Rosemary and Time: Slow Food and the Folklore of Taste
“Lo slow-food è allegria, lo fast-food è isteria” (Portinari 1987:25).

In the early 1980s, Carlo Petrini, a resident of Bra, Italy, and a few of his colleagues and friends began a gastronomic revolution that came to be called the Slow Food movement. According to Petrini, “The Slow Food project was born in Italy in opposition to the fast food that landed on our shores and tried to take over” (Petrini 2001:17). Petrini felt that invasive institutions like McDonalds and other fast food organizations imposed a type of culinary colonization in the place of traditional attitudes and values toward local cuisine. Because of global trends of food standardization, such as the creation of chain restaurants that serve the same sort of cuisine regardless of location, Petrini decided it was time to rejuvenate, restore, and even resurrect traditional foods—meats, cheeses, seeds, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and wines—made by local artisans. He purposed protecting these foods against extinction, celebrating the cultures from which they derive, and educating the public about the art of taste and the process of local food production.

In this research note I suggest that Slow Food’s organization and methodologies fall in the realm of applied folklore, which, as David Hufford states, “most usefully refers to the application of knowledge from folklore studies to the solution of practical problems” (Hufford 1998:25). The movement focuses on the “practical problem” of preserving traditional foods and food-making processes as types of cultural artifacts that are disappearing and whose associated narratives belong almost exclusively to the oral traditions and material culture of the regional community, especially in a place like Italy. After all, no one remembers who invented arancine, pasticciotti, panzarotti, focaccia, pasta all’olio, pasta al boscalaio, pasta primavera, pasta ai fagioli, pasta al forno, gnocchi, or even pizza. Yet these recipes in their many variations have remained as cultural commonplaces passed by the oral tradition within and between folk communities.

While over time Slow Food has developed a global outreach (a paradoxical anti-global globalization) because of its increased following, it still maintains the agenda of preserving local foods and food-related traditions in order to reinforce existing community bonds and heritage. The expansion of Slow Food’s philosophies provides an effective illustration of the success that applied folklore and folklorists can have in exhibiting and preserving living culture in spite of the standardizing efforts of much larger industrial organizations that threaten to extinguish localized traditions. The success of Slow Food functions as a testament to the strength and resiliency of the folk and its myriad advocates as well as to the benefits that can come from the application and dissemination of folk knowledge.

The Origins of Slow Food

Petrini was an activist for quality food long before Slow Food became an official organization. According to Geoff Andrews, Petrini and his friends belonged to the Langhe branch of “Arci, the cultural and recreational federation of the Italian Left” (Andrews 2008:7:7). This federation grew “increasingly focused on local culture, driven by a growing desire to reconnect with the traditions of the area,” and Petrini personally felt “stirred by the need to preserve and develop local wine” (Andrews 2008:7:7). In October 1981, Petrini and his colleagues created an association called the “Free and Meritorious Association of the Friends of Barolo,” whose activities included “regular discussions” at the home of Bartolo Mascarello, a wine producer in Barolo. Their primary objective was the preservation of Barolo wines (Andrews 2008:7:7). According to Petrini, this new association became the “nucleus of the future Arcigola,” a “lega enogastronomica” or “league of food and wine” formed specifically “to create awareness of local products and awaken people’s attention to food and wine and the right way to enjoy them” (Petrini 2001:4). The foundation of the “Free and Meritorious” association and the later Arcigola group were the first stages in the development of Slow Food policies and philosophies. Indeed, one may consider these small organizations to be the Slow Food organization in embryo.

However, the creation of the “Free and Meritorious” group was not the only catalyst in the formation of the Slow Food movement. The following year (1982) in Bra, Petrini had a run-in with the local Arci president, Andrea Rabissi, when Petrini complained of “inedible” food being served at a local social club called the Casa del Popolo (Italian for “House of the People”). Rabissi bristled at Petrini’s allegations, calling them “‘ugly’” and “‘senseless,’” and the president declared that surely the Italian Left had better things to do than worry about “eating in a certain style” (Andrews 2008:7:8). Rabissi’s response illustrates how much Italian attitudes toward food had changed and were changing; in Italian society, expecting quality food had been a society-wide given. Rabissi’s reply to Petrini’s accusations runs counter to the traditional belief that any Italian citizen, including those among the Italian Left, has the right to expect high quality food. When the quality of cuisine is substandard, one has the right to complain about it because one’s right to eat good food has been infringed.

