It was Mayor Newsom who described the plan to the Chronicle, as an idea hatched over a lunch of lamb and champagne granita at Chez Panisse with [Carlo] Petrini and [Alice] Waters, among others. Slow Food would “provide expertise and resources to both feed people better and teach them about eating well,” Newsom said, calling the idea “a great opportunity for Slow Food to substantively and symbolically make the case that this is not an elitist endeavor, and to fill a need.” Slow Food would be consultants, in other words, in overseeing access to decent food by some of the poorest of the city’s poor.
That’s from John Birdsall’s must-read account of the buildup to last-month’s Slow Food Nation convention, which is the subject of my latest column at Culture11. The terrific juxtaposition in this anecdote – a desire to help the poor and combat perceptions of elitism, being hashed out over lamb and champagne granita – gets right to the heart of what I try to argue, which is that the Slow Food movement has a long way to go in combating the sorts of tendencies that that have turned a lot of people off to it, and indeed that the way the movement often presents itself to the general public often makes Slow Food its own worst enemy.
I do hope my tone in the piece doesn’t come off as too glib: as should be clear enough from other things I’ve written on this subject, I am very deeply sympathetic to many aspects of the Slow Food mission, and I think it unfortunate that there are so many cultural and ideological barriers keeping Americans from giving them the hearing they deserve. But the barriers are there, and I’m sorry to say that the events of last Labor Day weekend didn’t do much to remove them. Give it a read, and feel free to let me know what you think.