Fast food is so last century. If you’re really up-to-date and trendy, nowadays you look to Slow Food. Instead of the patented chicken finger formula that blends together every clucker on the farm, Slow Food is a movement which focuses on education and fair trade across borders and socio-economic classes. The East End has been a proud supporter of Slow Food International and its own Slow Food East End for years. Partnered with area farmers markets and health groups, Slow Food East End has made friends with its local farmers, beekeepers, dairymen, wine makers, chefs, cheesemakers, fishers and artisanal food producers.
What is Slow Food, and how is it making a difference?
Slow Food International began as a national movement in Italy in 1986. The international movement began three years later, in Paris, where the Slow Food Manifesto was signed. The Slow Food Manifesto parallels the movement in that it’s slow and dramatic; it’s a call to arms for everyone fed up with fast food to begin local chapters of those interested in the food culture in their surroundings. Slow Food chapters are denominated nationally—with seven participating countries—and then regionally, Slow Food USA being headquartered in New York City.
At the international level, Slow Food is a key player in fair trade economy—the idea that a farmer should be paid adequately for labor, the antithesis of big business agriculture. Slow Food International also allocates money to causes it deems worthy, and advocates for change where it sees fit. At the national level, Slow Food serves to advocate, intermediate and advertise between the international and regional chapters and for the advancement of communities within the nation. One look at Slow Food USA’s newsletter will tell you this: they want to sell you on a trip to Italy or a cooking class in New York. Pricey.
But now we come to the interesting part: Slow Food East End. At the regional level, Slow Food is meant to organize events to educate people about the benefits of cooking their own meals and of abstaining from fast food. At a spring Slow Food Dinner—at the American Hotel—I was handed plates of the tastiest Long Island duck, fine East End cheeses and paired wines, and a glass of FAIR brand premium, fair-trade quinoa Vodka. If my experience with Slow Food East End Dinners is representative, not only are these dinners/conversations/presentations informative and effective, you are served the tastiest meals cooked on the East End. Slow Food East End is also involved in the aforementioned farmers markets, which it helps to organize and advertise, and it’s involved in sponsoring, along with local consulting group Turtleshell Health, the upcoming Masters of Health and Wellness event at Dodds and Eder in Sag Harbor (July 27-28, 2013). On Slow Food East End’s website, you can find the location and hours of any farmers market, farm stand or worthwhile produce store in the Hamptons.
A six-minute video recently introduced me to the coolest thing Slow Food does. A Youtube search for “Learning by Growing” shows a story about the Slow Food East End project to build a garden at the Southold School. “Since its inception the East End chapter has been dedicated to initiating and funding local ‘Jr. Slow Food’ projects.”
As any educator today knows, children are the ones who need the Slow Food education the most. Slow Food International has a university in Italy; Slow Food USA sponsors college campus movements, but it’s the work of Slow Food East End which teaches kids—at their most impressionable ages—the importance of home cooking, agriculture and food culture. I wrote this article to promote Slow Food East End and just give an official Dan’s Papers pat on the back to the movement, yet the article did its work doubly on the author. I think I’ll go into my garden to weed. Remember to visit slowfoodeastend.org and your local farmers market—and, of course, your kitchen.