The predecessor of Slow Food, Arcigola, began in Bra, Italy, the hometown of founder Carlo Petrini, who was horrified at seeing McDonald’s in the historic centre of Rome. Slow Food International was founded in Paris in 1989. The name is an ironic way of saying no to fast food and means living an unhurried life, beginning at the table. Slow Food believes food, and food production, should be good, clean and fair.
Carlo Petrini was an activist in the Italian communist movement and wrote food articles for communist newspapers. In 1986 he founded Arcigola (“ARCI” standing for Associazione Ricreativa dei Comunisti Italiani and “gola” literally meaning “throat” but referring ironically to food and gluttony).
The group was devoted to protecting the environment and consumers and promoting the enjoyment of good living. Its formation was prompted by protests against McDonald’s arrival in Rome and by a scandal in the Italian wine industry when 19 people died and hundreds of others were poisoned by cheap wine cut with methanol.
Arcigola was followed in 1989 by Slow Food, which released a manifesto that stated, in part…
“Against the universal madness of the Fast Life, we need to choose the defence of tranquil material pleasure. Against those, and there are many of them, who confuse efficiency with frenzy, we propose the vaccine of a sufficient portion of assured sensual pleasure, to be practised in slow and prolonged enjoyment … ”
The term Slow Food, coined by Petrini, is obviously designed as an antonym to Fast Food. The organisation’s aim is to turn consumers into “co-producers”, in the belief that by knowing more about how our food is produced and supporting those who produce it, we can become part of a fairer and better food system. It also seeks to reduce the alienation of producers from the markets for their produce.
Slow Food has instituted various significant projects including the Salone del Gusto (a vast food fair showcasing local produce from all over the world), Terra Madre (a conference of regional food producers) and the world’s first University of Gastronomic Sciences.
It promotes an approach to food “that allows individuals to get together, to rediscover their bonds to a vital tradition, to create relationships, to take their time in a world that moves at an increasingly fast pace”. (Food Culture in Italy, Fabio Parasecoli, 2004)
In 2004, Slow Food held its first Terra Madre conference in Turin. The conference brings together food producers, cooks and media from around the world to promote the cause of good, clean and fair food. The event happens every two years. While originally a stand-alone event, it has now been combined with Salone del Gusto, an event open to the public that showcases traditional produce.