Slow Food

Matt Feifarek, chair of Slow Food Madison, said yesterday that good food is born not just from good ideas, but from good ideals. In other words, it’s not enough to make a food that tastes delicious. That same food should also be made in a way that is good, clean and fair.

As a way of living and eating, Slow Food has got it going on. At its annual member meeting yesterday in Madison, about 75 people gathered to celebrate the spirit of Slow Food in Madison, which it turns out, was one of the first adopters of the movement in the United States. Madison Chefs Leah Caplan and Tami Lax chartered Slow Food Madison back in 1999, before Slow Food USA even hit New York in 2000. As usual, our city’s foodie ladies led the way, and today, Slow Food Madison boasts about 250 supporters.

At the meeting, much of the talk by Feifarek and Slow Food District Governor Martha Davis Kipcak centered around the “fair” in Slow Food’s mantra. Because let’s face it, good, clean and fair food is not available in all parts of our city, state or country, and is not affordable to all people in our society.

This thought made me remember a commencement speech given by L’Etoile Founder and Chef-Author Odessa Piper, to the graduating class of 2006 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here’s my favorite part:

“Hey, if all you can afford to eat is fast food, you can still eat it slowly. And don’t discount the big solutions that can emerge out of small acts of faith in an idea. In my life, I have witnessed the decline and rebirth of entire farming communities in Wisconsin. By the ’70s so many small farms were losing their hold in an ever-industrializing agriculture. Conventional farming practices were sending too much of Wisconsin’s best topsoil down the troubled Kickapoo River. And yet the same region now has one of the highest concentrations of vibrant, vital small family farms organic farms, sustainable farms in the country and is rebuilding its communities through a new urban/rural partnership.”

Piper continued: “I predict that the good farmers, the citizens and the partners, and educators at the University of Wisconsin and all educators of this state of Wisconsin will lead the country in the coming decades by demonstrating regionally reliant alternatives for our food systems to the current oil-dependent food distribution system that we have. And I believe that this good state and this partnership in the Wisconsin Idea are going to do much, much more.”

Every once in a while when I sneak a small fry and chocolate shake at McDonald’s, I think of Piper’s comments. There was a time in my life when meager starting salaries meant that going to McDonald’s on a Saturday night with our 15-month-old daughter was that week’s one and only night out – a highlight filled with Happy Meals and a McDonald’s “Play Land” with pink slides and plastic ball pit. As a family, we were on our way to realizing what good food was, but we didn’t yet have the resources to eat it full-time. Today, when I open my fridge and see an entire drawer of artisan cheeses made by hand from that same Driftless Region of which Piper remembers, I appreciate the good, clean and fair food I now enjoy on a regular basis.

I am proud to be a member of Slow Food and am appreciative this young organization is working to attain a goal of finding ways of good, clean and fair food for all. If you’re not already a member of your local chapter, check out Slow Food USA┬áto see where you can make a difference.