Guide to the Slow Food Italy Movement and Italian Food

What is Slow Food?

Slow food Italy is dedicated to the preservation of traditional Italian food.

However, there is more to it than this. Slow food means:

Clean food that is produced in a way that we don't damage eco-systems, encourage biodiversity and respect the environment.
Good food that is cooked and produced with care.
Fair food where those involved in producing or growing the food are paid fairly for their time, effort and knowledge. Farmers and producers need to feel valued.

In addition to upholding these cornerstones the
Slow Food Movement in Italy has set up seeds banks to protect heirloom seeds, speaks against the use of pesticides, promotes organic growing and encourages buying local.

The Slow Food Movement is out to protect unique traditional breeds of animals, recipes of products, and encourages and supports artisans of these products and farmers who raise heritage animals.

Slow food Italy is a movement that promotes the pleasure of eating food  grown in respect to the environment nd recognizes biodiversity. Slow Food is really
eco-gastronomy .

slow food italy products

The History of the Slow Food Movement

More than 20 years ago the Slow Food Movement with a snail as its logo, was  started by Carlo Petrini. Its headquarters. based in the Piedmont town of Bra, it is a movement that has swept across Europe uniting artisans of homemade products typical of areas made from recipes passed down through generations, and small-farming producers of good organically grown food.

The origin of the word Slow Food

Slow Food was deliberately named to oppose Fast Food. This was as a direct result of McDonalds opening up its stores in Rome near the busy Spanish Steps, an area also frequented by many young people.

People were horrified to think that in a country that took pride in their food and the cooking of it, they were going to be over run with fast food outlets and obese future generations. The Slow Food Movement was also, in part, defiant against globalization, rather than against McDonalds in general.

The philosophy behind slow food is that food is connected to everything, from the economy to the environment. What we eat has repercussions around the planet. Therefore we should be encouraged to eat wisely, which goes hand in hand with those who advocate eating food that has been locally produced.

Arms to the Slow Food Movement

There are several arms to the Slow Food Movement.
  • The Presidia and The Ark of Taste
  • Earth Markets
  • The Terra Madre - Mother Earth

Slow Food Ark of Taste and Presidia of Italy

After the Slow Food Movement was launched it became apparent that further measures were needed to protect the traditional products that were in danger of becoming lost to modern generations.

One of the major concerns was the running interference from the European Union who were imposing rules and regulations across the board dictating how certain foods had to be made.  

slow food italy casu marzu fly maggoty cheese from Sardinia Raw milk, for example being banned from use in making cheese, or banning Casu Marzu , a traditional cheese from Sardinia being made altogether.

Not everyone would like to eat Casu Marzu and I certainly have always given it a wide berth as it is a cheese filled with cheese fly maggots and eaten by the locals with gusto.

A round of Casa Marzy ready to be eaten. Picture courtesy Shardan

Each to his own, and what right have we to say that a local product that has been made for thousands of years in the same way should no longer be produced? Luckily for the Casu Marzu produces the cheese was declared a traditional food and escaped the clutches of the heavy-handed European Union and are no longer heavily fined for making it.

There are now
195 Italian Presidia that protect foods for the future. There are a number of Presidia categories; fish, baked goods and sweets, cheeses, animal breeds, and produce.

Examples of presidia protection are are
zolfini beans that can only be bought in a small area within Tuscany. I love these little beans, so creamy and unlike other dried beans that Tuscans are famous for eating. Tuscans are known throughout Italy as bean eaters.

There are 4 main varieties of Pecorino that are all protected, but the Pecorino that is produced near Osilo in Sardinia is protected for its distinctive buttery, toasted hazelnut flavor.

Slow Food Earth Markets

Another branch to the Slow Food Movements are their Earth Markets. These are farmers markets that can be found currently in the following countries:
  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Romania
  • Turkey
  • Usa
These are farmers markets that produce organic food that you can trust. They are community farmers who respect the mission of the Slow Food Movement and produce good, clean, fair food for the local population.

Slow Food Italy Terra Madre - Mother Earth

Terra Madre is a chapter of the Slow Food Movement that brings together their members and gives them a platform to display their produce and farming methods at various meets. One major event for Terra Madre is the food exhibition held in Turin every 2 years.

Producers and growers from Italy and Internationally have stalls where they can showcase their farms and products, over free tastings to visitors and inform them through leaflets, talks and video presentations.

The next Terra Madre exhibition will take place in
25-29 October, 2012 at the Lingotto Fiere and Oval Arena in Turin.

Here is a Short Video on the Slow Food Italy Terra Madre Exhibition

Italians and Slow Food Italy

Italians are well suited to slow food as they have always spend time consuming lunch, their main meal of the day. It is not uncommon for lunch to take several hours and it is an unhurried affair that is enjoyed with family and friends, enjoying their company and the good food.

Italian food is simple and honest, the typical foods of small villages, towns and other areas are celebrated with pride, and people take time to enjoy the fruits of their labor no matter what the season.

Slow Food Italy and Traditional Italian Food

Although I often say that there is no such thing as Italian food, this is a little too simplistic, because in some ways there are foods that have been exported from the north to the south of Italy and vice versa that is now eaten by Italians everywhere. Pizza, pasta and polenta are just 3 examples that come to mind.

But there is certainly traditional Italian food that has enjoyed a long history though out Italy that is now protected by the Italian government where certain foods can only carry that name if they were made or grown locally with locally grown meats and produce in a specific area. Parma ham can only be called Parma ham if it is produced in Parma.

In order to protect local foods against industrial agriculture the Slow Food Movement launched the
Slow Food Ark of Taste .

Slow Food Movement Recipes

We love Italy for many reasons, but particularly for the traditional food. We have travelled the width and breadth of Italy, and only once did we ever have a dud meal in all the years we have traveled this lovely country. And it soon became apparent how certain dishes could only be found in particular places.

As a result our aim is to share some lovely authentic Italian food recipes with you on our various travel guide sections and to give you slow food movement recipes or tradtional recipes from a particular town or region. Because of their uniqueness these traditional Italian recipes belong to that town or region and nowhere else.

The Future of Slow Food Italy and Internationally

The good news is that the Slow Food Movement can now be found in more than 50 countries around the world supporting small-scale farmers and sustainable farming. In the States, for example, the Cape May oysters are being supported, as is the manoomin wild riced gathered by the Native American Anishinaabeg people.

In the United Kingdon the Irish raw milk cheese makers are under protection along with the Cornish pilchards and the artisan-made Somerset Cheddar cheese.

From Tibetan cheesemakers producing yak milk cheese at 4500 meters of altitude to nomadic fishermen on the Banc d'Arguin in Mauritania, from small farmers in Bronte, Sicily who pick pistachio nuts by hand on the slopes of Etna, to curadoras de semillas in Chile who still preserve the ancient breed of the blue egg chicken, the Slow Food Movement is helping to protect traditional food and farming for generations to come.


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