Slow food or slow progress? (Kenneth Hurst)

The CNSI talk on Slow Food and the University of Gastronomic Sciences are interesting and important movements that address a real problem of modern society: a lot of food sucks, even expensive food. People often don’t take the time to enjoy it, opting to shove it down their throats instead.

Although the movement has its plusses, it is doomed to failure or obscurity/irrelevance if it doesn’t take into account two critical problems with its mantra:

First, slow food is not for everyone, and fast food is not wholly bad. Slow food is a luxury; if you can afford it and have the desire to pay for it, feel free to cough up the dough and be glad that you can; but for a significant portion of the population (even of affluent countries like the US), slow food is just not worth it. It’s not worth the time, and it’s not worth the expense. You can almost always pay more for better quality. Cheaper, more convenient food often comes with the balancing price of being less exciting to the tongue or less nutritious. It’s ok to choose fast food (or ‘non-slow’ food), just like it’s ok to choose clothes from WalMart over over ones from Banana Republic.

Second, preserving cultural food misses the point. Lots of cultural traditions have great things about them that are worth preserving, but very often that preservation comes by integrating with other cultural traditions. This is the idea of the melting pot. Authentic Italian food from hundreds of years ago is very dissimilar from the Italian food you get in modern America, or even modern Italy. It’s evolved from its contact with other food traditions, and probably for the better. Malcom Gladwell gives an excellent talk at TED that mentions some of these evolved differences here.

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