I recently read Carlo Petrini’s tome of taste, Slow Food: The Case for Taste. In true Slow Food fashion, I read it slow. Very slow(ly).
I read the pithy 111 pages in two short weeks, at a rate of approximately 7.92 pages per day. My girlfriend thinks that I read slowly because she reads so quickly, some sort of psychological self-inflicted complex if you will. I’ll admit that when you’re sitting next to someone who willingly studies (and comprehends) the likes of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, you tend to have a complex. She may be getting her PhD in reading comprehension, but I just enjoy reading at a Sunday drive pace. I like to savor each page, feeling the delicate texture of Helvitica text beneath my fingers and smelling the finely woven paper made from some distant rainforest.
Oh right, back to the book. Here is a quick summary: Capitalism is bad, less is better, regionalism is even better, and the 1600’s would be an ideal time period to return to. For real, this compendium is a metaphoric stockpot for the whole movement. Start with one Slow Food stockpot, add three quarts history, 2 cups code of ethics/ethos, and garnish with quotable bits of wisdom.
Petrini splits the book into four chapters that follow the progression of the movement, from a simple idea to an international movement. Chapter 1: Appetite and Thought, introduces Slow Food to the readers and promotes a “terroir of taste,” where environmental and cultural factors meet to create regionally specific patrimonies of products and flavors. Chapter 2: The Territory, advances the idea of territory by celebrating variety and diversity. In this light, Slow Food seeks to create a mosaic of geography and culture where you elevate the status of the producer to something more than just a farmer or a peasant. Chapter 3 details Slow Foods passion for education. Petrini advocates for a sensory alphabet where food is presented in a multi-sensory way with touch, smell, and taste. Once everyone knows this new alphabet, it is just a matter of learning the syntax and grammar of taste in order to form a gastronomic language. In the final chapter, The Ark, Petrini talks about the Slow Food Ark, a program designed to preserve products and produces on an environmentally and economic friendly scale. The idea of the Ark is to create an agriculture that is not a noose for producers and does not impoverish the local tastes, flavors, and odors of regional food.
This book is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in taking food seriously slow and enjoying food for taste and for nutrition. I enjoyed the overarching message and learning more about this now worldwide organization. While the language is sometimes flowery and poetic, the message remains clear: Slow Food is here to stay.