In 1986, Piedmontese journalist Carlo Petrini led the fight against the arrival of a MacDonald's fast food restaurant by the sacrosanct Spanish Steps in Rome, jokingly vowing to react by creating its antithesis, Slow Food, to counter multinational corporate blandness and promote local dishes and ingredients. It was an idea whose time had come: three years later the international Slow Food Manifesto was signed in Paris:
Born and nurtured under the sign of Industrialization, this century first invented the machine and then modelled its lifestyle after it. Speed became our shackles. We fell prey to the same virus: 'the fast life' that fractures our customs and assails us even in our own homes, forcing us to ingest "fast-food".
Homo sapiens must regain wisdom and liberate itself from the 'velocity' that is propelling it on the road to extinction. Let us defend ourselves against the universal madness of 'the fast life' with tranquil material pleasure. Against those - or, rather, the vast majority - who confuse efficiency with frenzy, we propose the vaccine of an adequate portion of sensual gourmandise pleasures, to be taken with slow and prolonged enjoyment.
Appropriately, we will start in the kitchen, with Slow Food. To escape the tediousness of "fast-food", let us rediscover the rich varieties and aromas of local cuisines.
In the name of productivity, the 'fast life' has changed our lifestyle and now threatens our environment and our land (and city) scapes. Slow Food is the alternative, the avant-garde's riposte.
Real culture is here to be found. First of all, we can begin by cultivating taste, rather than impoverishing it, by stimulating progress, by encouraging international exchange programs, by endorsing worthwhile projects, by advocating historical food culture and by defending old-fashioned food traditions.
Slow Food assures us of a better quality lifestyle. With a snail purposely chosen as its patron and symbol, it is an idea and a way of life that needs much sure but steady support.
In 1996, when the Slow Food movement held its first Salone del Gusto ('Taste Congress') in Turin, it created the 'Ark of Taste': a kind of Noah's Ark of local, small-scale fruits, vegetables, cured meats, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, sweets and more that are in danger of being decimated or swept away in the flood of uniformity:
The Ark was created to point out the existence of these products, draw attention to the risk of their extinction within a few generations, invite everyone to take action to help protect them. In some cases this might be by buying and consuming them, in some by telling their story and supporting their producers, and in others, such as the case of endangered wild species, this might mean eating less or none of them in order to preserve them and favor their reproduction.
You'll find many of the dishes in the Ark of Taste highlighted in this app.
Images by: David van der Mark, UK in Italy