What’s slow food anyway?

In 2008 I saw  a poster on the Golden Gate Ferry advertising [what I thought to be] a new culinary « Marinite / Bay Arean / yuppie » fad called Slow Food Nation. In its base it was considered a revolutionary explosion, this idea that real food does not come wrapped in aluminium foil, a chicken is not just a pre-packaged confection of six drumsticks, and coca cola does not come from a hidden source in a mountain chain far in the west (NB: I’ve actually heard people give me these explanation. Granted they were kids, but still…where is the education coming from???)

I was baffled. As a human being who grew up in Italy, picking up my own tomatoes and using them in my salad for lunch is nothing exhuberant. On the contrary, it was standard, especially when I went to visit my aunt every Sunday. You wanted your salad to taste good, you had to go pick the condiments from the earth, where they came from. And while you were at it, you would have picked the aubergines, the zucchini and the bell peppers too, otherwise the rats would get to them first, and you would have no dinner.

But I was a kid. And when I moved to the U.S. this tradition sort of got lost with the infatuation for cheap, pre-packaged, processed delicacies. I won’t lie, I still go apenuts when I see gummi bears or any variant of that chewy goodness, and there was a time called « Claudia’s years in the United States of America: Part 1 » where I had forgotten how to really EARN a meal.

In Paris, the story is similar, except the quality of ingredients is much better than in California. I am sorry, it’s true. I can eat a kilo of gummi bears in Paris and not gain an inch of cellulite. Tried and true, dear readers. Tried and true. But yes. In Paris, I rarely have the time to cook during the week, so I just warm up some soup here, sautee some zucchini there, finish everything off with some yogurt and a peach and I am done. But the zucchini, the peach, the yogurt, they have a different, simple flavour than any of the ingredients that come from the natural terroir. A peach, a real peach needs to ooze juice all over your hands and wrists. And I just re-discovered that sensation during my trip in the south of Italy this month.

Fruit stands every other Km. Fig trees, olive trees, peach trees, apple trees growing like wild grass, even in pavement cracks. And as we visited people throughout the bottom of the boot, we were always welcomed with banquets of  food, plates that were created based only on what was available in the garden but could make a royal buffet green with envy.

It was an incredible event. And I have never eaten more in my life, yet gained no fat, no extra kilos. Nothing. And I feel better than ever. Even my anemia has disappeared, after years and years of having to obsess over eating the right supplements of this and that in order to sustain my iron-poor little body.

Have we forgotten how to eat well? Have we forgotten how to eat at all? For how long can we keep expecting to wallow in this society of instant gratification? How will that affect our human relations, now that the worls revolves around who can connect faster to social network Z to upload that photo of you in place X with person Y? Where is the resest button? I want to start everything all over again. Basic needs need to be satisfied.

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~ par gitane sur 14 août 2011.

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