Caution: Slow Food
by Patricia Draznin

I recently attended a conference on Slow Food because it seemed like as good a time as any to address the poor service we endure in understaffed restaurants. But as it turns out, Slow Food is a movement promoting the revival of Real Food, the unhurried preparation of fresh local produce raised the old-fashioned way, by the weathered hands of caring, low-tech farmers who know 50 cuss words for beetles and weeds.

Real Food isn’t news to someone with discriminating taste like me, who favors Wolfgang Puck Frozen Pizza over Swanson Macaroni & Cheese—both of which taste better thawed, just the way nature intended. I have even tried growing a few crops of my own, which you probably read about in my groundbreaking essay, Gardening for the Vegetable Impaired.

As we learn at the conference, BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL is the way to fuel a healthy diet, rather than seeking nutrition from cross-country kale or exhausted arugula flown all the way from Peru. The idea that fresh-and-delicious is the birthright of all taste buds is a concept I continue to ponder through my lunch break at Arby’s. And Real Food, as you well know, is not to be confused with Snooty Cuisine, which features fresh foods in humiliating entrées like broiled filet of carrots flambé arranged like Lego’s and circled by a “zesty trickle of ginger glaze marinated for 13 hours in a merlot reduction,” just the way nature intended.

More than gastronomes, Slow Foodies are gentle activists with a big beef against the Industrial Agricultural Complex, which raises a single crop of corn on a farm the size of Nebraska with the aid of chemicals and fuel-sucking machinery to fill our gas tanks with polluting, low-mileage ethanol. Is there a problem?

Slow Food is also generating a gaggle of new phrases to describe the stuff we didn’t know we needed words for. So—voilà—the following au courant lexicon will deliver us into The Age of Asparagus and allow us to converse like veterans at the next Sustainable Happy Hour:

ARTISANAL: foods produced in limited quantities, which does not include this morning’s clearance on yesterday’s Krispy Kremes;

CITIOT: a city dweller that searches rural regions for local fare and has to settle for Quiznos;

FREE-RANGE CHICKEN: poultry raised in unconfined areas and are even allowed to cross the street if they look both ways;

GOAT CHEESE: please don’t make me talk about this;

LOCAVORE: someone who eats local produce grown within 85 feet;

NATURE: the stickered items in the produce aisle;

SWANSON MACARONI & CHEESE: not fresh, not local, but slow to digest;

ZEBRA-STRIPED HEIRLOOM TOMATOES: What’s black and white and red all over?

Around the world, discriminating eaters are uniting to revive the endangered species of good food. Sounds like a plan to me. If you’re into it, wave your salad fork and do the stomach rumble. But just how slow is slow enough? Maybe we’ll all be inspired to bake the bread, grow the butter, gather the linguine, hunt the radishes, and weave our own napkins on a loom, just the way nature intended. And maybe we won’t be too exhausted to eat.

Copyright 2008 Patricia Draznin


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