The ensuing debate between these two figures led to discussions of gastronomic Italian traditions and the purpose of Italian politics among the citizens of Bra, and many rallied to both sides of the argument. In 1986, the new Arcigola (Italian for “archappetite”) association formed, and Petrini became its first president. During this time of discussion and debate, the advocates of quality food in Bra coined the phrase Slow Food, a verbal indicator that one ought to take time to savor and enjoy the nuances of flavor, sacrificing the non-renewable resource of time in order to have a more satisfying eating experience. Slow Food sets itself up in opposition to “fast food,” a term that essentially represents industrial society’s need to have its cake and eat it quickly, and which requires only the sacrifice of the pleasure food can provide when savored and not the food itself. As long as individuals remain obsessed with time-saving, they will probably continue to select the kinds of food (often complete with to-go boxes and greasy wrappers) that lend themselves to a busy schedule rather than fit their schedule around making traditional more time-consuming meals. While this does not have to continue in modern society, it will as long as time remains more of a commodity than the enticing pleasures of traditional food products.

Not long after Petrini and his colleagues coined the term Slow Food, the poet and food activist Folco Portinari wrote the Slow Food Manifesto to address society’s frenetic time-crunching and its dismissal of gastronomic pleasure in favor of convenience. He attacked the ravages of the “disease” called fast food and proposed that Slow Food’s efforts toward culinary reformation will be the vaccine to cure the human body of the frenzy often misrepresented as efficiency and productivity (Portinari 1987:24). Portinari used the well-known philosophical experiment (sometimes referred to as Zeno’s paradox) of the tortoise and Achilles as an analogy for the relationship between Slow Food and fast food, claiming,

Sappiamo da millenni che il pieveloce Achille non raggiungerá mai la tartaruga, la quale esce vittoriosa dal corso....Ecco, noi siamo la tartaruga, anzi, per la più domestica lumaca, che abbiamo scelto come segno di questo progetto.

È infatti sotto il segno della lumaca che riconosceremo i cultori della cultura materiale e coloro che amano ancora il piacere del lento godimento

[“We have known for millennia that the fleet-of-foot Achilles will never reach the tortoise, who emerges from the race victorious….Look at us. We are the tortoise, or rather the more domestic snail, whose form we have chosen as the insignia for our project. Indeed, under the sign of the snail we will recognize the cultivators of material culture and those who still love the pleasure of slow enjoyment”]. (Portinari 1987:25).

The Arcigola organization published Portinari’s piece in the leftist newspaper Il Manifesto on November 3, 1987, in its Gambero Rosso (Italian for “Red Prawn”) wine guide supplement. Another copy of the Manifesto appeared in Rosmarino (Italian for “Rosemary”), a newsletter concerned primarily with culinary arts, that same month, and it was “firmata dagli storici 13 ‘padri fondatori’ e intitolata in quel modo un po’ arcaico, manifesto dello Slow-Food” [“signed by the historic thirteen “founding fathers” and called in the old manner, the Slow Food Manifesto”] (Portinari 1987:24). The signers included Petrini, Portinari, and other well-known food visionaries and friends, such as Valentino Parlato, Dario Fo, Gianni Sassi, Gerardo Chiaromonte, Francesco Guccini, and others. Two years after the publication of the Slow Food Manifesto, delegates from fifteen countries met in the Opéra Comique in Paris on December 9, 1989 and signed the document, thus bringing Slow Food as an organized socio-political advocate of the folk and their foodways officially into being. While the movement’s official establishment and multi-national expansion was certainly a triumph, the next step was to enact policies and philosophies on a much wider scale. Exhibits and conventions such as Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre placed traditional folk foodways on center stage in front of a worldwide audience.

