Slow Food: The French Terroir Strategy, and Culinary Modernism

Slow Food, say its advocates, takes gastronomy to another and higher level. Somewhere between a latter-day religion and a political program, this version of gastronomy will save us from the widely-recognized problems associated with modernity. Slow Food is founded on the purported revelation that pursuing pleasure protects the environment, creates a sustainable agriculture, preserves culinary patrimonies, increases the good, the true and the beautiful, and has the potential to save us from ourselves.

Corby Kummer, one of America’s leading food commentators, tells us that signing of for Slow Food is a win/wine move: by eating well we can do good. Albert Sonnenfeld, professor of French at Columbia University and editor of a distinguished series of books on culinary history, explains that the table is an “altar” that offers “the template for the preservation of human rights and the environment.” Alice Waters, revered founder of the restaurant Chez Panisse, say that Slow Food teaches us “compassion, beauty, community, and sensuality.” Mario Batali, of the famed Babbo restaurant in New York, praises it as “far more spiritual, nay religious, than any club (or religion, for that matter) I have been asked to join.”

And Carol Petrini, the entrepreneur who founded Slow Food and whose book under review here lays out the history and agenda of the organization, leads the chorus. “Faced with the excesses of modernization, we are not trying to change the world anymore, just to save it.”

In the half-dozen years since I published an essay review of Petrini’s Slow Food a lot of the shine has gone off the movement.  In recent days, though, I have had several requests for a pdf of my review “Slow Food: The French Terroir Strategy, and Culinary Modernism,” so here it is.

And here is the full reference. Rachel Laudan. “Slow Food: The French Terroir Strategy, and Culinary Modernism.  An Essay Review of Carlos Petrini, trans. William McCuaig.  Slow Food: The Case for Taste (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).  Food Culture and Society: An International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 7. 2. (2004), 133-144

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