You may have noticed recently that there has been a huge shift back to community: to local, to fresh, to sustainability and to grass roots. Farmers’ markets, local flea markets, op shops and community-minded events have experienced a tremendous surge in growth and popularity. This paradigm shift can be credited largely to people feeling stale and sick of their fast-paced, corporate lives where they eat what comes in packages, booze until they feel sick and consume foods from strange foreign countries made from ingredients they cannot pronounce.
Yes, the average consumer is clueing up and becoming smarter about their food choices. Whether it is the burgeoning organic produce aisles cropping up in major grocery stores or a growing interest in healthy living, people are ditching the quick and fast for the slow, local and wonderful.
So, you ask, what is Slow Food and what does it have to do with anything? The origins of Slow Food (SF), as with many fine food ventures, began in Italy in 1986, when the founding member of the organisation resisted the opening of a McDonald’s outlet near the Spanish Steps in Rome. The organisation has since expanded to include over 100,000 members with branches in over 150 countries. Essentially, the mantra of the SF organisation is to strip things back to basics – it strives to promote the consumption of local, sustainable produce, protect biodiversity in the global food supply and educate the population about fresh taste. It also seeks to promote interaction between local food producers.
Slow Food encourages people to think differently about the food they are consuming. They want consumers to ask more questions and make more educated decisions about what they are buying, cooking and eating.
How can you get involved in the SF movement? It is easy to get started and become a part of this growing community.
Shop and eat local
Research local farmers’ markets in your neighbourhood and pay a weekly visit to stock up on fresh and sustainable produce. The added bonus of farmers’ markets is that often the grower/farmer himself (or herself) is there at the stall so you can ask first hand about where the food comes from, what (if any) pesticides were used during the growing process and how often the food is harvested for sale. Farmers’ markets also tend to be ridiculously cheap, which is a huge bonus considering you are getting the freshest food available, that is more often than not organically and sustainably grown.
Rid your pantry of processed junk and only eat clean food
This one is really a no-brainer and I have spoken about it in earlier posts. Only eat real food. Don’t buy things that come in packets, cans, jars or freeze-sealed bags. Try to do smaller supermarket shops instead of one big weekly one to only buy what you need for a fresh meal. This way, you are less likely to start to gather mouldy old vegetables in your fridge.
Use and eat your leftovers
There are literally thousands of things you can do with excess food, and I’m not simply talking about taking your left over pasta to work for lunch the next day. If you have fresh herbs that are going off, cook up a big stock and chuck them in. Freeze the stock and defrost when you need it next. Have a mish-mash of vegetables left over? Throw together a big stir fry or curry and chuck them all in. Waste not, want not.
Try to eat at restaurants that use and promote local, sustainable produce
This is relatively easy to do in America (in New York in particular) but in Australia this can sometimes be a challenge. As consumers are becoming more food-conscious, restaurants are being forced to source their foods from more ethical and sustainable suppliers. By eating at these restaurants, you are reinforcing this positive message. As always, consumers can vote with their wallets so make your dollar count at the restaurants that strive to do the right thing.
When you do eat, eat slowly, with grace and pleasure
Have you ever sat in a food hall or restaurant and watch someone hurriedly scoff down a meal? Not only is it a disgusting thing to witness but it is bad for digestion and the psyche. Again, learn from the Italians – make every meal an occasion, even if you are dining alone. Turn off all distractions and take the time to physically and mentally enjoy your meal. Experience the aroma, chew slowly and savour the flavours. You will feel more satisfied and less likely to binge later, plus this method makes meal times just that bit more special.
The SF movement is a lifestyle, and one that you can easily embrace. Get out there in your community and start supporting your local growers and producers. There are some excellent organisations cropping up that could use your help and dollars. Slow food is nutritious and good for our bodies. It promotes health from the outside in. Make sure you embrace this lifestyle today.