Carlo Petrini and the Slow Food Movement

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Mother and kid at farmer's marketIn a nut shell, the slow food movement is the opposite of fast food. In fact, it was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy as an initiative to preserve local, cultural cuisine, and thereby combat the unchecked growth of unhealthy fast food. The slow food movement encourages us to return to our roots.

We are eating diluted, processed, non-local foods

100 years ago just about every meal was made from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. You went to a local farm or market and purchased in-season grains, meats, dairy, and produce. You then had the time at home to cook up a healthy meals for your family using ingredients that carried a lot more nutrients than the diluted, processed, and preserved stuff we ingest today.

What has changed?

Over the past couple decades industry growth factors, including the ascension of women in the workplace, an overcrowded and over-productive work day, and the replacement of family time at the dinner table with television and late nights on the job have turned us into a society that all but ignores what we put in our bodies. Did you know that Apple today contains a fraction of the nutrients it did 100 years ago? It’s not all that surprising, considering the efforts and technologies that have gone into mass producing food more efficiently and at a lower cost.

We live in a world of boxed, pre-packaged foods

Grocery store aisle - packaged goodsWhen you go to your local grocery store you’ll see produce from all over the world. Think of all the pollution and energy that was used to get that food to your grocery store. Not to mention the unregulated working conditions of workers in developing countries. And once you get past the produce aisle you’ll see nothing but aisles and aisles of boxed food, with an ingredient lists that wrap around half the food container, and contain words that half the biochemist students out there have not yet learned.

How much corn is in your body?

Finally, you’ll notice just how much corn is in every product, primarily in the form of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. In other words, sugar. Did you know that the American food pyramid allows up to 25% sugar, while other countries average 10%? And we wonder why we have such an obesity problem?

The bottom line – eat local & seasonal

Food outside at farmer's marketThe bottom line is that today’s food industry is controlled by a few large multinational corporations whose primary interest lies in profitability. The slow food movement encourages a return to local farms and local, seasonal ingredients. In turn, you won’t only be eating healthier, but we hope a renewed interest in learning about what you put in your body will also help you take the time to not only enjoy what you’re eating, but to spend time with those you love while you do.

Think of all the good times with family you have during Christmas season – cooking, hanging out, and enjoying home cooked food. Realize what it is you love about these moments and apply them throughout the rest of the year.

Alex loves nature and does his best to take care of the planet. He doesn't take for granted the serenity that can be found in the stillness of an ancient forest, or the majestic power of the ocean's large waves as they crash on an isolated island shoreline. He wants to raise awareness for how simple it can be to make a couple changes in your everyday life that can make a huge difference for the environment in the long term.

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8 Comments on "Carlo Petrini and the Slow Food Movement"

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I support this slow food movement. Now a days it’s difficult to get organic fresh food in the market, since the companies that manufacture tinned and processed food are in demand. As a result, we’re dealing with a number of health problems, including obesity.
Food is one of our needs in everyday living. Today most cultures use farming, ranching, and fishing; with hunting, foraging and other methods of a local nature included but playing a more minor role, whether plant, meat or liquid. Here’s one site where you learn a lot about the healthy food around you.
It’s always great to see more and more blog posts about the slow food movement. We really need to keep the ball rolling with the slow food phenomenon. The only thing I don’t like is the name… slow food can actually be quite fast. You can eat whole foods faster than going to your local fast food joint and ordering something greasy.

-Mary, writer

What my wife and I love about the slow food movement is that it brings people together. Now only are you contributing locally sourced, delicious home made foods (we get together and have a large pot luck in someone’s back yard). But you get to spend quality time with friends and family – something that is too rare in this corporate, capitalistic, $-driven world of ours…

Sustainability is one of the keys of Petrini’s movement as well. Petrini coined the term “eco-gastronomy” to describe his concept of economically sound traditional cuisine that is inherently sustainable. The way of life he grew up with as a child undoubtedly shaped his love of traditional Italian countryside culture, which had been sustaining itself without outside influence for over a thousand years. Dairy and goat farms, traditional slaughter houses, olive farms, and wheat, rye, and whole grains had been the staple of the peoples’ diet, and they lived long and happy lives without grave health concerns that plague people of the modern era.

Petrini’s Slow Food Movement spawned an overall Slow Movement, which looks beyond food at ways to slow down the pace of life today for the sake of lowering stress, anxiety, and disease, as well as living more sustainably with the environment. The Slow Movement questions daily life as well as travel habits, and questions the pace of modernized societies. Petrini regularly speaks on behalf of the Slow Movement, believing in the slower way of life and believing that a great way to start in this way of life is to change the way you eat.

Petrini’s early work as a contributing writer to communist publications have led some to the mis-notion that Petrini’s ideas with the Slow Food Movement are communist in nature. This notion is, in fact, untrue, but rather are meant to show people that the breakneck speed of expansion and globalization comes at a high cost to personal health and happiness. He does not advocate against international business as a whole, either, preferring instead to advocate “virtuous globalization”. Virtuous globalization is used to describe multinational business conglomerates that remain sensitive to local environment, customs, and traditions when expanding into a new area. The arguments he uses for this are not economic in nature. Petrini grounds his sentiments in tradition and not in economics, promoting enjoyment and sensuality in cooking, baking, and dining.

