The Slow Food Movement: a buzz-worthy phrase, a movement, a philosophy, a lifestyle…or all of the above? There are several people that subscribe to so-called Slow Food philosophies. Others participate in organizations touting the Slow Food movement banner, like Slow Food USA. As the Slow Food Movement now surpasses its 30-year mark, it is time to reflect upon the current state of the movement. It is clear that the tenets and objectives have evolved over time to encompass more environmental and economic concerns.

Though the movement has organically evolved and adapted to changing sociopolitical themes, its core tenets prevail. The Slow Food Movement is the antithesis of the globalization of fast food. It encourages eating local, healthy, culturally inspired food to enhance human health and diversity. The movement is particularly pertinent at places like Gingerhill that are working to transform Slow Food into a lifestyle, interweaving culture, community, and agriculture into a singular operation. This week we explore the topic of Slow Food, getting back in touch with the values that inspire our mission at Gingerhill.

The Origins of Slow Food

The Slow Food Movement began in Italy when, in 1986, Italian chefs began handing out bowls of penne pasta to demonstrate their opposition to the opening of a McDonalds at the base of the Spanish Steps. What began as a political demonstration in the streets of Italy subsequently blossomed into a sociopolitical movement that now spans many nations.

The founders of the Slow Food Movement were advocates of all the things that fast food was not: local, healthy, culturally rich, and both ecologically and economically sustainable food. Recognizing that the impending global hegemony of fast food would result in global homogeneity and the steady dissolution of human health and culture, Slow Foodies sought to promote the consumption of local food prepared in accordance with local traditions.

Petrini, the Chef at the forefront of the protest, believed that access to food that tastes good and is good for the body is a universal right. His goal in initiating the Slow Food Movement was to provide the means and inspiration for individuals to access and utilize that right.

Buying Local

The Slow Food Movement opposes large-scale mono-cropping industries that produce genetically modified corn, soy, and wheat, and that raise animals in unhealthy, inhumane conditions. By extension, the Slow Food Movement seeks to withdraw support from the operations that sustain the fast food industry. Such operations not only provide poor-quality, unethical food; they also out-compete local farmers, deplete soil, and destroy local ecosystems.

Instead, advocates of Slow Food seek to purchase and prepare food from local farmers. They also work to form relationships with them, understanding food preparation as a cultural, communal experience.

It’s not enough for Slow Foodies to buy local food. They also emphasize the essentialness of preparing food in a culturally significant manner. The Slow Food movement advocates preparing food in accordance with local practices and traditions. In so doing, the Slow Food Movement seeks to prevent the erosion of diverse cultures and the array of tastes they inspire. Doing so also stunts the globalization of cheap fast foods and promotes intercultural awareness.

For Slow Foodies, food isn’t just fuel; it’s an experience, one with a history, intertwined with cultural expression and personality. The objective of consuming locally grown and prepared food is to embrace local culinary traditions, in turn preserving and strengthening local culture.

Protecting the Environment

One of the primary reasons that Slow Foodies support small farming operations instead of large ones is that they are better for the environment. Small farms, especially organic and non-GMO ones, promote greater biodiversity and healthier ecosystems. Large-scale mono-cropping industries, on the other hand, create conditions conducive to erosion, endangerment, and soil depletion. Thus, for slow Foodies, buying from small farms promotes not only cultural diversity, but also biodiversity.

The Slow Food Movement refers to buyers of local food as “co-producers.” In other words, the movement understands consumption as an integral facet of production: in purchasing a product, one enables its production. Such terminology suggests that Slow Foodies see themselves as an integral facet of food production and, in turn, sustainability.

Preparing food from local producers can have a positive impact on the environment in several other ways. Perhaps the most essential is in reducing the need for plastic containers. Buying from a farmer means foregoing the plastic and Styrofoam packaging that most grocery products are sold in. Most of those products are also driven to the store from distant locations and preserved with harmful chemicals. Consuming local food thus also reduces fossil fuel emissions and the consumption of toxic preservatives.

Promoting Ethical Consumption and Fair Trade

The Slow Food Movement is also concerned with promoting the fair and ethical consumption of food. Consuming food that is grown locally ensures support for small farming operations. The Slow Food Movement also encourages fair working conditions and compensation; and it emphasizes the importance of ensuring accessibility, both in terms of price and proximity. Several Slow Food organizations provide educational resources for promoting fair trade and food justice.

Ethical consumption means eating foods that are not only good for the environment and local cultures and economies, but that are also good for our bodies. Though the Slow Food Movement is not adamantly organic, it does reject GMO food and promotes sustainable production. By definition, most food that is produced locally with no additives or chemicals is healthy; indeed, it is rarely ever a food itself that is unhealthy, but rather the way it is produced.

Gingerhill and Slow Food

At Gingerhill, we embrace several Slow Food values and concepts. Almost all of our food goes directly from the garden to the table to feed our guests and residents. Because we are using local food, our dishes are inspired by local Hawaiian tradition and taste. Star fruit, papaya, banana, coconut, and other tropical products are frequent features of our lively dishes.

But we also preserve culinary tradition in a unique and special way. Our Chefs hail from all over the world, from Brazil and Japan to the Philippines and the United States. Each of our Chefs imports pieces of his or her own culture’s culinary tradition. The result? Unique, one-of-a-kind dishes that incorporate local Hawaiian produce into delicious and nourishing cultural classics.

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