For a simple understanding of what the Slow Food movement is all about, just think the opposite of fast food. This means you do not rush into a drive thru (even the spelling is a short cut) and peel out of there with a bag on your lap, its contents to be consumed in traffic, while talking to your kids eating unhappy meals in the backseat.
Likewise, eating a microwaved burrito while hanging over the sink is a no-no in the world of Slow Food. Slow Food is about honoring the food you eat and taking the time to enjoy not just the ritual of meals, but the preparation and the ingredients designed to nourish you and your family.
It’s a case of Grandma knows best. It’s a return to a pre-McDonald’s era on many levels. In fact, the Golden Arches were the impetus behind the first chapter of Slow Food.
Italian journalist Carlo Petrini was outraged. He felt it threatened the food culture of Rome and the local dining establishments of the working class. Petrini rallied his friends and community to take a stand against this global industrialization of food and, armed with bowls of penne they declared, “We don’t want fast food … we want slow food!”
And the idea of Slow Food was born. Now boasting 150,000 members in more than 150 countries, Slow Food is more than just taking the time to stop and smell the rotisserie.
Says Jessie Philips, lead of the Slow Food Lake Tahoe Chapter, “It’s about the pleasure of eating good, clean and fair food.”
This does not mean a great coupon item. This means choosing foods that are seasonal, local and organic, foods free from pesticide and genetic modifications. It sometimes means shopping for foods sourced from the smaller farmers found in your foothills, the guys who can really answer the questions about what, exactly, they do to your food before you eat it.
Procuring “slow” food is not as difficult or as pricey as you may think. New Moon Natural Foods in Truckee and Tahoe City are a great source, as is the organic section of your local grocers. Look for the Certified Organic CA stamp and you are headed in the right direction.
Preparing your food in a slow manner is, I’ve discovered, when the real fun begins. I recently attended Truckee Thursdays’ “Chefs Challenge” sponsored by Slow Food and decided to reenact it in my own kitchen.
During the challenge, participants John Weatherspoon, owner of Trokay Café; Elsa Corrigan, owner of Mamasake; and Adam Herschel, manager of Soupa, were given a box of food donated by Truckee River Sanctuary and The Growing Dome which included tomatoes, tomatillos, Anaheim peppers, cucumbers, basil, kale, Swiss chard, beets, eggplant and apples and asked to prepare a meal.
They were timed. They are world-class chefs. I did not time myself, and I am not a world-class chef (witness last week’s “Shelf-made Enchiladas” column), so I invited over Rick Rucker, general manager of Hampton Inn and Suites Truckee-Tahoe (also a semi-world-class chef), plus a couple of other good cookers, and we got busy.
It was a great Sunday evening, with the music (OK, football game) in the background, a beautifully set table and, in the end, a fresh, colorful, scrumptious meal we savored. Do you hear me? Savored. It was like dinner used to be and still is in much of Europe — an afternoon or evening filled with the pleasure of cooking, eating and sharing meals with others.
It is time, as the holidays approach, to slow down. You cook too fast. Got to make the moment last. Just kicking at the cobblestones. Cooking for some and feelin’ groovy.
Yes, I’m pretty sure Simon and Garfunkel were card-carrying members of Slow Food.
Join Slow Food now by going to www.slowfoodlaketahoe.org and click on the red “become a member” button on the home page.
Vegetable frittata, kale salad with apples, tomatoes and cucumber, roasted beets
4 Anaheim peppers
1 bunch basil
1 bunch kale
I bunch Swiss chard
salt and pepper
3 tbls. crushed garlic
1 / 2 onion, finely chopped
1 / 2 cup shredded Parmesan
Sriracha sauce (optional condiment)
For the frittata I sliced the eggplant super thin, about 1/8-inch thick, and sautéed the slices in olive oil and garlic. I then placed the slices in the bottom of a buttered 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
Next I blanched the tomatillos, chard and peppers. Blanching is easy. Simply get a pan of water boiling and dip vegetables in water to “cook.” The chard took about 30 seconds, the tomatillos and peppers, three minutes.
Peel and chop the tomatillos. Chop the chard. De-seed and chop the peppers. Sauté all these in olive oil and onions. Add chopped basil, salt and pepper. Spread on top of eggplant. Beat eggs and pour evenly over vegetables.
Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove from oven, top with Parmesan and then tomato slices. Return to oven for another 15 minutes.
For the salad, I sliced the tomatoes, chopped the apple, de-seeded, peeled and sliced the cucumber, and peeled away the leaves from the stem of the kale, then tossed it all together with a vinaigrette. Voila! Salad.
The beets, which were insanely delicious, Rick peeled and then roasted with peeled sweet potatoes, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.
Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen “must-haves” and food news at simone_grandmain@ hotmail.com.