Keep Calm, and Eat Slow
by Noelle Chorney
“A gastronomer who is not an environmentalist is just stupid. Whereas an environmentalist who is not a gastronomer is sad. It's possible to change the world even while preserving the concept of the right of pleasure.”
— Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food International
When I mention to people that I am involved in the Slow Food movement, I am often met by a look of confusion. “You mean, like using a slow cooker?” No, I say, like everything that is the opposite of fast food.
Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini was determined to fight the cultural erosion brought on by fast food—industrialized and standardized “food” production that undermines local food cultures and traditions and family farms, and the rise of “fast life” that prevents families from eating together, affects our health, and disconnects us from the land and people that grow our food. He founded Slow Food in Italy after the first McDonald’s opened in Rome in 1989. Slow Food has since evolved into an international movement of millions of people in more than 160 countries.
When you hear Slow Food members talk about Slow Food, you will often hear us mention, “good, clean, and fair food for all.” That also often takes some explaining.
Former Slow Food USA leader, Richard McCarthy, said it best when he spoke at a gathering I attended at Terra Madre, Slow Food International’s biannual international conference, “We live in the magical space between the joy and the justice.”
Food is a complicated topic that impacts all of us. We all have to eat. And our food systems impact the climate, human rights, biodiversity, and every aspect of social justice. It is not easy to take a stand on food without coming up against other social justice issues.
And yet, food is a source of joy and delight. It is comforting, nourishing, and a reason to gather with fellow humans and enjoy a moment of pleasure together.
Slow Food is a social change movement that is thoughtful and complex. None of the issues are black and white. And those who are committed to Slow Food are working for many different causes, including:
- Animal welfare, whether you are a rancher raising grass-fed animals and part of the Slow Meat movement, or an ethical vegetarian.
- Biodiversity, whether you are a fisherperson involved with Slow Fish or a heritage vegetable farmer who is growing varieties preserved in the Slow Food Ark of Taste.
- Indigenous rights, whether you hunt on your traditional lands, or are speaking out for Indigenous sovereignty over food systems through Slow Food Turtle Island and other related movements.
- Women’s rights, because women, especially in developing countries, are working to preserve traditions and heal the land, and because feeding our families still often falls to women.
- Climate change, because what we eat is and will become even more directly affected by the climate crisis. When we talk about “clean” food, we mean food that is produced without harming the environment.
- Food access and food insecurity, because we are committed to providing good, clean, and fair food for all. If we are producing good and clean food, but it is too expensive for disadvantaged citizens, or farmers cannot afford to live on what they are making, then we have not succeeded.
So what does a Slow Food gathering look like? Generally it involves people around a table, lots of smiling and laughter, sharing good food. We revel in the flavours, our connections to the farmers, the season the food was harvested in, and delight in the company we’re sharing. We’re committed to the awareness that every time we eat, we are in relationship with the Earth, and that relationship comes with great gratitude, and also some serious responsibility.
What I have learned in the past five years of being the leader of Slow Food Saskatoon, the only Slow Food community in Saskatchewan (so we welcome anyone in Saskatchewan until more communities get established), is that Slow Foodies are committed to seeing our current food system as it truly is, and refusing to act as if our food “comes from a store” or that fast food is healthy for our bodies or the Earth—and we love to eat good food and share it with others.
I have also learned that Slow Food on the Prairies is counter-cultural. Slow Food International has taken a stance against GMOs, for example, and supports family-owned farms and locally-sourced food. We live in an agricultural province almost solely focused on exports, including GMOs, and farm acreage keeps growing.
I grew up on a Saskatchewan farm. I understand that export agriculture is part of Saskatchewan’s history. I also want there to be an acknowledgement and room for Indigenous food systems and a local food economy for those of us that choose to live that way.
Our Slow Food Saskatoon team is a group of passionate and committed chefs, academics, activists, foodies, and farmers who want to inspire people to think and care more about their food and the people who raise it. We raise money to send producers, chefs, and activists to Slow Food in Canada and Slow Food International conferences and to provide accessible food events that raise awareness about Slow Food.
The best way to interact with Slow Food Saskatoon is to follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our website (www.slowfoodsaskatoon.com). Come to one of our dinners—we host locally inspired dinners, such as our Field to Shield fundraising dinner in early October, which was a celebration of both Prairie and Boreal Forest harvests of cultivated and wild foods.
If you love food and care deeply about social justice and the environment, you have a place in Slow Food.
Noelle Chorney grew up on a mixed farm in Saskatchewan and always knew where her food came from. She is a food writer, a culinary judge, and has been the leader of Slow Food Saskatoon since 2014. For more information on Slow Food Saskatoon, check out www.slowfoodsaskatoon.com, call (306) 292-6634, or follow Slow Food Saskatoon on Facebook or on Twitter @slowfoodyxe.