Slow Traditions

For me, food has always been a source of connection, a tool to communicate love, and a way to pass on family traditions. Some of my most vivid memories involve shared meals and many dishes are connected to specific loved ones in my mind. For example, my mom is chicken, rice, and carrots, whereas my dad is graham crackers dipped in milk. Apple pie and sharp cheddar cheese bring to mind my grandmother. The foods we made on our first date, kimchi and sauerkraut are my partner. These dishes provide comfort and a reminder to slow down.

Food has always been an important part of my life; however, it wasn’t until I studied abroad in Italy that I really fell in love. We toured a Parmigiano Reggiano facility, learned about Balsamico di Modena on a small family farm, and tasted traditionally cured prosciutto. Specifically, all the foods we encountered were part of a movement to preserve culturally significant foods and their traditional production practices: Slow Food.

In response to a McDonald’s opening at the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome, the Slow Food Movement was born in the late 1980s . Enraged, locals protested and called for a return to “slow,” not fast food. “Slow food” is food is culturally significant and good (nutritious, provides joyful connection, promotes biodiversity), clean (seasonally appropriate, sustainably grown), and fair (encourages local/global collaboration, accessible to all, uses dignified labor practices). The Slow Food Movement fights the disappearance of local food traditions and encourages a deeper connection to where food comes from.

In particular, The Ark of Taste is one of Slow Food’s biggest projects. This international catalogue of endangered heritage foods fosters their preservation by actively encouraging their careful cultivation and consumption. In the United States, Slow Food USA maintains an Ark of Taste catalog that highlights regionally significant foods from  Anishinaabeg Manoomin (Wild Rice) to Yellow-Meated Watermelon. Fortunately, consumers can use the catalog to learn about the traditions and history associated with the Ark of Taste foods and find sources to purchase seeds or livestock to keep these important foods alive.

Consequently, the cold and snow of the winter season often forces us to slow down a bit. As you embrace this time of year, I encourage you to reflect on your own food stories and traditions. Explore the foods and traditions that were/are important to your family and consider ways in which you can savor and cultivate a deeper connection to your food. If you need some ideas, review Slow Food USA’s Suggestions for “Going Slow”:

Go Slow in Your Life

• Buy whole ingredients. Cook them. Eat them.
• Avoid processed stuff with long ingredient lists. Eat real food.
• Grow some of your own food.
• If you eat meat, choose grass-fed and if you eat poultry, choose free-range.
• Whenever possible, know the story behind the food you buy.

Go Slow in Your Community

• Cook and eat with others – not just family and friends. Bring new people and perspectives to the table. Try these local recipes
• Join a community garden, volunteer in a local school garden, and grow food with others.
• Connect with your local Slow Food chapter for events and community projects
Shake the hand that feeds you. Meet the people who grow your food. Shop at a farmers market, visit a farm or buy shares from a farm that offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
• Learn about your local or regional food history and cultural dishes.

Kelly Wilson, RDN is TLD’s Director of Community Partners. She fell in love with the concept of Slow Food while studying in Florence, Italy and has been madly in love with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese ever since. Contact her at [email protected]