Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Speed of Life: Slow Down and Taste Life

Europeans really know how to eat. More to the point—they know how to slow down so they can enjoy what they are eating. When I was in Paris last year, I witnessed the bustle and rush of working Parisians in the Metros and the crowded streets; but I also saw those same people settled to a long lunch where they savored a quality meal over compelling discussion. When it comes to eating, Parisians do it with superb style.

However, it wasn’t in France but in Italy where the “Slow Food” movement was created in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, in a reaction to the invasion of fast food giant McDonald’s in Rome. Seen as the antithesis of the North American “fast food” phenomenon, the Slow Food philosophy embraces the belief that “the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.” Slow food proponent author and activist Eric Schlosser contends that it is the opposite of fast food, which represents “blandness, uniformity, conformity, [and] the blind worship of science and technology.”

This is how they describe themselves and their mission statement: “Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.”

Petrini’s Slow Food organization created the worldwide Ark of Taste to protect culinary diversity. One of the things they did was establish a catalogue of endangered flavors, foods and beverages. In order for a food to be Ark-worthy it had to be made from local plants and animals, with artisanal production (small scale using traditional methods, environmentally friendly and free of biotechnology methods). Ark-worthy foods in Canada include: stinging nettle, miner’s lettuce, Saskatoon berries, nodding onion, Tamworth pigs, the Canadienne cow, Red Fife wheat, herring spawn on kelp, Nova Scotia’s Gravenstein apple, Great Plains bison and Montreal melon.

“Words such as promote, develop, safeguard and educate are the cornerstones of Slow Food,” reports Jennifer Danter in an article in “Taste” magazine. The Slow Food organization established regional chapters—called Convivia—in most countries to address environmental concerns and local food issues. The Convivia organize tastings and special dinners in addition to running educational programs for their community. Here are some cool suggestions for slowing down this fall and winter:

• Shop at a local market
• Cook with seasonal items (available at your local market)
• Visit www.slowfood.com for information on slow food places near you and their events and tastings
• Walk in the woods and smell the fresh air
• Find a slow food recipe, an ideal wine to go with it along with some appreciative friends and have yourself a feast!

Here’s one I filched off “Taste” magazine:

Wild Mushroom Risotto (paired with Firesteed Pinot Noir, described as greeting you with cherry and sweet spice aromas and a mingling of vibrant bold raspberry and strawberry nuance. This is a complex and well-structured wine for serious entertaining!)

Serves 4

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, broken
¼ oz dried morel mushrooms, broken, OR
2 cups fresh morels, cleaned and cut into ½ in pieces
4 cups boiling chicken stock
5 tbsp butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves, garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
½ cup red wine
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, fresh grated

Put mushrooms in a saucepan and add the boiling chicken stock. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until dark. Strain, reserving liquid and mushrooms. Heat 4 tbsp of butter in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan. Add onion, shallots and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute. If using fresh morels, add and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and red wine and let simmer until wine is nearly evaporated. Add 1 cup of reserved stock and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally. Add more stock at intervals until all liquid is used and absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir in the reserved mushrooms, parmesan and remaining butter. Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley.

Tada! Delicimo!

1. gourmet display
2. a Paris cafe in Montmartre
3. A Parisian boulangerie
4. Toulouse enjoys a Napa Valley sparkling Pinot Noir

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.


Anonymous said...

Excellent posting Nina,

But I think I have some work to do on going local :)

Thanksgiving dinner is the epitome of slow (taking a long time). From gathering the ingredients (NZ lamb, feta from Bulgaria, cheese from Greece, local potatoes, carrots, and other veggies). Started at 2:00 PM served at 6:30 PM but oh so yummy!

Fast food - fills the stomach but empties the soul!

Well done Nina,

Le Frommage

Nina Munteanu said...

YES! I heard about your wonderful dinner, Frommage! And I know how good your dinners are... It's hard to go local for some of those ingredients! LOL!

Ah... but you will be glad to know that, while passing through Wisconsin I did have some wonderful cheese from there...YUM!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I think people aren't used to eating slowly at all, especially in Britain.

The only experience of it we have is bad service!

Macnean Farm said...

We used to live faster than needed. We then uprooted ourselves moved from London to a farm in Enniskillen and started raising Tamworth pigs and other rare breed livestock. Problem now (although a good problem) is that our kids just won't eat fast food, indeed they won't eat any "commercial" foods at all.

Nina Munteanu said...

LOL! Jean-Luc! That's funny!

Well done, Macnean Farm! To have instilled an aversion to fast food in your kids is wonderful!

Nina Munteanu said...

...indeed, preferring slow food is a whole lifestyle choice...