Slow food nourishes sense of community and place

Healthy food is the new fast food.

Our nation’s shift in preference for healthier fare has prompted fast food giants and convenience stores to include fruit smoothies, whole grains and salads.

More often than not, though, our meals consist of quick noshes in front of a computer screen or in a car seat.

The purpose of food goes beyond filling our bellies. We must not only eat nutritious food, we must appreciate where it comes from and enjoy our time eating it to be completely satisfied.

The “slow food” movement aims to do just what its name would have you believe. Its approach to eating is the opposite of the norm many of us have adopted for our busy schedules.

Slow Food USA’s official website says the movement is “an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.”

The group spreads awareness of food justice and regional biodiversity, big words for relatively simple concepts like buying locally that have the potential to reconnect us to food.

In a recent post for veteran gourmand Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist” food blog on the New York Times website, Peter Catapano explored the markets of Oaxaca, Mexico with renowned chef Pilar Cabrera.

She explained to Catapano that in Oaxaca, one does not go to the market for food. “They serve … a larger purpose: (They are) a nexus for family and social activity,” she said. There were children playing and groups congregating, people partaking of local delicacies, and there was homemade chocolate and local produce grown by natives for sale.

There was a visible link between the food’s source and the people who enjoyed it.

Slow food redefines our experience of eating by going beyond the final product, which is something Catapano wrote the U.S. is learning from markets like the one in Oaxaca.

And where ASU can sometimes feel like a desert of coffee, burgers, cups of melon and sub sandwiches, it doesn’t have to be. The new Bowl of Greens eatery at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Tempe campus’ Engrained are truly refreshing and are comforting for me as a student who does not have the luxury of a kitchen or set of dishes.

It might take a few minutes more for this food to be prepared, but it is worth it. As for price, I notice I spend almost $10 on a breakfast bagel, iced coffee and Vitamin Water for later at Einstein’s.

Nine dollars bought me an Earth Bowl and strawberry-infused water at Engrained, not to mention a serene atmosphere, an actual plate and an enthusiastic chef telling me about the exquisite dish he just “threw together.”

Slow Food USA and Bittman have also asked if fast food was really worth it.

We, as a nation, are beginning to rediscover the meaning and value of some of our most basic human activities, whether it is how we communicate or how we feed ourselves.

Understanding that we are nourished by the connection to nature and community food offers us is to understand food’s true gift.

Reach the columnist at jlgunthe@asu.edu

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