution to the problem of so-called progress.
What is Slow Food? The Opposite of Fast Food
The fast-food and processed food industries have nearly taken over our culture. Our desire for speed and convenience have led the way for our food to become industrialized. We have moved away from food as nourishment of the body and spirit, toward food as a problem to be solved by industry. As a result, we have seen the decline of food as an essential part of our culture. We have abandoned food as an important connection between people, our environment, and our heritage.
In the wake of fast food taking over our towns we have lost touch with what food really means. We have lost the tradition of family dinners. Our focus on speed has allowed the rise of processed foods to crowd out the local, fresh ingredients. We have re-ordered our priorities according to fast-paced modern living. In doing so, we have forgotten how food preparation is much more than just a chore.
For a complete history of the slow food movement and the many reasons why slowing down and having home cooked family meals may lead to better health and wellness, see our post on Slow Food.
What is Slow Food? Real Food
What is slow food? Slow food is just food as it is meant to be. The slowness is nothing more than a way to call attention to the fact that we have allowed the convenience of fast food to define our relationship with food. Food is not supposed to be fast. What we eat takes time to grow. It takes time to draw nourishment from the earth and sun. So it makes sense that it takes us time to source, prepare, and to eat food.
So when we ask, “what is slow food?” the answer is: real food. Fast and processed foods may be convenient, but they are a short-cut. Short-cuts tend to leave something out. What the slow food movement hopes to accomplish is a return to those things that have been cut out.
Hildegard of Bingen was an advocate of certainly an advocate of slow food and slow healing, and we think she would have promoted tips for slow food success, if there had been any alternatives in her time.
Ten Tips to Slow Food Success
In this post we want to leave you with more than just the answer to, what is slow food? So we have come up with some simple recommendations to help you implement a new set of priorities. Our tips here will hopefully make your transition into slow food go smoothly. We want to empower you and your family to enjoy the many benefits of healthy, home-cooked meals shared with those you love.
So what is slow food? It is a way of life. Here is how to reclaim your relationship with food.
(1) Redefine What It Means to Cook
What is slow food? The answer is in how you define your relationship with food. You need to dispel the mentality that cooking is a chore, a burden, or waste of time. Embrace cooking as an act of love. Sourcing, preparing, and sharing food is an incredibly intimate and loving act.
Whether it is cooking for one or for your multi-generational household, each meal is an opportunity to demonstrate love and to share and connect through food, as we are meant to do.
How you frame your feelings about cooking is the foundation for everything else. If this is where you struggle, you should focus on this aspect before proceeding. You will answer the question of ‘what is slow food’ first through how you internalize your view of cooking.
(2) Own Your Domain
Your kitchen is your creative workshop. You control the tools and ingredients. You need to remove those things that do not serve you and your health. Get rid of the sweets, the old stale spices and condiments, the clutter, the processed foods that whisper in your ear in those moments of weakness.
What you stock in your kitchen and how you operate within that domain will shape your relationship with healthy family cooking. Treat the area with the same respect you would for any other important workspace. “What is slow food?” should be reflected in the tools and spaces where you prepare your food; you value the process of preparing food.
(3) Stock Your Kitchen with Healthy Building Blocks
Begin by slowly stocking the basic building blocks of healthy meals. You should keep your kitchen stocked with essentials like these in order to give you the ability to be creative, flexible, and nimble in your food preparation. Don’t let a missing staple item get in the way of a healthy meal. Keep the basics stocked so you can be efficient and creative. Slow food doesn’t have to be difficult. Slow food is just food that you have prepared. The right building blocks make the preparation swift and easy. What is slow food? It can be fast food that you create!
(4) Make Family Dinners A Priority
Set a specific day(s) and time for family dinner. No exceptions. Try starting with a weekly meal first and build from there. Dinner should be free from distractions like TV and phones. You can make it social by inviting friends. Don’t let the hurried pace of life overrun this important family time. Be sure to make the entire process a family event, from cooking through clean-up. Many of the benefits of this slow food approach come from sharing in the entire process. What is slow food? It is the opportunity to connect with people you love.
(5) Ritualize Mealtime
Cooking and eating together should become a ritual. The meals needn’t be fancy or involve a complicated process. The actual act of preparing and eating together should be treated with care and respect. If not, the process will continually be subordinated to other (supposedly) more pressing things. The habituation of the slow food process comes through repetition, but also by giving the experience a sense of reverence. What is slow food? A sacred ritual.
(6) Food Sourcing is a Skill. Learn it, Teach it.
There are many resources books and tutorials out there that you can use to hone your skills in grocery shopping. Use these resources to make your shopping experience smooth and efficient. Learn about local farmers markets, Community Shared Agriculture (CSA), and other local food resources so you can enhance your healthy options. Involve your loved ones in the process. Make it a goal to learn together and/or teach them what you know. What is slow food? A Chance to learn and grow together.
(7) Plant a Garden
There is nothing more local than your own garden. Create your own farm-to-table experience by growing some of your own food. Gardening is a also great way to involve kids. Children are naturally fascinated with growth. Use a garden as an opportunity to teach them about healthy foods and where food actually comes from.
If you don’t have space for a garden, consider a small collection of fresh herbs or a Hildegarden of healing herbs that can be grown on patio or balcony pots. Even small things like fresh chopped chives from the windowsill garden will deepen your relationship with food. Check with your local community garden organization. You may be able to have your own garden in a public space or community garden plot near you. What is slow food? A chance to grow your own food.
(8) Invest in Your Food
You are what you eat, so investing in your food is an investment in your own health and well-being – and that of your loved ones. When you find healthy foods you enjoy, don’t hesitate at paying more for them.
Much of the current anti-big-agriculture sentiment is well-founded, but what we often overlook is that the industrialization of food has created a lot of inexpensive foods. As a result, we have grown accustomed to the inexpensive, bulk food items.
So don’t let marginal price increases or sticker-shock on some items keep you from preparing the healthy foods you enjoy. We spend far less than our grandparents did on food and yet we still struggle with the idea of paying more for quality.
You need to adjust your thinking to a quality-over-quantity. Chances are, you are spending more than you realize on large quantities of items that are not healthy or end up going to waste. High quality food is often worth the price difference. We are not suggesting being frivolous. You should still shop around and use coupons. You will get good at finding high quality food for reasonable prices. So don’t dismiss fresh, healthy ingredients that you enjoy too quickly due to price. What is slow food? An investment.
(9) Quick and Simple Can Be Healthy
There are many ways to prepare healthy, whole foods in quick and simple ways. The notion of “slow” is more about internalizing mealtime as something to be valued, savored, and shared. Slow food does not have to involve a formal, complicated meal. After all, the slow food movement started with a bowl of penne pasta shared by a crowd in Italy.
Closer to home, many of our own Hildegard-inspired recipes are quite easy. Give them a try – or share some of yours with us! What is slow food? Simple, healthy food.
(10) Slow Food Starts with You
“My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.” -Orson Welles
Sharing food with others is a essential part of Slow Food. But there is a lot of value in the process, even if it is just cooking for one. The important part is in how we value the the process.
Sharing food can be a great way to express this intimate act of giving. But there are times when we just need to eat. Don’t sacrifice the slow food process because you are eating alone. You are taking care of your own health and well-being, that should be reason enough!
So if you live alone and cook meals at home, don’t be shy, share the slow food experience with friends and neighbors. Create a weekly dinner where you gather with friends to cook a meal. Rotate homes and menus. Find opportunities to connect with new people over a home-cooked meal.
Many cities have events and dinner clubs through Slow Food USA or through other organizations. Do some research, find a group that might be a fit and take a chance. What is slow food? A chance to share.