I’ve been reading Slow Food: The Case for Taste, by Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of the slow food movement.
What is slow food, you might ask? I’m still working that out, but without much trouble, you can tell from the name that it’s a reaction to “fast food”. In fact, it’s a reaction to the globalization of the food market, the “flattening” of taste, and the increasingly prevalent loss of regional cuisine, especially, apparently, in Italy.
Slow food advocates call for organic, locally-grown food, and for making food and eating it purposefully, preferably around a communal table with one’s friends, family, and neighbors. Essentially, it’s a call to move away from mindless refueling at the local fast-food joint (or even convenient eatery) and a return to eating healthy food.
For the Christian, this easily relates to our understanding that all we have is from God, that every meal is a gift from Him (even the least liturgical among us, those who would never observe fixed-hour prayer, still offer thanks before our meals), that we are not to take anything for granted – least of all, the food we may have – and that we are to fellowship with those God puts around us, which often involves food.
My mom had started researching healthy foods and changing our diet when my brother was born, because he spent the first few years of his life in and out of hospitals, and Mom knew instinctively that injecting him full of drugs wouldn’t be a productive way to live life. Most of the trendy food and health movements now – filtered water, organic produce, hormone-free dairy products, green tea, "medicating" with herbs, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, gluten-free food, crazy Dr. Bronner’s soap, salads all the time – were things we did fifteen years ago, when people told Mom she was crazy, negligent, and probably unChristian for feeding us this way. Apparently, she was just about ten years ahead of the marketing folks.
Though I felt weird then, I’m glad now that she did the footwork to feed us well. We never had much in the way of money, so we grew a lot of our food, and when we lived out in rural upstate New York, we had laying hens and had our own fertile, free-range eggs, though we never ate the chickens (my Dad and brother just couldn’t bring themselves to chop their heads off). We also belonged to the local food co-op. Many hours of my life were spent with Mom at the co-op, working off our four-hour-a-week commitment in order to get cheaper, healthier food.
So, I was delighted when Tom and I finally decided to join the local food co-op in our Brooklyn neighborhood last fall. This is a much bigger operation than our little place in Albany. There are about fifteen thousand members, and each member works about three hours a month to maintain membership, which allows one to shop at the store. Only members can shop, and all members have to work side by side, whether they're affluent bankers and lawyers from the nice neighorhoods or more blue-collar workers who've been in Brooklyn for generations.