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Rhythms of the Table

“We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods. Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.”

So states the Slow Food Manifesto.
Slow Food?
“Slow Food is an international response to the effect fast food has on our society and life. It questions the validity of the fast food philosophy as an unconscious credo that erodes our culinary heritage in the guise of efficiency,” read the official Web site, slowfood.com.
“It’s about respecting the rhythms of the table,” said Patrick Martins, director of Slow Food’s national office in New York.
More formally, Slow Food is “an international movement, active in 35 countries worldwide, with 60,000 members and about 400 convivia,” according to the Web site.
“Convivia” are local Slow Food branches, which “combine to form a slow, trans-continental, hyper-caloric network of knowledge, taste and enjoyment,” according to slowfood.com
Convivia aim to have fun, meet new people, promote local and regional cuisine and spread the Slow Food philosophy.
Slow Food members don’t necessarily forbid fast food; rather, they encourage slow food and a respect for “the rhythms of the table.”
As Martins said, Slow Food is “dedicated to promoting and supporting artisans of the food world.”
“We’ve been hamburglared, McMuffined,” wrote Tenaya Darlington in a November-December Utne Reader article on Slow Food.
“There are more tastes in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your gastronomy,” according to slowfood.com. When you’re McMuffined, you tend to forget that.
But Thanksgiving offers a fitting opportunity to remember what fast food makes us forget.
Martins characterized Thanksgiving as one of the “slowest of traditions.” The meal takes center-stage, and people actually take time to enjoy high-quality food. Family and friends cook together, sit down together, talk together and eat together.
Debbie Cooke heads a Slow Food convivium in Greenville, South Carolina. She cast Thanksgiving as a holiday which “above all others centers around the idea of baking bread with friends and family and enjoying produce and recipes that are indigenous to the specific regions of our country.”
Her comments portrayed the next step Slow Foodies would take at Thanksgiving. For example, anyone serious about Slow Food would buy fresh bread from a local bakery, not processed, mass-produced bread from a national grocery chain.
Martins offered that Slow Food may be part of a larger cultural movement to slow down. And Cooke said “our society, specifically the United States, is hungry for the warmth and conviviality that surrounds a table blessed with good food, good people, good conversation and time to enjoy it all.”
“Parents across the country are quietly taking a stand against the over-scheduling of American children and families,” noted Kathleen Kennedy in South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel. “They are cutting back on organized activities, reclaiming the value of family time and leaving a few lazy afternoons for their children to relax.”
They are also eating dinner every night around the table, reported Kennedy.
They are slowing down–just what the convivia promote. So it’s fitting the Slow Food symbol is none other than . . . a snail.
In The Practice of Living Faithfully, Tony Cartledge suggested, “A short-term experience in forsaking fast food for fasting could be the first step toward a more balanced life and a renewed relationship with the one who called himself the Bread of Life.”
“Remember that fasting’s primary purpose is to aid in focusing one’s life on God,” wrote Cartledge, editor of the Biblical Recorder.
While fasting may help us focus on God, Slow Food may help us focus on each other by gathering, conversing and enjoying.
In either case, we slow down, move beyond ourselves and embrace more than a McNugget.
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.
Click here to visit Slow Food on the Web.