A Folk and Foodways Exhibit: The Salone del Gusto

In 1996, Slow Food created the Salone del Gusto (Italian for “Hall of Taste”) with its various “taste workshops” in order to educate the public about the kinds of quality food that Petrini and his organization were trying to preserve. Slow Food held the first Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy, and many people attended the event. In light of the exhibit’s success, Torino hosted the Salone two years later (and every two years since then). According to Petrini, the 1998 Salone provided over “200 taste labs…and over 300 producers of high-quality local foods displayed their wares” (Petrini 2001:60). While the marketing managers of Slow Food predicted that the majority of people attending the Salone would be “middle-aged, high-income, self-indulgent consumers,” the Salone del Gusto in 1998 proved that “many interested and well-informed young people…were prepared to line up at stands in order to taste and buy traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena or sausage from the cinta, a Sienese pig, and to pay prosciutto crudo prices for lardo” (Petrini 2001:60). The Salone has continued to be a success, each year becoming larger and more enticing to people, both old and young, with its traditional food products, emphatic showcasing of local production processes, and the personal and communal significance of local and regional taste. The appeal of Salone del Gusto comes primarily from its hands-on approach to food education, its need to break down the stereotype that local foods and wines are intended for only the elite and wealthy, and, of course, the universal appeal of the content of the exhibit: quality food and drink.

The basis of folklore in any form—especially foodways—derives from the connection between a community, the process of production, and the artifact itself. Speaking generally, exhibits like museums often place a glass wall between the viewer and the object, thus reaffirming an already existing gulf or sense of distance between the patron and the exhibit. In some types of exhibits, the nature of exhibited artifacts necessitates such distances because touching and interacting with, for example, an exhibit of dinosaur bones or fossils might hasten the disintegration of the object. However, the Salone del Gusto’s differs from such exhibits in that it invites interested consumers to bridge the gap between themselves and the production process. It effectively erases the distance, as should be the case in most folklore exhibits, between the patron/consumer and the artifacts, emphasizing the living qualities of the content. One might call this is a guiding principle of folklore exhibition: displays of dead culture are frequently untouchable, strangely representative of a common taboo against dead things, while exhibits of living culture, especially food, demand performance and audience interaction, where possible. Obviously, exhibits of material artifacts such as quilts, baskets, saddles, and other cultural artifacts require some space to prevent soiling and wear, so audiences must remain at a distance. Foodways do not have the same requirements for preservation as other artifacts, and thus audiences should not only be free to interact with products and producers, but ironically the best way to cultivate appreciation for and promote preservation of foodways come through ingesting—in a way, the opposite of preserving—the foodways artifact. By eating the food and learning to savor and enjoy the food, consumers keep the process and products alive and vibrant.

Slow Food has taken these concepts and created an exhibit in the Salone in which the present and future life of the content and the relationship the folk and its traditional food system becomes the focal point. In 2012, consumers found this type of life-promoting interaction at the Salone del Gusto in the form of over 100 Taste Workshops and Meet the Maker events in which consumers are “guided through tastings by international experts; the Theatre of Taste where chefs…prepare their signature dishes for the audience to sample; Dinner Dates with renowned chefs from around the world and the Enoteca space with over 1,200 wine labels,” demonstrating Slow Food’s devotion to preserving the vibrancy and vivacity of living culinary culture (“Salone del Gusto Internazionale” 2012).

Slow Food’s endeavor to not only preserve but also to promote the quality and heritage of food has met with criticism that “depicts Slow Food as an exclusive gourmet dining club, with a disdain for ordinary tastes…and unrepentant about the fact that the costs of eating fresh organic produce are greater than the cost of shopping at supermarkets” (Andrews 2008:7:45). Regardless of the critical labeling, the ideology behind Salone del Gusto dispels to some extent the protests of these critics by reiterating that quality food belongs to the everyday folk who make it and the everyday folk who consume it, and those people, not just the wealthy elitists, are responsible for keeping food traditions alive and accessible. Unfortunately, this notion of accessibility is one of the main reasons for the criticism in the first place. Many of the producers of the kinds of food that Slow Food is trying to preserve can only market in small quantities, and the rarity of these products drives the prices for these foods up, making them too expensive for ordinary people to purchase and consume. While Salone del Gusto can do nothing about market values, by bringing foodways to the people in this type of interaction Slow Food creates a more understanding public that is more willing to sacrifice its time and money in favor of flavor.

