on April 13, 2006
Though the Slow Food is making appropriately Slow headway into U.S. consciousness, it has been an important and well-known influence on Italian culinary values for years. Slow Food: The Case for Taste is a good way to figure out what all the attention is about.
For anyone who doesn't know, Slow Food is the antithesis of "fast food," as it is represented by drive through burger restaurants, coffee in a to-go cup, and ready-to-eat microwave dinners. The 17-year-old organization was born from opposition to the opening of a McDonald's restaurant in Rome's iconic Piazza di Spagna (the effort was unsuccessful: that particular location is still open and it serves more than 8,000 hamburgers a day). From that beginning, it evolved to promote eateries that use fresh ingredients and preserve historical cuisines, to fund educational programs, and to encourage the movement's members to stop and smell the roses (and then to have a nice plate of pasta and glass of wine afterwards).
I'm a fan of many aspects of the Slow Food movement: I don't think there's a better guide to Italian restaurants than the Osterie d'Italia guide (available only in Italian). And the organization's educational programs have certainly heightened the awareness of good food and wine in Italy, something I have clearly benefited from. Overall, the emphasis on good, well-made, and unpretentious food and wine is something almost everyone can enjoy.
My main criticism of the Slow Food movement is that it seems to look at things too simply, divorcing the desire to eat and drink in a certain way and experience life under a certain set of rules from reality, often advocating actions -- such as the lengths someone should go to get the right garlic, or to eat in a proper restaurant, or decide how to vote on political issues -- that make less sense when taken in context. This all-or-nothing approach ends up sounding naive, and probably only undermines the validity of the organization's values. The weakness (apparent in this slim volume) means the book gets docked one star.
The other star is removed for sloppy translation and editing. Phrases are in some cases so badly translated that they can sound stilted and are sometimes difficult to understand. More importantly, editors appear to have simply translated a book written for an Italian audience without understanding that the values and context -- that word again: can anyone at Slow Food understand that different contexts require different reactions? -- are very different in the U.S., where this book has been marketed. There are several examples of this weakness, but the best comes from a passage talking about an appreciation for wine, where the book reads: "when they are old enough, the kids will develop a taste for Barolo" -- not in most families, given underage drinking laws and the fact that in the U.S. Barolo starts at $50-60 a bottle!
I have not read the Italian edition of this book, but I'm going to seek it out. My best guess is that this edition was rushed to press in order to capitalize on the notoriety of the Slow Food movement in the U.S. a few years ago, and so certain corners were cut and certain liberties were taken. If a second edition is in the works, I'll make a suggestion I wouldn't have guessed I'd have to make in connection with this movement: slow down! There's no hurry. It's better to get it right later than it is to do a sloppy job sooner.
on August 12, 2003
It's rare to find a book that's informative, convivial, and inspiring. Carlo Petrini's Slow Food: The Case for Taste is such a book. True to his Italian character and culture, he describes the Slow Food movement with style and exuberance. He would make a convert of me if I had not already embraced his philosophy for the "good life". I share his passion for excellence in food and wine and the responsibilities that are attached to this pleasure. Petrini would make an excellent dinner guest, bringing gusto and reverence for the meal served and adding intelligent, sometimes jovial chatter throughout each course.
Back in the 70s, E.F. Schumacher wrote Small is Beautiful, creating a movement that eventually became a cliche. In smallness we find our human scale and through smallness it is possible to express our uniqueness. The Slow Food movement has taken this concept and added a few additional ingredients which make life pleasurable. I think Petrini's book can have as strong of an impact on the new millennium as Schumacher's book had in the 70s.
Much credit should be given to the translators for maintaining the integrity of Petrini's literary style.
on May 17, 2016
"Slow Food: The Case for Taste" begins the way a book with this name should begin -- slowly. After a series of introductions you are plunged into the world of Bra, Italy in a manner that is a cultural geographer’s dream. We are set in place, in time, and made to understand the why of the region and how it fits into the whole of Italy. Then -- the food. Though Piemonte, where Bra is located, had not been a gastronomically recognized region, this was about to change. The smells of the town evolved from tannin -- from the cattle hide and leather industry -- to food, and not just any food, but a celebration of food as it should be, tasty, loving, and using the local just-in-time ingredients and specialties.
Two of the hallmarks of what would become the slow food movement are that it is not the aristocratic elite gluttons of past gastronomic societies, but instead a communal left movement, using the simple, local, and moderate foods of a region that have developed in specific places at specific times. In many ways slow food would become a regional geography of gastronomy, recognizing the individuality of places, their soils, climates, elevation, and combining this with the human adaptations to places, culture, and the unique equations that each place has created in history. The movement, while still centered in Italy, spread throughout Europe, and has reached the US and not a moment too soon. Personally, I am tired of being directed to the local “restaurant row” only to find a neon battered-fried gulch. Petrini has helped to bring back the osteria, a quotidian Italian restaurant in every small town “promoting local identities, the proper use of raw ingredients, and the revival of convivial values and simple, seasonal flavors.” Oh, yes, and just a note, about the use of the word “convivial” (“with life” literally, it means -- merry and, sociable, the pleasure of good company around an atmosphere of good food) used constantly throughout this translated book, a word not used much in English, a telling example of the difference of this culture versus that of America. Maybe convivial will happen in America too; my hope is eternal.
