Everyone knows about farmer’s markets, but are you part of the Slow Food Movement? As most things delicious and wonderful, Slow Food began in Italy. And it’s become a global movement with a simple mission about food: “Good, clean, and fair.”
Touted primarily as an alternative to fast food, Slow Food started small. There were political demonstrations involving bowls of spaghetti in Italy, a manifesto-style book, and a few farmer’s market vendors and patrons aware that an anti-industrialized cuisine movement was beginnning. Now a global organization 100,000 members strong, Slow Food seeks to convert people from a commercial, convenience-based diet, to one centered on sustainable agriculture, small businesses, and regional and seasonal cuisine. It’s an idea, a way of living, and a way of eating. And it’s true: a Slow Food-only diet makes you feel better, happier, and more aligned with nature.
Only one problem: it’s expensive. If you cook seasonally or shop at farmer’s markets, you already know it can be costly. But to commit 100% to fair, local, and non-industrialized food can skyrocket meal costs past your budget’s range. So, how can you commit to the movement when you’ve got bills to pay? One word: slowly.
The Low Down on the Slow Down
Start with your brain. Curiosity is free. Research, learn, and think about Slow Food and what about its mission speaks particularly to you. Spend some time understanding and unpacking the many ideals on which the movement is based — it’s about the protection of agricultural heritage. It’s about honoring your geography. And there are some well-meaning anti-”Big Food” political sentiments, as well. Slow Food is fascinating — and it’s a lifestyle. Whet your appetite, for free. (Start here. Try reading this. Here’s another good piece.)
Next, take incremental steps toward a Slow Food life. Go to a farmers market with friends, but don’t bring any money along. Instead, take a pen and paper. Price items that you’d normally buy. Be present; talk to farmers and vendors about their process. Learn what will and won’t be available each season. Ask questions, and do some price research. You’re almost ready to take the plunge.
Ramping Up to Slow It Down
Again, start slowly. Replace meal items with other items, and craft recipes around seasonal cuisine. Don’t feel bad if you can’t afford to go completely local, but watch what artifically altered foods you might be eating. You want to stick to your budget, but you also want to feed yourself living food. Try spending 25% of your food budget for the month on local foods, and see if it feeds you for a week. If it does, increase to 50%. And a month or two later, go all the way.
Splurges will happen. Corners will be cut. And you’ll probably have some fast food on a particularly hectic day. But an investment in slow food is an investment in your life, your health, and your community. And with a little forethought and preparation, you can be a more balanced person on an equally balanced budget.