The Slow Food Movement: The Concept that Inspired Slow Living
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Slow living, the lifestyle that many of you readers will know of, is all about taking your time, pausing to think, reconsider and making healthier choices. It's about living gratefully, mindfully, ethically and sustainably, for a better holistic wellbeing. I wrote a blog post a while back when the concept was still relatively new to me. I've learned a lot since that post, and I promised to write more about what really inspired the slow living lifestyle: slow food.

When we think about slow food, it's immediately obvious that the exact opposite should come to mind first. We are all too familiar with fast food. We hear about it all the time on the news and we are all guilty of it eating it. If you're not guilty, I envy your self-control! Generally, no matter how clean we try to be with what we put into our bodies, some kind of fast food occasionally gets put in too. We can't deny that it tastes good, but we know we're cheating enormously and potentially feeding our bodies unknown nasties. We will always question the reliability of what the big chain restaurants tell us; that our food is '100% [insert here]'. Slow food, in contrast, is about being aware of where our food has come from and thinking carefully about our choices - but of course, it tastes just as good, if not better.

The Slow Food Movement began in the 1980's, pioneered by an Italian named Carlo Petrini. It was set in motion after a certain large fast-food chain submitted plans to build their latest restaurant in Petrini's local area. In response, there was an outcry among local residents. An eatery such as this didn't belong in an area that valued healthy eating, supporting local business and a slower pace of life. Globalisation was appearing to hit too close to home in this circumstance, so the Slow Food Organisation was formed. It still runs today in a number of places with the same, not-for-profit principles of promoting and celebrating homegrown, locally-sourced and clean food. Each of these elements leads to a satisfaction, a 'gastronomic pleasure', that defines a specific culture or society. In the country that gave us pizza, pasta, risotto and gelato, you can imagine the determination to keep the world-over, standard fast food menus out. Of course, looking at the amount of fast food restaurants we have access to just about everywhere today, the fast food phenomena was clearly impossible to avoid, but slow food has always been available to everyone, and I think the appreciation for it, whilst perhaps still just the beginning, has boomed over the last decade. With the internet letting food production scandals loose and growing environmental concerns being pushed to the forefront, people began to realise the importance of making better choices when it comes to their eating habits.
SLOW is rather clever. It's not just the opposite of fast food. It forms a wildly appropriate acronym as well: S, for Seasonal; L, for Local; O, for Organic and W, for Whole. I also think we could interchange 'Seasonal' with 'Sustainable' since that seems to fit the bill very well. But let's go through each one as they are set out and talk about them a little more in-depth. How do we benefit from adjusting our food habits to adhere more to these four principles? How do they inspire us to expand beyond the kitchen table and start applying the slow concept to our lifestyle as a whole?

Seasonal

When we go to the supermarket for our weekly shop, we are used to being able to buy fruit and veg that is not in season. You can even purchase lamb, imported from New Zealand when the famous lamb from neighbouring Wales is out of season. What's wrong with that? I hear you ask. Well, there's not a lot wrong with buying things as and when we want to, since we are lucky to have access to them, but there are a few things to consider that put seasonal eating a cut above. When things are in season, that is when they tend to be freshest. The likelihood is you will start seeing English strawberries on the shelves alongside Spanish ones and so forth, and the product with the least food miles tends to more fresh since they will not have had to travel as far after being picked. Furthermore, when produce is fresher, they are usually more nutritious. When you eat seasonally, you can also be assured that products will be cheaper, therefore allowing you to put the money you saved elsewhere in your life. In terms of slow living, this means you have the chance to invest more money, time and energy into your hobbies or valued activities.
If you are looking for excellent seasonal food tips, advice and recipes, check out websites and magazines like Creative Countryside and Liz Earle Wellbeing.

Local

I am a big advocate for locally-sourced produce. Spending much of my time on a farm for the last five years means I have developed a deeper appreciation for the efforts our farmers and growers put in to ensure a healthy yield and I now do my best to support local business wherever I can. It's not always easy; eating food produced locally might not be as cheap as purchasing food in a supermarket, but the big L, in slow food and slow living, encourages us to look beyond the price of our food and open our eyes to the greater impacts on our local scene. Wherever we can afford to buy local produce, we will be putting investment back into the local economy, allowing small businesses in our area to flourish. Later down the line, the successes of these local businesses could open up opportunities for employment. If you want to start off making small changes towards consuming local produce, try looking for a milkman that serves your area. You can use a website called Find Me A Milkman to help you locate dairies and deliveries nearest to you. I remember my nan having milk bottles down by her front door when I used to arrive as a child. I even used to see the milk float come chinking down the road. It's so pleasing to me, hearing that milkmen are gradually gaining more custom again, after years of never seeing a single bottle outside somebody's home.

And, again, food miles are cut shorter when purchasing local produce, so you can expect your food to be full of nutrients and not to have been altered with life-extending chemicals. You could even go a step further by growing your own garden veg or re-homing a few ex-batt chickens for your own eggs! The thought of eggs and veg coming from just metres from your house is very fulfilling. For me, there is no feeling quite like it. Pottering out in the garden, picking up eggs and harvesting the fruits of your labour under a beating hot sun is just the epitome of a slow living lifestyle.

Organic

Whilst there is an ongoing debate over organic and non-organic, I don't think it can do any harm to try to eat organic produce wherever possible. 'Organic' means that a crop hasn't been treated or sprayed with artificial pesticides and various chemicals. According to research, it provides a more sustainable approach to farming, because it is less harmful to surrounding ecology. Whatever you believe, there can't be anything wrong with eating organic produce as much as you possibly can. You can even grow your own organic food. There are plenty of natural remedies out there that you can try to treat your plants and keep away the pests. When it comes to slow living, maybe the inspiration came from the idea of being mindful of the impacts on the environment. For more information about organic growing and tips and tricks to maintain your garden, visit Garden Organic UK.

Whole

Whole foods are ones that are unprocessed, unrefined or as unchanged as much as possible. Processing will alter the nutrient count in the food item and therefore affects the nourishment we get out of eating it. It also means we cannot be so sure that what we are eating hasn't been combined with something else. Although there are some very tight laws and regulations of food production in the UK, it wouldn't hurt for us to try to avoid processed food where we can. Of course, the solution to this is to grow our own! When you cook with something you grew, you know exactly where it has been, what it was treated with and the condition it was in before being picked. There is often no need to process things, as I found out when I started to make potato wedges and chips just from peeling and chopping my potatoes and bunging them in the oven or fryer. Shop-bought oven chips have got nothing on homemade fries and wedges! Here is a recipe I use frequently for making wedges in the oven. Check out the many recipes available on Pinterest to have a go yourself. It couldn't be easier!
When we look at slow living we can see how the slow food movement truly influenced this type of lifestyle. Giving back, respecting nature, rewarding ourselves with time and taking care of our health and that of others are all very important. It's been my goal for awhile to start embracing slow living and slow food for an enhanced wellbeing and lifestyle. Now you know a little more about it, will it be one of yours too?