Decelerating French Food Culture – Slow Food

The Slow Food movement in France is still in its embryonic stages. If we use its German counterpart as a marker, French membership is at a mere 700 compared to the 13,500 members of the German Slow Food Organization. Why is Slow Food, which stands for good food, preservation of local and regional foodways and slowing down the rise of fast life in the present day, gaining so little momentum in a country associated with fine dining? This article looks into it.

Worldwide, the movement consists of more than 100,000 members and, indeed, the phenomenon remains very unknown on a global level. In France, the Slow Food Team, divided into 30 convivien (sub-groups) has yet to reach 1,000 members. It is safe to say that Slow Food has not gained a foothold in France since the movement’s inception in 1989.

This can be explained, among other factors, by France’s centralized political system under which it is governed despite its significant regional distinctions. General patriotism and pride among its citizens may also be a reason. Why should they adopt a foreign movement, carrying an English name no less, that attempts to school them on food? France already has a long-running group of bon vivants that take great joy in preparing dinners of high quality. In that sense, they have already been upholding French culinary values, but their activities do not include all the goals for which the Slow Food movement stands. However, a draught of fresh air brought in by a younger generation of chefs is allowing the movement to gradually take shape in France.

The French talk about gastronomy on the one hand and of food production processes on the other as if they were two separate matters. More caterers and producers are becoming conscious of gastronomy’s dependence on the environment, the economy and society. With or without the assistance of Slow Food, they can do something to revolutionize the established structures that link gastronomy to these factors. Slow Food’s “platform” would be of interest to them, for it values good quality cuisine, recognizes it as a way of life and tries to protect it from being standardized and marginalized. Activities of the movement can be categorized under eco-gastronomy for its inclusion of ecological concern. For example, it tries to maintain biodiversity. One of its tasks is to register all endangered food-related plant and animal species in the international catalog Ark of Taste.

Below is a summary of Slow Food’s main sustainability criteria:

Slow Food stands for…
In the midst of the growing selection of ready-made meals and fabricated foods, Slow Foods strives to protect local culinary businesses and producers, thereby ensuring the continued existence of a world culinary heritage.

Maintenance of Great Taste
Conforming to the principles of Slow Food includes rediscovering the true, authentic flavours that make up quality food. That means rediscovering one’s enthusiasm to explore the various flavours and, while doing so, understanding each of their origins and the various production processes that their sources have undergone. With Slow Food, one takes his/her time to savour all the different facets that go into preparing a meal and, finally, eating it.

Direct Contact to the Producers
In the face of ever-expanding multinational corporations, the Slow Food Movement advocates the support of regional sustenance. Specifically, consumers should take the time to meet local farmers directly and communicate with them. A number of farmer’s coops and fairs are being organized to promote regional consumption and, thereby, sustain ecosystems.

One of the more recent success stories is Slow Food’s breakthrough in Corsica through the founding of the “Corsica A Granitula”. In March 2016, a regional Slow Food Group of 20 members created a “new type of gastronomy”. Pro-environment and pro-health, the group set out to boost awareness of forgotten recipes and ingredients. These include Corsica-specific produce such as the moita onion, Rappu wine and the Vaccghja, a Corsican breed of cow.

The Slow Food movement also actively supports the preservation of farmland. Its various branches work in cooperation with other environmental protection associations.

A special thanks to Marella Redaelli, the contact person for France within Slow Food International, whose information was very helpful in putting together this article.

Don’t forget to check out our partners at myecostay who offer accommodation with Slow Food. Better yet, spend your next holiday there! Visit Gers, in Cathar Country, where the Hôtel Restaurant Le Relais du Bastidou offers you an exquisite cuisine at its Slow Food restaurant or treat yourself to a meal from sisters Sophie and Béatrice whilst spending time in their cozy log cabins in Auvergne!