First published November 2007, updated September 2011
We are not only what we eat, but how we eat.
This amusing snippet from the Simpsons sums up our general approach to food these days; particularly in developed countries:
Moe: I got this deep fryer on loan from the US Army. It can flash fry a buffalo in 40 seconds.
Homer: Forty seconds?? But I want it now!
It’s funny, but cuts incredibly close to the bone. Nearly 4 years after first publishing this article, I still eat 2 meals a day in front of my computer so I can keep working. I sometimes watch the microwave heating up whatever abomination I have chosen for a meal, impatient for the 2 minutes to hurry up already.
Food I sometimes make for myself has little to do with taste, but more to do with convenience and the “feed the machine” factor. I hardly remember having eaten.
Family meals can be a rather quick sort of affair these days in many households, take-out food is common and meals are often accompanied by the TV. I remember a time of lengthy meals when everyone talked about their day; expressed concerns and solved problems – and the TV being on was strictly forbidden.
Even in families that don’t eat a lot of take-out and do try to eat well, there’s usually room for improvement from a dietary aspect. Many pantries are stocked with pre-made, preservative laden sauces and freezers with frozen meals, even if those meals are “healthy”.
Food is such an important part of our lives, yet, like the general environment, it’s something we’re becoming increasingly disconnected from. For many of us, it’s all about speed – from convenience packaging, to the ease of actual consumption – after all, chewing takes time.
It’s often not that we don’t care about eating with our family at a leisurely pace, but rampant consumerism has led us to believe we need to acquire things; and those things cost money that must be earned. Home ownership in many countries places huge financial strains on families too; meaning both parents may be working, which leaves little time for food preparation.
Aside from the cultural aspects, the modern approach to such a basic and important function in our lives is creating a massive impact on our environment. Many of us are still unaware of problems related to issues such food miles, palm oil, soy beans and the connection between food and fossil fuel.
Enter the slow food movement.
What is slow food?
The Slow Food movement is about good, clean and fair food – living an unhurried life, beginning at the table.
Slow food principles state the food we eat should not only taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not negatively impact on the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work i.e – under fair trade values.
Slow Food is also about slowing down to enjoy life with family and friends; with food as a central focus.
It’s about connecting more with our food – whether it’s growing your own; or making something from scratch – perhaps baking bread at home. Some slow food principles can be worked into most lifestyles even if you can’t go the whole hog (so to speak).
The slow food approach to life also works in very nicely with the principles locavore movement, which is the practice of eating foods harvested from within a local area; usually within a 100 mile radius
While I’m not quite ready or able to become a “slow food” devotee – in fact, I’m eating my lunch as I’m typing this and once again feeling quite hypocritical even writing about on this topic, reading about this way of life does make me quite nostalgic for times past and the principles make a lot of sense.
I remember a lunch I attended about a decade ago that went for two hours. It wasn’t just lunch, it was more an event with incredibly tasty, fresh and healthy food consumed at a leisurely pace and in the presence of good company. I don’t remember many other lunches in my life so vividly.
While a 2 hour lunch every day is unrealistic for most of us, a 5 minute lunch in front of the computer is a bit of an insult to ourselves and the bounty that nature offers. We’re effectively just feeding at the trough, much like many of the factory-farmed animals we consume, and in turn, feeding the corporate machine.
Slow food extends way beyond sustenance and into every aspect of life – it’s a recalibration and re-evaluation of what is important. In some instances it may mean paying a little more for good quality and ethically raised foods, but that money can usually be easily gained through not buying as much of the junk that clutters our lives; the pursuit of which steals our lives and an unnecessary amount of our planet’s resources.
Slow food resources
If you’re interested in learning more about the slow food movement; there’s organizations in just about every country now; here are some links:
Slow Food USA
Slow Food Canada
Slow Food in the United Kingdom
Slow Food Australia
A full listing of slow food groups around the world can be viewed here.