Terra Madre: A Conference for Gastronomic Artisans

The first Terra Madre convention occurred in Torino in 2004, bringing “together those players in the food chain who together support sustainable agriculture, fishing, and breeding with the goal of preserving taste and biodiversity” (“Terra Madre” 2013). Unlike Salone del Gusto, which focuses on bringing together foodways and folk as consumers, the focus of Terra Madre (Italian for “Mother Earth”) united the people responsible for the food production (folk as producers) and the preservation and passing on of culinary knowledge. Almost 5,000 people attended the 2004 Terra Madre, representing 130 countries and almost 1,200 food communities (Andrews 2008:7:50). Prince Charles’s keynote address at the convention emphasized “‘community’” and “‘rootedness,’” proclaiming that “‘the Slow Food movement is about celebrating the culture of food and about sharing the extraordinary knowledge developed over millennia of the traditions involved with quality food production’” (quoted in Andrews 2008:7:51). Two main focal points came from the first Terra Madre: an emphasis on diversity (of product, process, and people) and the development of Buono, Pulito, e Giusto (“good, clean, and fair”). These emphases reaffirmed that the earth—as our mother—is not only responsible for the nourishing of her children, but she also demands the respect and reciprocal care of those children, an attitude which is sadly lacking in contemporary corporate-driven alimentary systems.

Terra Madre allowed these local producers from all over the world to see and learn from each other regarding the struggles and triumphs of each cultural group: they became strong by recognizing and celebrating their “rootedness” in the “community,” and these individual communities form a larger community whose agenda involved reinforcing local traditions and culinary legacy. In other words, they amounted to “a varied culture formed by thousands of small individual communities” (Andrews 2008:7:54). This sort of amalgamated culture allowed Terra Madre to become a locus of intercultural education, although instead of merely sharing food products, the attendees also share individual narratives. In Ermanno Olmi’s 2009 documentary “Terra Madre,” Winona Laduka, a Native American woman, provided a narrative about her culture’s religious esteem for wild rice and recent issues that have arisen from the efforts of individuals who have begun to domesticate that crop:

In our community, a lot of our people eat rice because it’s our major food, but also it’s for our ceremonies. It’s a spiritual food. It’s part of who we are as Nishnawbe people. The rice was given to us, and it’s a part of our migration story. We are told by our prophets to go to the place where the food grows on the water. And that was wild rice. And we did pretty good. And then they figured out how to domesticate it. We don’t think that’s the same thing. We think wild should mean wild (quoted in Olmi 2009).

Laduka’s story gave a cultural context for wild rice, and the threats to this cultural staple (which in turn translates into a threat to the culture itself), a common motif shared by many of the stories possessed by other members of Terra Madre and Slow Food.

In the same documentary, Vandana Shiva, one of the main voices currently associated with Slow Food, shared a story about a woman who came to her looking for work. Her narrative about seed-saving represented an important part of Slow Food’s ideology regarding traditions as security for the uncertain future and the role that others have in the preservation of tradition. Seed-saving is, of course, the practice of holding back—rather than eating—the biggest and more promising seeds or kernels from the harvest in order to plant them in the coming year. Seed-saving functions as a symbolic act of self-reliance, discipline, and application of culturally acquired knowledge:

Bija was an unemployed woman from the city and came to me to look for a job, wanting to wash dishes. In my family, we believe in cleaning your own dishes after the food, so I told we don’t have those kinds of jobs in this family, but…if I can get some help [saving seeds]….Do you know anything about it? And she said, “Yes, before I got married and came Dehradun, I was in a village and used to do farming.” So I put her on the job of helping me in seed-saving (quoted in Olmi 2009).

The two narratives were somewhat different in their cultural setting (one occurred in Canada, the other in India), but they both served an important function relative to the significance of Slow Food’s mission. The first narrative reflected on the religious culture of food (wild rice) for a particular group and its threatened status because of modern domestication techniques and efforts. Producers outside of the Nishnawbe culture domesticate the rice, even at the cost of local religious culture. “That’s our battle,” Laduka stated (quoted in Olmi 2009). The narrative reminds the audience of what’s at stake: the big picture notions of corporate producers often squelch small, local producers in the name of efficiency and progress. The “visionary” quest of these large institutions to provide sustenance for a growing world undervalues and undermines (or rather attempts to, though often unintentionally) the religious vision of the folk. Shiva’s story, on the other hand, made reference to family culture and the importance of saving seeds for future crops. However, the inclusion of the urban woman in Shiva’s narrative implies that cultural outsiders (if such a thing really exists) still have a responsibility to lend a hand in preserving the culture. The battle to which Laduka referred can become a shared experience, and even though one may be an outsider, one can still help preserve cultural tradition.

