A Slow-Burning Revolution

Journey from the 21st-century's helter-skelter, fast-food culture to a place where taking one's time is a national treasure.
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Turin, Italy coffee shop
TAKING IT SLOW: A moment of quiet outside Al Bicerin, the Turin coffee shop where Nietzsche once paused for inspiration.  (courtesy, Città di Torino)

There's an infinitely more civilized and palatable way to take on the fast-food industry than smashing up the Golden Arches, Jose Bove style. To take the pulse of the anti fast-food revolution beyond its headline-grabbing guerrilla tactics, you have to go where it all started, among the vineyards and rolling hills just south of Turin, Italy.

The now-global Slow Food movement was founded in 1986 by Piedmontese local Carlo Petrini, who strove to "defend gastronomic pleasure and seek a slower more aware pace of life." In other words, rather than railing against fast-food culture and its quick, mass-produced slop, why not go back to the earth and preach the message of the soil? Let the food do the talking, while connecting local farmers, producers, distributors, and consumers through outreach and advocacy.

After a sumptuous meal in the rustic Osteria del Paluch, a practitioner of the Slow Food ethos, it's easy to connect the dots between the highbrow principles of this grassroots movement and the delicious logic of eating well. The restaurant, in an old farmhouse in the hills overlooking the northern Italian city of Turin, is a family-run affair serving melt-in-your-mouth dishes like bagna cauda and wild-rice risotto. The freshest ingredients are picked out in local markets each morning by chef Marina Ramasso. And as my first wine-filled evening in Turin runs toward midnight, I begin to appreciate the other equally painless reason to get on the Slow Food bandwagon.

A movement that implores us to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak, rightfully finds its roots in Italy. The place requires an attitude adjustment the moment I begin the boarding process for our Alitalia flight from Washington, D.C., to Milan. From chaos comes order, but you only have to observe the lackadaisical Italian gate staff to realize that this is just how it's done. We'll get there, sure, but we'll get there on Italian time.

Having shed my uptight Anglo-Saxon expectations through the prism of few days spent sipping espresso and gorging on gianduia chocolates among the Baroque arcades of Turin, I traveled to the small market town of Pollenzo in Piedmont's Langhe-Roero region, the epicenter of All Things Good and Slow.

A few miles from Bra, Carlo Petrini's hometown and the headquarters of the Italian Slow Food association, Pollenzo forms the vanguard of the Slow Food counterrevolution. Here, an intriguing venture unites the ideological strains of a movement battling fast food's market-driven hegemony with its own practical, unabashedly capitalist approach.

Published: 17 Aug 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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