Fast food is a phenomenon that most people in the world are familiar with. However, slow food is less well known. The name slow food is slightly deceptive as it is much more than the opposite of fast food. The slow food movement advocates more than just care and attention to what we eat. It offers an alternative to fast-paced modern life by encompassing the philosophy behind why and how we should eat by providing information on sourcing produce, methods of cooking and the positive social aspects of eating and sharing a meal.
What is Fast Food?
To understand what slow food really is, we need to understand what it is the antidote to: fast food. Typically, the term fast food refers to quickly prepared food with low quality ingredients and preparation that is served in disposable packaging at franchised restaurant chains, independent outlets and kiosks. It is often over-priced, low in nutritional value, and eaten “on the run”.
It is frequently manufactured in an industrial environment, pre-packed, and then shipped to retailers where it can be reheated or cooked quickly. While some fast food is healthy, such as sushi, quick fried or grilled fresh meat and vegetables, baked potatoes, salads, fresh sandwiches, most is not. Common fast foods such as burgers, french fries, fish and chips, pizza and kebabs are often highly processed and contain large amounts of additives, are high in calories, trans fats, sugars and salts, and come in relatively small portions.
What is Slow Food?
Slow food is a system of values that is designed to combat the detrimental effects of fast food. Its whole ethos centres on the idea of “living an unhurried life, beginning at the table.” The Slow Food Movement was formed in Italy in 1986 and has grown to around 83,000 members in 122 countries.
Among the key values it promotes and encourages are the extensive use of regional and local produce, traditional farming and cooking methods, and sharing the enjoyment of carefully and slowly prepared and cooked foods in the company of others all of which nurtures a healthy mind and body.
However, its remit also extends to the preservation of regional and cultural foods and ingredients such as plants, seeds, and domestic animals through programmes such as taste education, and offers support to those who wish to source and promote traditional, local high quality food that is more nourishing and tastier than fast food.
By eating and adopting the social attitude of slow food, both bodily and mental health can be improved much more so than a fast food diet. Fast food providers, especially in the US, urge consumers to buy “Supersize” which has contributed to the problem of obesity, which increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, blood diseases joint problems.
Fast food is often eaten fast, which is often anti-social and bad for digestion. With slow food, a meal is made into a special event. During preparation of the food, people take time to relax and share a conversation, which extends well after the meal is finished. Because slow food is made from the freshest, local ingredients and produce (often organic, hence free from manmade chemicals), diners have peace of mind knowing where their food came from and that it provides high nutritional value.
Many people are surprised to learn that slower eating aids weight loss. The conditioned behaviour of eating until we are full is a complex process that depends on how many times we chew, how long we eat for and the amount of food we eat. If we chew and eat more slowly and spend more time at the table, most people find that it takes less food to feel full.
In addition, eating is made more enjoyable because of the sharing. Mealtimes have traditionally been a time when people can come together and not just share a meal, but bond. This makes for closer relationships with friends and family members that are happier because of the sharing.
Eating more slowly enables us to taste more. Fast food is designed to be eaten quickly, which is why it has concentrated flavours. However, the taste doesn’t last long and is ultimately unsatisfying. Slow food on the other hand, is made with the best ingredients and produce which is packed full of natural flavours. When we eat slowly in relaxing surroundings, we experience more flavours, textures and aromas, and will gain new appreciation of our food.