Slow Food: “Good, Clean, and Fair”
Slow Food is delicious, nutritious food that is produced in an ecologically sound and economically just manner, with equal regard for culinary art, the environment, humane animal treatment, and the right of producers and workers to be fairly compensated. Cultures of Resistance highlights Slow Food International and its local chapters, or “conviviums,” which promote Slow Food and the movement’s principles around the world, with careful attention to the food traditions of local cultures–many of which struggle to preserve indigenous cuisines from multinational agribusiness. Slow Food International “believes that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. The movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy – a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.”
The reach of Slow Food is hardly limited to the dinner clubs of the rich world, as skeptics might caricature the movement. The social justice underpinnings of the Slow Food movement are perhaps most visible in the global South, where the appeal of Slow Food goes hand in hand with that of a related concept: “food sovereignty.” The international peasant movement La Via Campesina, which first formalized the concept, defines food sovereignty as “the peoples’, countries’ or state unions’ RIGHT to define their agricultural and food policy”–for more policy information about what this right entails, visit Via Campesina’s food sovereignty page here.
Africa in particular is home to many vibrant efforts to strengthen food sovereignty, and it is also the region with the most acute need for the resources to sustain these movements. Many Slow Food campaigns are intended to increase public awareness of the importance of local consumption and traditional food production; we hope the following information will inspire you to join us in supporting the work of Slow Food International in Africa and around the world.
Supporting Local Food Traditions in Africa
Despite travel and security problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the local Slow Food convivium, located in the town of Kiwandja, organizes educational activities that have been enthusiastically received by the local population of the Province of Nord-Kivu. These public activities raise awareness of the importance of eating local food and promoting traditional products. They encourage the growth of the local farmer’s market. They have included communal tastings of popular delicacies such as the maracuja juice “afya” and the pineapple wines “karibu” and “tangawizi.”
In Senegal, local Slow Food activists conduct workshops for school children at locations such as Le Point d’Interrogation in Dakar, one of the few restaurants in the country that uses uniquely Senegalese ingredients and serves traditional dishes. During these workshops, students work side by side with cooks in the kitchen in order to gain first-hand, sensory experiences of the food. In doing so, they learn in detail about production techniques and the cultural roots of the dishes and their ingredients. Activists have also conducted similar trainings in schools and collaborated on these projects with local media organizations such as Agri Infos, a monthy magazine that promotes the idea of “eating local” to a specifically rural Senegalese audience.
The Slow Food convivium in the Ivory Coast, a country still rebuilding after years of civil war, encourages local women’s cooperatives to grow fruit and vegetable gardens and to distribute quality food products to schools and local markets. The chapter’s workshops have also taught the cooperatives how to produce food without chemicals and according to ecologically sustainable and traditional techniques. Finally, the convivium has also hosted forums for school children, their families, and school staff in the southern region of the country. Such forums raise awareness about the importance of favoring food from the Ivory Coast over imported food. In areas where local children attend schools without canteens, the convivium has collaborated with neighboring “maquis,” the small and very simple restaurants that offer local, wholesome cuisine.
In Gabon, the Groupement d’Entraide pour le Développement Rural (GEDER), or the “Solidarity Group for Rural Development,” has established theNorth-South Gastronomic Day, inaugurated in Mitzic, in the region of Woleu Ntem, in 2008. The North-South Gastronomic Day celebrates not only the food culture indigenous to Gabon, but also the food traditions of foreign communities living in the country, namely from from Cameroon, Congo, and Guinea. In the past, the festival has also featured conferences discussing the social impact of food traditions. Workshops held by cooks and other food producers have been geared towards fostering exchange among producers from different geographical areas, and they have allowed participants to taste and analyze popular dishes and beverages. Finally, GEDER works to classify all traditional recipes from Gabon and plans to compile the information in a forthcoming book.
From eating locally and examining your own food consumption to standing in solidarity with food activists in other parts of the world, there are many different ways that you can get involved with this international movement. To get started, you can:
• Visit the Slow Food website to learn more about the movement and read the Slow Food Manifesto. The Manifesto was written by Folco Portinari and was endorsed by delegates from 15 countries on December 10, 1989, inaugurating the Slow Food movement.
• Join your local convivium and become a member of Slow Food International. There are currently over 1,000 Slow Food convivia around the world, which together represent about 100,000 members.
• Go to one of the many Slow Food events held around the world. The events range from annual fish and cheese tastings to documentary film festivals that highlight “Culinary Cinema.”