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Why "Slow Food" Is Back

Question: Why has the idea of “slow food” regained popularity?

Glenn Roberts: I don’t think slow food ever went away; it\r\n just was on the fringe.  I think everybody remembers Quaker Oats took \r\n45-minutes-to-an-hour to cook, if they’re my age.  And now they take 30 \r\nseconds in a microwave.  And I think that if that’s particular right \r\ninside of the things I do because oats are a phenomenal part of the \r\nrotations of the crops we grow.  But I use that a lot.  Not because \r\nQuaker is evil, but because that’s a good representation of how we saw \r\nfood move from post-World War II until the middle '90s.  And I think \r\nthat other people would see it as, "Oh fast food and fast food chain \r\nrestaurants" and they tie it immediately to food disease-related \r\nissues.  I just see it as a diminishment of flavor over time.  I see \r\nthese pop and crackle flavors I was always involved in the food \r\nproduction industry in hotels and restaurants.  So, I saw chefs, as a \r\nrule, abandoning these multi-day stock reduction systems for cuisine and\r\n moving into systems that didn’t require that to save labor, save food \r\ncosts—it actually is more expensive to not make stocks, but they were \r\nthinking they were saving food costs.  And I watched that entire wave \r\nhappen while still the classics were still being taught worldwide.  You \r\nknow, stock is endemic to civilization, it is not something we thought \r\nup to have a fine French restaurant. 

And as I see the movement \r\nto then step away from trying to abbreviate things and as I watched \r\npeople start to put the moniker together, Carlo Petrini being I guess \r\nthe first person that really popularized the idea, it was actually an \r\noutgrowth, I think more from the fact that we didn’t want to lose \r\nsomething than the fact that we were losing something.  A lot of people \r\njust assumed that we didn’t want to lose something, whereas my interest \r\nin what happened with the people who did slow food and became interested\r\n in slow food was, they thought they were retrieving something.  And \r\nthe, I think, deep will to have some sort of authentic and meaningful \r\nnutrition is really where all this lives.  And the word “authentic” has \r\nbeen beat to death so I hate to use it.  So we could try for something \r\nelse, which would be there is a certain sort of marker over time for the\r\n kinds of experiences that gives you sustenance and well being.  And we \r\ntalk about the idea of slow cooking, capturing that well being because \r\nit doesn’t blow so much out of food. When you don’t put fast heat to \r\nsomething, just mechanically, there’s more there when you’re done \r\ncooking than if you try to cook the same thing in five minutes versus \r\ncooking it in an hour. 
\r\nAnd there’s a lifestyle that goes with that, learning to be conscious \r\nwhile not present that goes with it, and I think that that idea then \r\nwould be... it’s highly feminine because it’s multi-layered and the \r\nmulti-phasic individuals on the planet usually are women.  It comes to \r\nthem naturally, men not so much.  But the idea then that cooking can \r\nbecome something you can do many, many different things at once without \r\ntending to any one thing at any one time.  And I think that is actually \r\nthe draw.  I think people became bored with the idea that they were \r\ndelivered everything and it became... they became—that’s the other thing\r\n that gets beat to death—we’re disconnected from our foods.  Well, we \r\nwere disconnected from the process too; that the chef’s are not doing \r\nstock and all that.  That all came about with the word "instant" and I \r\nthink that’s pretty much the zeitgeist.  If it was instant, well then \r\nyou say, what’s next?  And if you haven’t thought that through really, \r\nreally well, you get boredom.

Recorded on April 28, 2010
Interviewed by Priya George

As our disconnection from food grows more dissatisfying, the slow food movement is gaining steam.

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