The Emerald Press takes a closer look at an organization that was founded in protest against the first McDonald’s in Italy and still advocates for regional cuisine and a better food culture today.
If you visit the McDonald’s on the Spanish Steps in Rome today, a black and gold plaque reminds you of the year 1986, when, according to the plaque, the first restaurant of the American fast food chain in Italy, opened here.
At the time, however, the opening did not only lead to joy. Many intellectuals and, in general, advocates of Italy’s famous cuisine and food culture were not really happy about the idea of having an American fast food restaurant in Rome’s cultural center.
Seven hours by car from the McDonald’s in Rome, in Piedmont, in northwestern Italy, lies the small town of Bra. In 1986, a son of the town, Carlo Petrini, founded Slow Food here. Petrini returned to his hometown after studying sociology and worked as a journalist for changing newspapers, started his own radio station, became politically involved and began writing about food topics in the late 1970s. The goal was to counteract industrialization and the resulting decline in the quality of food and to stand up for “regional traditions, good food, culinary enjoyment and for a moderate pace of life.”
Slow Food continued to grow and grow. The problem of small, traditional food producers losing ground and being replaced by mass producers was, after all, not unique to Italy. Three years after its founding, representatives from 15 countries signed the Slow Food Manifesto.
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.From the Slow Food Manifesto
Today, the organization that opposed the excessive globalization of food has become an NGO working worldwide. It no longer just connects local farmers, but now works on a wide variety of levels to achieve its goal. To preserve the worlds’ food diversity.
Since 1990, Slow Food has had its own publishing house, which publishes, for example, a guide to “Osterias” that is famous in Italy. A book that brings attention to the best, traditional Italian, small, local restaurants.
Since 1996, Slow Food has organized the Salone del Gusto in Turin. A meeting of small food producers which is now considered one of the most important in the sector.
In 2004, the first Slow Food University, the University of Gastronomic Sciences, was founded in a neighboring town of Bra. There you can study, among others, the Bachelor “Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures”, but also in various other Master and PhD programs.
Buono, Pultio e Giusto
The ways in which Slow Food advocates for its goals may have become more diverse. However, the goal of promoting good, clean, and fair (ital.: buono, pulito e giusto) food for all has remained the same.
Food produced under Slow Food criteria should taste good, be seasonal and part of the local culture. Its production should not harm the environment, people, nature, or animals. And it should have a fair price. For producers and consumers.
It’s not just about what goes on the plate, but also how it gets there.
Slow Food now has more than 100,000 members worldwide. Today, there are 640 McDonald’s restaurants in Italy.