That is the kind of shared experience that Terra Madre facilitates, and the two stories represent the kind of narrative-sharing and intercultural education and understanding promoted by Terra Madre. Shiva explained the importance of seed-saving, but more importantly the process of passing knowledge about seeds: “Just as we want to save our seeds in perpetuity, we want to have seed-keepers with knowledge about the diversity because the day you lose knowledge about the seed, you’ve lost the seed. If you don’t know how to recognize it, you’ve lost the seed anyway” (quoted in Olmi 2009). Shiva’s commentary reified the connection between the physical seed and the knowledge/narratives about the seed and the importance of holding on to both.

This approach to the movement, the coupling of food with the diversities of story, has been effective because it not only appeals to people who love food, but also those who wish to know about the food’s history and folklore. The preservation of food tradition is not simply a matter of holding on to product and process, but also the people, the communities, and the stories behind it. Giving someone a fish is doing them a kindness. Teaching someone to fish is helping them become self-sufficient. But when the fisherman seasons instruction with stories about the first time a father taught a child to cast and explained about “the ones that got away,” the storyteller invites the listener to participate in a private realm of understanding and personal heritage and folklore.

Terra Madre, as a function of Slow Food, constitutes a forum for voiced experience and desires; it constitutes in essence a type—the best type—of advocacy for folklore and material culture. Some folklorists, including Elliot Oring, have verbalized their concern that some people define applied folklore as the advocacy made by outsiders on behalf of the folk, an oversimplification of the role of the folklorist (Oring 2004:260). While advocacy is certainly one of the major functions of applied folklore, it is certainly not the only one. Further, advocacy itself is a tricky thing for a folklorist to employ correctly. In some cases, advocacy takes the form of an outsider (by outsider I simply mean someone who enters the culture in order to study it or use it rather than engage with the culture as a full-fledged participant in that way of life) molding or framing narratives in order to further a particular agenda or message foreign and distinct from the original narratives, such as folklorists employed during Mussolini’s regime or even Cecil B. Sharp and his somewhat selective ballad collections. Slow Food’s origins might be construed as just such a situation. After all, Petrini and his colleagues were not themselves producers or artisans; they were connoisseurs whose vast amalgamated knowledge of foodways helped them understand the importance of preserving food traditions and quality food. Their advocacy for quality food and traditional material culture effectively translates into an outsider’s opinion and value judgment regarding folkloristic heritage. However, when producers from all over the world gathered to Terra Madre in 2004, Petrini’s role changed from that of outsider pleading with modern consumers to preserve food traditions to one of a facilitator who created a platform from which the actual artisans and producers could speak for themselves. Within the Slow Food organization, many producers have experiences and narratives to voice and share with fellow producers and the rest of the world, and the Terra Madre convention provided these individuals with the opportunity to speak and advocate for themselves. While Petrini continues to speak at Terra Madre, the purpose of the convention allows him, as the facilitator, to fade into the background in due deference to the voices of culture.

All Aboard: L’Arca del Gusto

The emphasis of Slow Food exhibits and conventions like Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto also led to the creation of another practical program to preserve food types: L’Arca del Gusto (Italian for “the Ark of Taste”). A bank in which the organization stores threatened strains of heirloom vegetables, fruits, seeds, cheeses, and meats currently on the verge of extinction at the hands of corporate enterprises, L’Arca del Gusto has become perhaps one of the most prominent and representative trademarks of Slow Food. In December 1996, when the first Salone del Gusto occurred in Torino, scholars and experts came together to address what Petrini refers to as

the worrying disappearance of fruit and vegetable species, of products that are part of our folk memory, under the impact of disastrous agricultural policies that don’t respect natural biorhythms, the threat of environmental degradation, and hygiene laws drafted for larger industries that are absurd when applied to small artisan producers (Petrini 2001:85).

