04 May 2008

What is Slow Food Indy?

The short answer:
The Slow Food Indy convivium sums this up in this way: Slow Food Indy brings our community together through experiencing local food and wines, and promotes good food that is produced fairly in an environmentally friendly and humane way.

Slow food is the opposite of fast food. It's about getting back to a time where you can shake the hand that feeds you, from the farmer to the chef; knowing your food from the field to the table. It's about community coming together, one meal at a time. You share in the entire process, not simply consume processed foods. Slow Food is a sustainable food supply that is good, clean and fair.

The long answer:
Think about every aspect of fast food, do the exact opposite, and that's exactly what slow food is all about. From the processed food, the packaging, the impersonal nature of an efficient, but unsustainable way of eating; EVERYTHING that is wrong with the McDonaldisation of America is what Slow Food Indiana wants to correct.

The Slow Food movement was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy as a direct response to a McDonalds opening in Rome's famous Piazza di Spagna.

Picture yourself sitting in the drive "thru" line at your local McDonald's. Before we even get to the actual food itself, first, realize you're alone in your running car, burning a non-renewable resource while breathing fumes of other cars in line. In those other cars there are people. People you're not connecting with in any way.

You're talking into an electronic box. You might not ever see the person at the other end.

The "food" was produced in a plant somewhere, and shipped hundreds (or thousands of miles), burning yet more fuel. Of course, food processing factories require even more energy. Even before the meat got to the factory, the factory farmed cow was fed processed corn and grain, not the grass that cows naturally eat. What's the carbon "footprint" of one Big Mac, I wonder?

Update: The carbon footprint of a Big Mac cheeseburger is 4 kg of CO2 equivalent gases, about the same emissions as burning a half gallon of gasoline, as shown here.

Let's move beyond the unsustainable supply chain required to get your Big Mac, large fries, and a large Coca-Cola drink to your mouth. Is any fast food good?

Your frozen Big Mac has been waiting in in pieces in warmers for you to order. Once your order appears on an unseen worker's computer screen, it is assembled, and popped into a microwave. The minuscule amount of vegetables, if they had any nutrients left from when they were picked a month ago and frozen, are microwaved along with everything else, assuring they won't have any nutrients now.

Onto the fries. Of course, everyone knows McDonald's switched from animal to "healthy" vegetable oil. The fries are processed at a plant where they now include (as stated on McDonald's own web site), natural beef flavor, citric acid, dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and dimethylpolysiloxane. And you thought beef fat was a concern?

Oh, you had the chicken? Don't worry, the Tyson chicken processing plant that slaughters an estimated 1 million chickens each week quit using arsenic in it's feed WAY back in 2004. Comforting, isn't it? Not what we'd call "clean" food.

Of course, that Coke is the real quarter pounder, containing nearly a quarter pound of sugar, .666 cups. Coincidence? Call me a cynic, but the corn that goes into your beef, the corn syrup that's in your coke and catchup, and the vegetable oil that fries your fries makes me think that there's big money in corn.

There is hope though, as I found one thing on McDonald's menu that is pure.

Sugar Packet: White granulated Sugar

Your meal amounts to 1530 calories, out of the USDA of 2000, before you get the extra corn syrup filled catchup calories. Eating this way, obviously, will not be sustainable long term.

After the processing, microwaving, etc. your food is wrapped into paper, stuffed into a paper bag, along with some more paper napkins, along side your paper cup and plastic lid drink. You see where I'm going with this?

Many factors contributed to getting this far removed from a traditional food system over the last 50 years. Soon, we will be getting back basics. No? Either we do so voluntarily, like Slow Food advocates, or we will soon be forced to, as Cuba was.

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