Slow Food has always defied easy explanation. The name ‘Slow Food’, bringing together food and temporality, is unusual for many when they initially encounter the movement, even though ‘fast food’ has a ubiquitous presence in contemporary culture. Similarly, a social movement that engages in conflicts with transnational corporations while also teaching the gastronomic delights of Parmigiano Reggiano is a movement that does not easily fit conventional political and cultural frames of reference for many people. With a core philosophy where ‘slowness’ is grounded in understandings of pleasure and taste, conviviality, and the value of local products and cultures, Slow Food has grown and diversified its range of activities so that it has become, as Deborah Madison notes, like ‘the blind men patting the elephant to determine its nature’.” (p.18)
Slow Food has “an affinity with an extraordinary range of social groups and a complex status as both an international organization – now officially recognized as a non-government organization (NGO) – and a type of movement.” (p.18)
(Parkins and Craig give a history of Slow Food and its spin-off Slow Cities in Chapter 2 of this book.)
“As Slow Food president Carlo Petrini has noted, the term ‘slow food’ was opposed to ‘fast food’ but what the movement’s new name really conveyed was ‘our critical reaction to the symptoms of incipient globalization’. The new name, always written in English, was also an acknowledgement of the international spread and aims of the movement.” (p.19)
“Slow Food officially became an international movement in December 1989 when delegates from fifteen countries met at the Opéra-Comique in Paris to ratify a Slow Food manifesto and approve the movement’s symbol of the snail, a ‘small, cosmopolitan, and prudent’ creature and an ‘amulet against speed’.” (p.19)
While Slow Food retains [its] foundation [of conviviality, pleasure and slow living through and around food], the movement has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, most notably developing from a solely gastronomic organization to a self-proclaimed ‘eco-gastronomic’ one. Since its inception Slow Food talked about the connections between the pleasure and taste of food and the environment and food production but more recently a new emphasis on biodiversity and sustainable systems of agriculture has gained a priority in the movement. Slow Food now professes itself to be ‘a more complex mixture of pleasure and ecology’. The transformation of Slow Food from a gastronomic to an eco-gastronomic movement has created an unusual conjunction of interest in quality food and produce with a political focus on the deleterious effects of globalization.” (p.20)
“Silvio Barbero (Slow Food Italy national secretary) has described the movement as ‘against “negative” globalization – we’re trying to use globality for positive purposes’, such as exploiting the global communicative potentials to promote food and cultural differences (through the Slow Food press office and website) and fostering networks of support and cooperation across national borders (such as the Presidia and Terra Madre meetings).” (p.21)
“Given [its] commitment to an awareness and exchange of knowledge about how food can be sustainably – and pleasurably – produced and consumed, it is not surprising that another long-term campaign of Slow Food has been taste education, which is carried out in a variety of ways, from the large-scale events like Salone del Gusto (which in addition to the main tasting halls also includes Taste Workshops for children) to the edible gardens projects in Slow Food USA, or the Master of Food programme run through condotte in Italy, and now the newly opened University of Gastronomic Sciences. At the local convivia level, tasting education and workshops are the core activity, as the primary site of conviviality, and the means by which [-p. 27] social networks and relations of knowledge and trust (e.g. linking local producers with informed and supportive consumers) are established and sustained.
While the concept of ‘taste education‘ may at first glance merely denote distinction or cultural capital we would argue that a sustained investigation of this aspect of Slow Food’s activities reveals the more ambitious aim of returning to the sensory experiences of food, based on pleasure and a commitment to the investment of time in such pleasures. Teaching children, for instance, of the panoply of possible flavours, textures and colours, with an emphasis on the tactile and sensual experience of food – from garden to kitchen to plate – is not about the cultivation of taste in the traditional gastronomic sense but of appetite – for food, play and knowledge – which Adam Phillips links to inspiration and imagination.” (pp.26-27)
“Developing interdisciplinary programmes based on ‘sensory literacy’, Slow Food has been involved in teacher-training projects since the mid-1990s, and government accredited to train school personnel since 2002. In Piedmont, for example, a teacher-training scheme involving around 1,000 participants has been launched, based on taste workshops and training in the region’s food and agriculture heritage.” (p.27)
Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold mine) Wendy Parkins and Geoffrey Craig (2006) Slow Living. Berg: Oxford, New York.
NB when discussing the above education of children/teachers, reference is made to Venturi, A (2002) ‘Learn when you’re young!’ Slow, 7: 54-9 [should this be 27?]