Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Slow" down folks

Wake up at 6:00 a.m. and roll out of bed... At least you try to. "Gotta get the kids up for school", you remind yourself. You try with the determination of a drill sergeant to rally the troops but your teenager is having a bad hair day and your 5th grader wants to wear make up to school... Another typical morning and you are already running behind. You barely get the kids dropped off to school and you are already tired and starving, so you stop at the nearest fast food racetrack for your heart attack in a bag and a hot cup of something that resembles coffee. 7 minutes to be in the door and at your desk and its non stop school zones, and trying to inhale your MRE ration for the morning before you go into battle.

Sound familiar?

These days... scratch that... For the last 30 years there has been a steady rise in the pace at which we live. The more advanced our society becomes, the more technology tries to help to simplify and organize our lives ironically only makes us move faster. Its a race... we are gaining momentum, everyone is trying to get ahead of the next person and we are frantic in our lust for it. Unfortunately we are not really getting anywhere... we are lost, but were making great time!!!!

In the wake of progress, we are becoming unhealthy both mentally and physically as we pass up life's beauty and simplicity like a locomotive. Unfortunately, our physical health is suffering greatly for this. Our meals are more frequently coming from a bucket or a bag, and even when we cook at home its something quick and most likely frozen or processed. And for those of us who weren't born with a knife in our hand, sometimes there is just little choice.

In 1986 a man named Carlo Petrini in Rome, Italy along with supporters began to protest against the proposal of a McDonald's that was going to be built in proximity to the Spanish steps in the ancient city. The organization of people at that time was called Arcigola, which eventually was transformed into what is now called The Slow Food movement or organization. "Slow food" is the name given to protest the "Fast food" frenzy that has taken over most of our world today. Their philosophy is to support the consumption of foods which are grown and produced locally that are sustainable and used in season, environmentally sound, supporting of culture and diversity, and fair to the farmers who make their living feeding us.

Since the birth of the Slow food movement, there are over 80,000 members in over 122 countries worldwide that support the non-profit organization. More and more chefs, restaurants and people of influence are joining the movement and are making it far more aware to the public. Never before in history have we as a civilization had to deal with the detrimental effects of the food we consume, due to the advancements in science and technology. We are all becoming more aware of this folly thanks to organizations like this, so what do we do with this new found knowledge?

Well folks, it time to slow down and get educated on the "perimeter aisles" at the local grocer or market. For those of you who aren't familiar with the "rabbit food" sections, lets get you back to the basics of life. Don't be intimidated by daikon radish and swiss chard... they are your friend. Utah is rich in farm land and has some of the best produce I have ever had, even better than what is coming from California this year, in my opinion. Fresh sweet corn, peaches, apricots, heirloom tomatoes, squash and zucchini, cherries etc... the list goes on. And it's all local and fresh. There are endless possibilities with such a wide variety of fruits and veggies, you are sure to try something new and different every time... minus all of the preservatives and ingredients you can't pronounce from most of the "middle aisle" selections.

And don't forget the Farmer's markets and local coops that provide us with organic and fresh produce as well. Don't be afraid to ask these great people what some of their favorite recipes are and some food pairing ideas... After all, they have grown up on this stuff! Visit your local libraries, book stores, cooking stores and go online to start cultivating ideas and methods for cooking and preparing your food. Your body, kids, and local farmers will thank you for it.

Local first is a non-profit Utah based organization that shares a similar vision, and I'm sure you have all seen the stickers and logo around town by now. For a worth while cause check out http://www.localfirst.org/ ...look for the local listing of supporters and restaurants that feature local produce and products, and also become a member today.

For more information about Slow Food visit http://www.slowfoodusa.org/

Chef and writer
Mark M. Benson

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