Sunday, February 20

Slow down.

The other day, Jill and I were biking home from a lovely bike ride around the city. We had spent the day visiting the Riverwest Co-op and Milwaukee Bicycle Co., and we were marinating in the joy of our city. We had spent the afternoon talking about good food and deliberate living, which is perhaps why we were so taken aback by what we saw next:

We happened to be biking past a McDonald's, as we noticed an ambulance with its sirens on, outside of the building. Though this is purely speculation it seems as though this was no coincidence that the ambulance was stopped outside of this fast-food joint which serves burgers and fries for every meal, faster than you can imagine. As we slowly biked past, we watched then, as a small boy and his mother walked out the front doors of the store: the mother was unhealthily overweight and the small boy, with a huge smile on his face, held an extra large soda in his hands that was nearly as big as his torso. There was something so disturbing about the whole picture. There was an ambulance taking away someone who was either sick or injured, and a small child walking hand-in-hand with his mother and his soda, emerging from the same restaurant. Perhaps what was most upsetting was that the small child had such a look of happiness on his face amidst all of this. To us as spectators, though, our hearts ached for him, as it seemed that the entire image of the restaurant that day was somehow a forecast of his life, if he continues to be sustained by fast food. I can only hope that this is not the case.

On another note, yesterday I was fortunate to share a deliberately slow meal with my dear friends Jack, Bridget and Peter. Our slow-paced meal was prepared primarily by Jack, who spent last spring in Rome learning to cook from his Italian host-mother and embracing the food culture of Italy. Amongst the many memories and stories shared with us, there seemed to be a resonating theme of Jack's Italian stories: slow food.

In keeping with the Italian theme of our dinner last night, I decided to prepare a little after dinner treat. After exploring the many lovely cooking blogs I like, I stumbled upon Smitten Kitchen's recipe for chocolate hazelnut biscotti. I must say, the recipe turned out great! We enjoyed them (slowly) with our after-dinner coffee.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Slow Food movement, perhaps the simplest way to introduce it is to consider its motto: Good, Clean and Fair food. Slow Food seeks to maintain and encourage small-scale food cultures that focus on local and sustainable meal times. In this case, it seems that sustainability encapsulates much more than environmental sustainability, to include cultural sustainability, economic sustainability and nutritional sustainability. This is on the Slow Food website:

"We envision a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet."

Interestingly, Slow Food has its links to McDonald's. The founder and president of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini, was outraged when he learned of McDonald's plan to open a branch in Rome in 1986. Fueled by his passion for food as an integral part of Italian culture, Petrini gathered forces and protested the restaurant. Petrini's efforts proved to be successful, as the McDonald's closed promptly. In 1989, Petrini founded Slow Food in order to continue to fight against the dominance of fast food.

As I opened with a grim image of a small boy walking out of a McDonald's with a grin and a soda, I would like to consider too, the positive image of an individual gathering forces with the common thread of slow food, in order to break the negative cycle of fast food. Deliberately eating has the potential to lead to so much good. For instance, my meal yesterday with my dear friends lead to a night of fun and good conversation; conversation that would in question not have occurred had we purchased our dinner in the drive-through line at a fast food joint.
As Jill and I have sought to reduce our processed food consumption, our diets have become noticeably slower. And thank goodness. We recognize farmers at the market and know the source of each ingredient. Our meal time conversations have spurred many a new idea and have lead to a personal level of awareness that I had not previously known.

Slow down. Happy eating!

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