Ceramic pitchers, vases and bowls lined a shelf above the windows framing a rain-wet street. On the walls colorful photos of vegetables hung in frames made of red barn wood. Books on cooking and the slow food movement leaned up against large bowls swirled brown and blue.
Outside a truck pulled up and people unloaded boxes of vegetables and fruits. Not Sysco workers. Farmers from Salt Lake Valley: people I could easily talk to at the Saturday market, or visit within an hour’s drive.
The Avenues Bistro on Third would receive a “Snail of Approval” from Slow Food Utah. Twelve of us gathered around a table and ate sweet potato and onion frittatas and sipped on hot, bottomless cups of coffee. The majority of ingredients munched down were local, and you could taste the difference.
Gwen Crist, Chair of the Board for Salt Lake City’s chapter of Slow Food Utah, explained the value in preserving local food culture. Growing up on a small, organic farm in Salt Lake Valley, Gwen’s family canned food and ate mostly local year-round throughout her childhood.
She saw the city change from a small town to its current sprawled and disconnected state. “We went through a time where it was chain-oriented. We took down orchards and built outlet malls,” she said. Now, though, the city seeks to go back—or is it forward?—as urban agriculture rises.
Salt Lake's resurgence of local food is part of a larger trend. Slow Food chapters sprout up every year across the world. More than 200 offices took root in various places here in the United States with more on the way. The Slow Food movement flows through the stages all movements of history experience: ridicule, followed by discussion, followed by adoption. It is hard to pinpoint what exact stage slow food fits in.
Some critics view local food as an elitist fad. Yet many farmers work with nonprofits and government groups to make their food more affordable .I also know farmers who are some of the biggest donators to local food banks.
Another critique against Slow Food is that it's irresponsible for demanding us to retreat into an antiquated food system. Fixing the problems of America's industrialized food system will take many solutions. Slow Food won't be the panacea, but it does offer an alternative way to think about and experience food. In an age when the cheap and quick rule, Slow Food seeks to promote "good, clean, and fair" food that will sustain us into a more promising future.
To learn more about Slow Food, and to get involved with a chapter near you, click here for the Slow Food USA website.