The charismatic words of Carlo Petrini have been heard by sympathetic listeners around the globe, and people are listening because they believe in the message: Slow down and taste the roses.

Though many people are into Slow Food, many people only know bits and pieces about the life of Carlo Petrini. I think this is really a tragedy because he is really an interesting historical figure whose life we can learn a lot from. If you have respect for the movement he brought to life, then you should take the time to learn who he was, what he was about, and where his heart lied.

Carlo Petrini founded the International Slow Food Movement in 1989, and since then the Movement has gained over one-hundred thousand members in over one-hundred and fifty countries. The movement was pioneered by Petrini and others of like mindset after Petrini gained prominence in the 1980’s for his role in the protest against McDonald’s opening a fast-food restaurant on the historical Spanish Steps in Rome.

Petrini himself was born in 1949 in the province of Cuneo, Italy in the small town of Bra. The small town appears the same now as it has since for over a millennium, with narrow streets, sweeping vistas, and a traditional way of life that has not been altered by the introduction of technology. The entire province has a slower way of life, with value on family time, farming, and the home, and the towns in the province are relatively un-developed in terms of chain businesses and franchises, instead focusing on local businesses or self-sufficiency. The geographical and cultural aspects of Petrini’s upbringing are what he credits with having shaped the views that would later lead him to join the protests in Rome, and finally to leading his own international movement.

Prior to the protests, however, Petrini first became well-known as a contributor of culinary articles to communist newspapers. His early career focused in the culinary arts and the traditional style of Italian cooking, including curing meats by hand, churning and culturing dairy products, and drying and canning produce and vegetables. Petrini looked at these things as keys to a great life that should be valued much more in modern societies. To this day, he is still a contributing writer to many publications in the culinary realm. In addition to speaking and running workshops on behalf of the Slow Food Movement, he is also the senior editor for the publishing house Slow Food Editore, as well as being a regular journalist for La Repubblica.

Petrini started the International Slow Food Movement in response to the fast food movement that led to a McDonald’s nearly opening a franchise near the Spanish Steps. The concept of Slow Food is simple: Go back to a simpler, more wholesome way of life, in which people ate more whole foods that were nourishing and earth-friendly. Petrini advocates that eating this way is better for your health, better for the environment, and better for a higher quality of life for everyone.

The founding Manifesto for the Slow Food Movement was signed by Petrini as well as representative members from fifteen other nations in Paris, France in 1989. The underlying sentiment of the Manifesto, and the Slow Food Movement as a whole, was not a protest against McDonald’s specifically. Rather, it was signed as a protest against international big businesses that were eroding local and regional quality of life for their own profit. This concept is still at the center of the Slow Food Movement, as well as the Slow Movement in general.

Instead of high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar fast food that is overly packaged and preserved, slow food consists of whole grains, fresh vegetables, seeds, and livestock, prepared slowly and with care in regional tradition. Indeed, tradition and a slower pace of life are the crux of the slow food movement, which aims to promote small food and dining shops as well as local restaurants and food vendors. Fast food is, according to the movement, a plague that is taking over and eroding a region’s unique sense of identity. Plus, it is over feeding the population, pushing the age of obesity over the edge and setting people up for heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, fast food jobs are low-paying compared to traditional restaurant work, and fast food chains have been linked to poor working conditions as well as inhumane slaughter of animals, contamination, and worker mistreatment.

As I read the article and thought more about this whole idea I became more and more interested. At first, I thought that this was going to be a typical anti capitalism type of reactionary piece. I was actually very pleased to discover that the article was well thought out and logically argued. I have thought for a long time about the inherent contradiction that some of the worst areas of our inner cities (as defined by crime and violence statistical measures) have a much larger proportion of fast food restaurants than any other area. I also wonder whether making places like McDonald’s such a big part of the inner city diet is actually altering the brain chemistry of people, especially children. Is it possible that eating a large amount of our diet with ingredients that are unhealthy is in fact creating conditions which contribute to higher crime and violence?

There are a number of experts who also believe this. I think they call it something like a nutritional theory of violence or crime. It is certainly interesting to think that if we did something simple like changing our diets we may even affect society in a profound and meaningful way.

Kathy Faust
I had never heard of this concept before, but what a great one to learn of! I use the idea myself, but didn’t know it had a name. I’m as guilty as anyone of falling for the fast food trap. Much of my life has been spent working 2 and even 3 jobs at a time. That means it was much easier to stop at a fast food place and pick up dinner than to spend the time actually cooking dinner, never mind trying to grow it. But this year I bit the bullet.

I bought some land and I planted a large garden. Will it sustain us for the whole year? Probably not. Do I have enough variety? Probably not. But here’s the thing: I have neighbors and friends who will swap garden items with me. And even if they don’t and I end up canning and freezing much of what I get from the garden, it’s a step in the right direction. And this year I’m making the time to do it knowing it will not only save me money on the long run, but it will help my family get on a healthy track.

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