With this issue in mind, the organization branded their effort to correct the problem with the name l’Arca because “an ark is what we need to save quality food production from the flood of standardization and its blighting effects” (Petrini 2001:85). Part of creating an effective brand for propagating folklore included the ability to appeal to an audience in deep and personal terms that it understands. Tapping once again into the Judeo-Christian tradition to appeal to its audience (as with the signing of the Slow Food Manifesto), the principal ideology behind l’Arca del Gusto stemmed from what Petrini referred to as the Noah Principle, a religious allusion that many individuals (particularly in Italy, but also in other cultures with strong Judeo-Christian religious ties) would comprehend as a warning regarding the imminent situation of the food supply. However, within this warning/allusion to the ark of Noah also resided the hope that the floods of standardization would eventually recede and the Arca would come to rest safely, ready to replenish and feed a world made empty and desolate by restaurant chains and their brand of convenience cuisines.

The Arca also contained another more subtle allusion to the Noah principle in its connection to the arcobaleno or “rainbow.” Whether intended or not, the rhetoric of the rainbow fit extremely well with the outlined purpose of the Arca and of Slow Food. In the biblical story, God created the rainbow to demonstrate to Noah that he would never again destroy the earth by water. In that moment, the rainbow became a sign of hope and permanence. Further, the variegation of color in the rainbow itself has become a symbol of diversity. By combining these elements, the Arca essentially signified that the protection of diverse foodways and traditions and resistance to the homogenizing endeavors of corporate organization will be the hope for the food supply and humanity in general. That is the underlying message contained in the rhetoric of the Noah narrative as applied to the objectives of Slow Food.

While Petrini specifically mentioned the biblical tradition of Noah’s ark as the key element in the rhetorical appeal of his Arca, he did not mention the fact that the name Arca refers also to another receptacle of preservation and tradition--the Ark of the Covenant--although that is also a potential rhetorical referent and certainly one that many members of his audience would understand. That particular Ark (the Ark of the Covenant) became a symbol of God’s preference for the Jewish people; they were his chosen people, and the Ark became the locus of tradition, a holder of truth and power in the form of the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah. The Israelites carried it before them in their journeys and at their entrance into the land of Canaan. This second level of symbolism indicated that the adherents of the Slow Food movement—another group of chosen people—regarded the products they sought to preserve as holy, and their success would be determined by their ability to keep those products from extinction, even in the face of overwhelming opposition.

This use of rhetoric exemplified a powerful method of appealing to an audience through its own cultural values. Slow Food gained access to the deep religious tradition of Italy by proclaiming that its methods and approaches were the will of some higher power, and the effort to hold on to food and its associated traditions would bring the rest of the world out of bondage and into the land of promise, a veritable paese di cuccagna. This type of branding also effectively demonstrated the exigency of having an expert and intermediary figure who possesses knowledge and appreciation not only of the cultures contained in an exhibit or movement such as Slow Food but is also versed in the traditions and discursive context in which the exhibit or movement is placed. The minds behind Slow Food functioned in an intermediary capacity, which function other folklorists might do well to consider in their exhibits.

In June 1997, the Slow Food organization published its Manifesto dell’Arca, stating outright the purposes of the Arca (“Ark of Taste” 2013). A year and a half later, a committee met to set down the specific requirements for what should be put into the Ark:

They must be of excellent quality; 2) they must be species, varieties, plant ecotypes, and animal populations either indigenous or long adapted to a specific territory, or else made with local ingredients, and prepared and aged following traditional local practices; 3) they must be linked, environmentally, socioeconomically, and historically, to a specific area; 4) they must be made in limited qualities in firms of small size; 5) they must be at risk of extinction, real or potential (Petrini 2001:91).

Petrini reiterated that the Arca is not intended to be a museum, but one can view it as an archive or repository of material culture that stores “cibi tipici,” local and traditional foods connected to particular regions and cultural groups. The Arca was later expanded in 2002, becoming an international receptacle of endangered foods, including donkey salami, Ligurian bee honey, Teltow turnips, Chilean white strawberries, and more (Griffin 2013). The Arca del Gusto currently holds 1,122 different food products made in every country from Afghanistan to Venezuela. (“Ark of Taste” 2013). By collecting these various products from around the world, Slow Food has created an Arca that has become a global reflection of local taste and cultural values.


