A Thought for Food – Slow Food
Eating poorly or inadequately in our fast food culture is easy. Overworked and stressed, we rush out to find a quick bite and often find solace in a burger or a hot dog. The temptation of sugar, salt and fat feel good while we are eating it, but it really does little to satisfy us. It is convenient at the time and stills our hunger. Dinner might be a quick microwave meal, frozen pizza ready in minutes in the oven, or even take out. Looking at the long-term effects, it will make our family and us fat, lazy and sick!
We know that! However, I am still surprised when I read articles or watch reports that show over two thirds of us are overweight and one third obese. More disheartening is the fact that over one third of our children are overweight and the CDC says that of the children born in the year 2000 — 30 to 40% — will become diabetic in their lifetime. We’ve read these dismal statistics so often — over and over, yet the numbers keep going up
As parents, we often preach to our children about the value of food, but send them mixed signals when meals are eaten in front of the TV or computer or take out food is ordered every other night. In our fast-paced life, time is of the essence and convenience becomes the main issue. In America, one of every four meals is eaten at a fast food restaurant; one in four is eaten in a car, and one in three in front of a TV or computer.
Consider what these children are learning about the value of food. We are teaching them that it is “easier” and “cheaper” to purchase this type of “food” than to prepare real food at home.
In one article I read recently, a mother had never prepared a home cooked meal for her 4-year-old daughter. Such examples (or lack of) say it all.
While the immediate cost of fast food might seem low, there are other types of costs we might also want to consider. What are the long-term costs of CO2 emissions, pollution, obesity and diabetes that inevitably crop up from eating processed foods?
“Slow Food” is more of a philosophy than a cuisine. It is not cooking a dish in a crockpot all day, but rather by how it is prepared, and how it is enjoyed. It is also the name of an international movement, founded in Italy.
The Slow Food Movement arose in 1986 in Italy as a response to the negative impact of multinational food companies and is spreading around the world – slowly! Today the Slow Food Movement has branches over the five continents, in 130 countries, with about 80,000 members.
Slow Food protests against the standardization of taste, it protects the identity, which is connected to food, and seeks to safeguard processing techniques inherited from tradition. It also involves valuing time to prepare, eat and build a community through food. The movement has often been criticized as having an upper class pursuit, however far from extravagant eating, slow food is about the celebration of the connections that food can make with sustainable production and local food traditions that are often lost in our economy. It often includes the simplest, most peasant-style dishes.
The Slow Food concept is about good, clean and fair food. It is about allowing fruits and vegetables to ripen on the vine before being harvested and making breads from scratch. Slow food is about locally grown ingredients, traditional cooking methods and the producers and chefs who follow the creed.
And all of us can join in on this philosophy to celebrate this kind of good, healthy food.
Here are a few ideas:
Buy locally: Shopping for produce is an action with a huge impact. You make the choice to spend money on foods that are grown and picked in your region by local farmers and brought to the market, instead of traveling great distances. Point out the sources to your children when you are at the grocery store or the farmers markets. My 8-year-old son, Soeren, who often accompanies me when I go food shopping, is very aware that the produce that lands in our shopping basket is mostly from our region.
Go for organic: Whenever you can. This reduces your family’s and your exposure to pesticides and chemical fertilizers. You will soon realize that several of the items simply taste better too. Several years ago when I made the decision to buy organic produce, there were two things I always kept in my mind. One was the fact a close friend of mine was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer. Her doctor told her that the tests were showing high levels of certain chemicals found in pesticides, deducing that the cancer might have been a result of the food she was eating. I decided that this was not what I wanted for my child or my family. After facing this “real” fact, I happily paid the extra cent for “real” organic produce. This brings me to the second point. The fact I am paying a little more for organic food – I take more care of what and how I am preparing food. I buy less and make sure we waste less. Today I would say we are eating 90% organically and regionally. Yes – I am proud of this fact.
Grow your own: If you have a garden, grow your own produce. If space is tight, fill a few pots with herbs and tomatoes. The point here is you are not only picking and enjoying fresh food from your own back yard; you will also be giving your children priceless values about the whole concept of food.
Cook at home: Even if you are short on time, you can still enjoy delicious homemade meals that can be ready in 30 to 40 minutes. We are not saying no to burgers, but rather saying yes to healthy homemade burgers, where you control what goes into them. This is healthy fast food and you will find a plethora of great recipes to get you started on the Internet.
Get your kids involved. It’s part of the Slow Food picture – to spend valuable time with your family. Not only are you spending quality time together with your children in the kitchen, but also teaching them how to be involved in the food choices that they make. By getting actively involved they are learning that they can make choices about the foods and ingredients they consume. Be creative with the food you prepare and let your kids express themselves through their recipe choices and presentation.
Finally share food. Use food to help others who might not be able to provide or cook for themselves. From simply doubling a recipe and taking a home-cooked meal to someone who is ill or donating food to the food drive: all are aspects that will teach your children the value of food.
Slow Food Nation: A Blueprint for Changing the Way We Eat, by Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food Movement
The Slow Food Movement, published by Ecoglobe