Carlo Petrini is to the slow food movement what Ray Kroc was to fast food. Beginning in 1986 with a protest against a McDonalds in Rome, Petrini soon founded what has become a worldwide organization championing sustainable farming, the continued farming and cultivation of unique quality foods, and the endurance of family. When was the last time you sat down with the family and ate together as a social rite? Many people have forgotten the family meal or, even worse, never had real food. Petrini did not continue protesting, but instead invested his time in discovering the hidden treasures of his Italy, and then, as time went on, the hidden food treasures of the world. But wait! Not only does he discover them, but he wrote a manifesto, organized conventions (the Salon del Gusto) for people to show these wares and get others interested, and started a university -- yes, that's right, a university -- for the appreciation of food! Slow Food also offers yearly prizes, “The slow food award for the Defense of Biodiversity,” to “protect the small purveyors of find food from the deluge of industrial standardization.” These rewards have gone to surprised and unlikely winners, such as Jesus Garzon, who reintroduced transhumance in Spain (it is easier on the environment, promotes native grasses, plants and re-population of native animals, and it provides handcrafted sheep’s milk cheeses) helping to maintain much of the local culture and providing jobs for families that had traditionally herded sheep but thought it no longer possible.
Petrini is a man who did not agree with the globalization of food, the growing impersonal concerns of agribusiness, and the spread of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and did something about it. While not endorsing the industrial food of globalization, he uses the global communication of the Internet to create this network, the Presidia, to protect, encourage, and offer help and monetary support to food sources that were on the verge of extinction.
The whole reason I wanted to read this book was to satisfy the cook in me by discovering what had been happening in this organization called Slow Food. Now I want to go further. If you appreciate good food well beyond the “special sauce,” if you regularly make your own stock, if you are always on the lookout for the local cuisine, not tourist local cuisine, but the real thing, then this book is for you. This is a book and a movement for people who love quality food.
on June 9, 2003
"May suitable doses of of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency." -Slow Food "Manifesto"
Far from what one of the "professional" reviewers here at Amazon called "didactic" (although I think he meant to say "pedantic"), Carlo Petrini sets out in brief (110 pages), a concise explanation of the need for Slow Food. While one may indeed need to be literate to understand what he has to say, it is nonetheless an approachable, comprehensible explanation of a maligned and misunderstood movement. Slow Food is NOT just a bunch of yuppie foodies stuffing their craws with foie gras. Recognizing that the enjoyment of wholesome food is essential to the pursuit of hapiness, Slow Food is an educational organization dedicated to stewardship of the land and ecologically sound food production; to the revival of the kitchen and the table as centers of pleasure, culture and community; to the invigoration and proliferation of regional, seasonal culinary traditions; and to living a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.
How can you argue with that? We will take an enourmous leap forward when we as a country and a culture put as much thought and effort into our food as we do into our entertainment. Read the book and stop being enslaved by the industrial standardization of tastes.
on June 14, 2007
This book offers concise information about the history and various activities of the Slow Food Movement. The book is divided into four chapters. After an outline of the origins of the movement, the second chapter on cultivating diversity argues for the need to preserve food localities, such as the Italian Osteria. The third chapter describes Slow Food's educational goals with regards to nutrition, agriculture, and taste, followed by a final section on genetically modified organisms (GMO) and ways to promote biodiversity.
Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food and author of this book, convincingly shows how the standardization of food and tastes leads to the loss of (bio)diversity and describes measures that Slow Food has initiated to counterbalance this tendency, such as taste education in schools and events such as the Salone del Gusto, an international exhibition where producers and distributors present their local foods. The overall tone of this book is balanced. Also, difficulties that Slow Food has encountered are addressed, such as the struggles of the movement to position itself between the political left and more conservative forces in Italy.
However, in my opinion the volume could provide more information on how consumers can incorporate the philosophy of Slow Food into their daily lives. Despite the need to safeguard regional foods, the movement focuses mainly on its global structure and aims in order to achieve this goal. More information on how a more effective communication network between producers and consumers of endangered foods can be installed on a local basis would be desirable in this book.
on July 21, 2003
In 1989, author, cook and visionary Carlo Petrini founded the International Slow Food Movement as response to our fast-food lifestyle. The movement now has a magazine, a web site, and over 400,000 followers organized into local chapters. With a foreword written by Alice Waters, it's no surprise to learn that Petrini advocates the same philosophy as Chez Panisse's founder: traditional recipes, locally grown foods and wines, and eating as an event.
It's a small book, only 170 pages, but it packs a wallop as a philosophy, a recipe for Life.
on May 5, 2010
If you didn't know anything about the slow food movement, this book will give you a comprehensive view. The description of the movement's principles and strategies to change our eating habits, gastronomic knowledge, and to change, in fact, our fast-life western culture, convinced me that slow food has gone beyond their pseudo-elitist confinement, into a whole new category, that of being a plausible alternative for a real and sustainable cultural revolution. One of the best features in the book is Carlo Petrini, its author and the founder of the movement. His enthusiastic spirit is dressed with a no-nonsense attitude; his delivery of the information is effective and to the point. No word is wasted ... just the way I like it!