By Voula Halliday, Co-leader Slow Food Toronto
Since the New Year chimed in I’ve been asking myself, what does a Slow Food life look like for all of us in the year to come? It isn’t that I doubt how my family has been living up to now; it’s that I was challenged by my husband with a simple question that has been nagging at me since.
I was complaining to him that so many people still think Slow Food is a chef trend in cooking, or that it’s a collection of tried, tested and true crock-pot recipes.
“People need to know the truth about what’s happening in our industrialized food system so that they can make choices and become part of building a sustainable system that ensures health for all of us, and for our land—and for the future of our planet,” I belted the words out loudly, my hands raised and shaking in the air, in an effort to emphasize my frustration. “Face the reality of what’s happening here folks, don’t turn it into a culinary cliché!”
“Cool down a minute,” he said to me. “Without pausing to think—give me your Slow Food elevator pitch. Inspire me to change my behavior now.”
“Well honey, you know what it is,” I told him. “We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to the pleasure of good food and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible.”
“That’s your elevator pitch?”
“Ah… well, I’d probably talk about access to good food for all… and fair treatment to farmers… and the environment—you know, being good to the planet. All that.”
“But what does that mean to me, the busy guy living downtown zooming back and forth from work in a hurry, or the single mom with three kids on a tight budget and no time, or to the university student that can’t wait to party on the weekend? How are you engaging me to want to live slow?”
I got defensive. Slow Food isn’t a quick pitch I should squeeze in, panting on an elevator, somewhere between the fourth and eleventh floors! Slow Food is about a healthy and sustainable way of living that benefits all of us. It’s a no-brainer. It should be how everyone wants to live because it’s better.
Slow doesn’t need to be explained. Or defended. Does it?
Months later I was one of the many people listening intently to Galen Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw Companies Limited, presenting at the Canadian Food Summit in Toronto when he infamously said “Farmers’ markets are great… One day they’re going to kill some people though.”
“I’m just saying that to be dramatic though,” he quickly added.
I caught my breath and felt my hands get cold as the blood drained from me. It was startling to hear those words slip from him. No, it was more than that. It terrified me to think that there were people in the room listening to him and taking his words as gospel.
But I didn’t challenge his statement that day. I held on. What Galen Weston gave me in that moment was my greatest inspiration.
Slow Food is a counter-revolution. We are 100,000 members strong, around the world, and growing. Together we are an active community of citizens working to reverse the life threatening trends of industrialized food production.
That, as an elevator pitch, may not feel like a statement powerful enough to change the world or to help us confront industrialized agricultural giants and demons. But it is.
And to be clear, we’re not giving this pitch to one person alone. Galen slipped up in the midst of making some very good points. But truth is, there are many corporate powers that have been defining our food system in a way that isn’t good for us, or for our planet, long before him.
As a counter-revolution to the idea that large scale is king, Slow Food is the game changer. We are united in the commitment to share and preserve knowledge that will benefit us all. We are an open-book, giving all people access to the true stories of where our food comes from. We know the difference between a direct short supply chain, from farmer to farmer’s market, versus the domino-like two- way industrialized food supply chain—from farmer, to processor, to distributer, to retailer, to consumer. We cherish the joys of sharing food grown by our own hands, the hands of our elders, the hands of our local farmers. We are grateful for this land and we protect it because without it we will die.
Clearly Galen has been on the elevator with some of us at some point through this journey. He’s heard us, and it’s scaring him. It’s scaring him so much he lost his way at the Canadian Food Summit and exposed a weak link during his otherwise well debated and researched presentation.
It is what spilled out of him by accident that tells the real story. And thankfully that real story celebrates our achievements so far and gives us a new lease on a playing field that we must claim as our own for a large part of the ongoing debate on how to fix this broken food system.
So thanks. Join us at the table.
We’ve got this one. And we’re not letting go.
Continuing to live a life everlasting—I learn, I grow, I cook, I share, I teach, I remain yours, slowly,
Co-Leader, Slow Food Toronto
What does Slow Food mean to you? How do you see the year ahead shaping up for our food system? What’s your elevator pitch? We welcome your thoughts and comments.