Slow Down Everyone, You’re Moving Too Fast

Slow Down Everyone, You’re Moving Too Fast

Make Jack Johnson a modern day poet and you’ve got words to live life by. So I slowed down my life(and took a quick trip up to San Francisco) for the first annual Slow Food Nation(SFN) event. I went, I saw, I ate. And SFN threw quite the food party, filling the four day Labor Day weekend with more food events than its visitors could handle.

The event overtook the Civic Center Plaza. Built on the lawn of San Francisco’s City Hall, the Victory Garden brought visitors, families, and farmers out to grow and pick produce then donated to local food shelters. At the farmer’s market stalls, vendors from all over California showed off their best produce and wares. Weiser Family Farm’s showcased fingerling potatoes,  Strauss Creamery sold ice cream to cool off the hot day, and visitors walked around eating heirloom apples from Windrose Farm.

At the Fort Mason Center, The Tasting Pavilions showcased every aspect of the food movement. Stalls included beer, wine and spirits experts, pizza baked in brick oven built specially for the event, cheese, charcuterie, and olive oils from all over the US. Taste workshops gave visitors an intimate look at specific food items with lectures on items like coffee cupping and raw milk cheese. The bookstore at the Center offered signed books discussing Slow Food issues. The photography exhibit, Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town gave Italian insight on just how to slow down life a little bit. On the lawn outside of the Center, the Slow Food Rocks concert brought music into the mix, with performances from The New Pornographers, Phil Lesh, and Gnarls Barkley.

Throughout the city San Franciscan chefs involved in the movement opened their doors for dinners planned around the weekend.  Day trips brought visitors to creameries, vineyards, and farms around the Bay area and hikes showcased agricultural spaces and green areas of San Francisco.

Slow Food Nation was, at the least, well planned out.

Even so, at the end of my trip, I had little idea what Slow Food meant. Maybe I was too focused eating the amazing food at the Taste Pavilion and reliving my Italian dreams at the photography exhibit to realize what the event was really about. I hadn’t been able to make it to any of the discussions or panels, and thinking back on the event, I slowly began to feel a little lost. When I imagined a definition, I thought about slowing down to think about what we are eating, how it is grown, sold, processed, and all the  elements that go into that system. This seemed the right track, but somehow I felt there was more.

The follow-up e-mail from did little to help my education cause. Over 60,000 people came to the event it heralded, and tickets to the tasting pavilions sold out in advance. The site itself did a wonderful job showcasing the event, including information on planning and how the ideas became a reality. But Slow Food itself was just two words on the site, being used to describe the event, the farmers and such.

At, an international website for the cause, I found more of the information I was looking for.

“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.”

This definition made sense and it seemed I had been on the right track. SFN had showcased farmers who were certified organic, used no sprays or pesticides, or practiced dry-farming, which allows the produce to pull nutrients and water from the earth. Lectures had stressed the ideas of buying locally, government policies that affect the food systems, the affects of climate and environmental elements on food costs, availably, and sustainability. The Washington Post described the event in these terms.

“Slow Food Nation, as the conference was dubbed, aimed to create a very different impression. At formal lectures, impromptu outdoor speeches and even in the tasting pavilions, where those very wines and cheeses were being served, the talk was mainly about how to transform the food system—and Slow Food’s reputation. Chefs, authors, activists and CEOs focused not on gastronomic indulgence but on new political relevance at a time when food is poised to take center stage.

The  idea of transforming the food system and understanding of food’s political relevance began to define Slow Food. Good food, grown and produced in a clean way. It held onto traditional elements, and did not harm the environment and culture around it. In the way stood convenience foods, cheaper farming and production methods that are adverse for communities or the environment; unethical labor situations and inhumane practices. Slow Food was really about getting everyone good(healthy) food while looking out for the environment and tradition.

And Slow Food Nation really did a good job of showcasing these ideas. Although the definition of Slow Food could have been spelled out a little clearer, each event glorified what Slow Food is all about, and brought an understanding to its guests about its importance.

Summed up in Time Magazine, “In its broadest sense, the movement is trying to get people to stop and really think about what’s on their plate and how it got there. In the end, Slow Food is more interested in producing better-tasting food than leading a jihad against chemical fertilizers, and there’s something to be said for appealing to the stomach to get to the head.”

As a foodie, through and through, I can agree with that. And with slowing down to think about our food a little bit more.

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