The organization of Slow Food has undergone some transformation since Petrini began it, but its methods and objectives remain worthy of emulation in other areas of applied folklore. While the conflicts between folk producers and large corporations have not yet been fully resolved, Slow Food’s efforts to benefit the planet and solve society’s “practical” alimentary issues by saving traditional foods from extinction will continue. Its use of rhetorical discourse has been effective in conveying to its targeted audience simple but powerful messages that are capable of striking chords on multiple cultural levels.


1. Slow Food was revolutionary in the sense that Petrini’s efforts constituted a revolt against globalized and globalizing food standards, but it also signaled a turning again or a return to traditions and notions about food that long antedated the Big Mac and the concept of super-sizing. This particular notion of revolution comes from Wendell Berry’s doctrine of the agrarian economy.

2. In fact, the term “Slow Food” was coined around the time when a McDonald’s was being constructed in Rome near the Spanish Steps.

3. An Italian politician from Favara (around Agrigento in Sicily) and a journalist at the newspaper Il Manifesto.

4. An Italian actor, playwright, and political activist. In 1997, ten years after the Slow Food Manifesto appeared in print, Fo received the Nobel Prize for literature.

5. An art director and, according to Franco Beltramettri, a “left-wing intellectual.”

6. A Communist politician, a journalist, and president of the Anti-mafia Commission.

7. An influential Italian folk singer-songwriter. In 1993, his love song “Vorrei” appeared on the album D’amore di morte e di alter sciochezze (“love, death, and other nonsense”). The song could be interpreted as an amalgamation of allusions to the objectives of Slow Food as it speaks of gardens, sage and rosemary (there it is again), and even of lumache (“snails”).

8. Vandana Shiva spoke of this universality at the 2006 Terra Madre convention, which appears in Ermanno Olmi’s documentary Terra Madre: “In India we believe that this amazing planet is connected through the web of food, the web of life. Food. everything is food, everything is someone else’s food. That’s what connects us. We are food. We eat food. We are made of food. And our first identity, our first wealth, our first health, comes from the making, creating, and giving of good food.”

9. Buono, Pulito, e Giusto essentially functions as an abbreviated version of the Slow Food Manifesto. In these three mandates, Petrini reminds his audience that buono means “enjoying delicious food created with care from healthy plants and animals”; pulito means growing food “with methods that have a positive impact on our local ecosystems and promotes biodiversity”; and giusto means that food should be accessible to all and produced by people who receive fair prices and fair treatment (see the Slow Food USA website).

10. Shiva’s and consequently Slow Food’s reiteration of the relationship between the physical world (seeds, soils, etc.) and knowledge about the physical world as possessed, preserved, and passed on by local producers is reaffirmed by Wendell Berry’s thoughts on the agrarian economy, as found in the collection The Art of the Commonplace: “An agrarian economy rises up from the fields, woods, and streams—from the complex of soils, slopes, weathers, connections, influences, and exchanges that we mean when we speak, for example of the local community or the local watershed. The agrarian mind is therefore not regional or national, let alone global, but local. It must know on intimate terms the local plants and animals and local soils; it must know local possibilities and impossibilities, opportunities and hazards. It depends and insists on knowing very particular local histories and biographies.”

References Cited

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  • Griffin, Mackensie. 2013. “All Aboard the Ark of Taste.” Food Republic. Last updated 2013. (accessed March 21, 2013).
  • Hufford, David. 1998. “Folklore Studies as Applied to Health.” Journal of Folklore Research 35, no. 3 (1998): 295-313.
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  • Oring, Elliott. 2004. “Response.” Journal of Folklore Research 41: 259-267.
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  • Portinari, Falco. 2006. “Il Manifesto dello Slow Food.” 24-25. (accessed March 21, 2013).
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  • Terra Madre. 2013. “Terra Madre: The Food Communities Network.” Terra Madre. (accessed April 3, 2013).