Slow Food Day great idea

You may or may not know it but this Saturday (Dec. 10) is International Slow Food Day.
That doesn’t mean we should chew our food with renewed vigour on Saturday, or put our feet up and close our eyes while we dine. But it does mean we should increase our awareness as to where our food comes from and from what it was prepared.
The International Slow Food Movement was formed in 1989 as a counter-measure against fast food and its negative impact on our health.
Carlo Petrini of Bra, Italy conceived the idea of just such an organization in 1986 and three years later an International Slow Food Manifesto was signed in Paris with 15 countries participating.
The movement’s mandate was to prevent the disappearance of local food traditions, to avoid the loss of interest in where our food comes from, and to make us aware of how our food choices affect the rest of the world.
Those ideas grew into a movement that now boasts more than 100,000 members in 132 countries.
These groups organize, promote, educate, and lobby to cover all aspects of food production. As farming practices became more corporate or factory-like in nature, we were threatened with the loss of diversity in species, for both animals and plants, that we once had.
Relying on a small number of genomes is a risky practice. As such, the slow food movement is involved in encouraging and teaching the practices of forming and sustaining seed banks that preserve varieties that are considered “heirloom.”
An “Ark of Taste” is developed for each ecoregion, documenting and preserving local culinary traditions and cooking methods. Small-scale processors were organized.
Canada jumped in with its “Feast of Fields” that many Canadian cities participated in.
Preserving the “family farm” was another focus that required the development of political programs to strengthen the success and sustainability of small family farms, and lobbying to ensure organic farming practices were kept in the foreground and formed an integral part of developing agricultural policy.
This also included the fight against genetic engineering and the use of chemicals. The movement got involved in the teaching of gardening skills to students and prisoners.
The list of positive undertakings is a lengthy one—and that list continually is growing as new concerns arise.
One of the movement’s major initiatives has been the development of the world coming together as food communities, and the event was named the Terra Madre.
Turin, Italy is the home of these international symposiums, first meeting in 2004 and every two years hence. Those in attendance at the event learn, network, and share their commitment to growing food using responsible and sustainable methodology.
Canadians returned from the event empowered and inspired. School gardens were started, and educational cooking programs, along with new growing techniques, were adopted.
Canada boasts about 300 members belonging to 30 “convivial,” which span the country from Cape Breton to Vancouver Island and to Whitehorse in the Yukon.
Canada’s first project was to preserve and protect Red Fife Wheat, hard, red spring wheat. This wheat boasted a deep history, having been widely-grown across Canada since the mid 1800s.
This variety of wheat almost disappeared when the Canadian Wheat Board formed and had a vision of Canada using only high-production wheat varieties.
The strength of Red Fife is its adaptability to changing and varied growing conditions without costly and environmentally-damaging chemical inputs. It also has been said that those with gluten-limited diets can tolerate this ancient grain.
Canada has participated in the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences, a three-year program in Pollenzo, Italy. The youth of our country are embracing the movement’s policies and that spreads hope for a healthier country for new generations.
So consider on Dec. 10 only eating those foods that were grown locally, having used ethical and sustainable methods, and celebrating food cooked with purpose.
It’s a great idea!
wendistewart@live.ca

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