In a country of drive-thru dinners and 30-minute meals, cuisine can be more fraught than haute. So advocates of the slow food movement are planning what they bill as a "World's Fair of food" next year.
"The challenge, the game, truly begins here in America," said Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of the "slow food" movement that emphasizes a return to regional traditions and home cooking from local, sustainable ingredients. "The country which invented fast food can propose slow food."
Petrini, who spoke through an interpreter, and Alice Waters, doyenne of California cuisine, were in San Francisco at the waterfront vegetarian restaurant, Greens, to announce Slow Food Nation, a four-day event planned next May in San Francisco. The event, which Waters compared to a World's Fair, will include taste workshops, a food film festival, a sustainable fish barge, a demonstration school garden and world food stands.
The goal, said Waters, founder of the renowned Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, is capitalizing on the interest people are showing in what's on their plate and how it got there.
"In a way this shouldn't be an exciting moment because excitement is not really what slow food is all about," Waters said with a smile, "but there is a marvelous urgency about what we're doing today."
Mayor Gavin Newsom, who promised with a laugh that he has "every intention" of being mayor (he's running for re-election this November) when the conference takes place, wholeheartedly endorsed the event.
"This is a big deal and a big movement around the world," Newsom said. 'It seems only appropriate that we bring this movement to a whole new level here in San Francisco next year."
Petrini, on tour for his book "Slow Food Nation," founded the movement in 1986 in response to a McDonald's opening in Rome. It now claims a worldwide membership of more than 80,000.
The idea is that food should be good, clean and fair, meaning it's tasty, grown in an environmentally sustainable fashion by workers who are paid and treated fairly.
Waters said interest in food has never been higher with many seeing food as a common language.
Food, she said, is in peoples' minds as "a source of joy and health and also as an expression of our politics and of our hopes for a better world."
Slow Food fest coming to the U.S.