Italians take great pride in their culinary skills. To them, it’s an art form that is meant to be appreciated. However, the emergence of fast-food chains across the globe represent a shift that many Italians are unwilling to accept.
It all started in the late 1980s. McDonald’s had plans to open a restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Many citizens were outraged and took to the streets to protest. A man named Carlo Petrini was among these angry Italians, however, he didn’t show up with signs, he brought pasta.
Petrini and other volunteers handed out bowls of penne pasta to anyone who passed by. Their motto was, “We don’t want fast food, we want slow food!”
Although the protests didn’t keep McDonald’s out, it gave Petrini a platform to create the Slow Food Movement.
Three years after the protests in Rome, Petrini met with delegates from 15 other countries to sign the Slow Food Manifesto. This document puts forth the group’s philosophy that every person should have access to food that is good for them, good for the growers, and good for the earth.
Over the years, more and more countries have joined. Currently, there are over 150,000 members in 160 countries, including the United States, which has 170 local chapters. The movement has been so popular that in 2004, Petrini opened the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont. Students can study artisanal and industrial food production.
Slow Food’s first major project began in 1999; it was known as The Slow Food Presidia. Participants researched which products were at risk of extinction. They narrowed the list to the top 100, then got involved in the production process, traced the areas of origins, met with producers, and worked to promote those items. The project was so successful it has become a registered brand, showing up on various product labels around the world.
Outside of this project, the movement has also hosted various festivals dedicated to the promotion of specific food products. They have partnered with Indigenous communities, created a global network of farmers, and have worked with the United Nations on several occasions.
This global community is doing its part to create a better future in which everyone can appreciate a delicious local meal.
If you are interested in learning more about this movement or becoming a member, check out their website Slowfood.com.