Food Epiphany

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Slow Food

“I didn’t know this was a slow food dinner, this is going to take all night. Let’s get out of here.” That was the first time I had ever heard of “slow food”. We did leave and it felt naughty and fun to leave the room full of people that were about to embark upon a night of eating and education, like the cool kids that cut out of a guided tour of an historic monument. The problem is I like guided tours.  However, I like hanging with the cool kids even more, so I missed out on this almost-first slow food event. The people I was with didn’t want or need an education in artisan food preparation or sustainable agricultural practices, they just wanted to eat. Admittedly, I was relieved to leave the large room full of vaguely hippieish diners sitting in uncomfortable folding chairs around family-style tables, about to join together in song–I was sure. That was five years ago and I’ve never thought of attending a real slow food event since.

So it was odd to me that I felt such an intense desire to attend Slow Food Nation in San Francisco at the end of August. Outside of Slow Food I had already begun to think about food in a different way, and now I wanted more than just to read about it, I wanted to be a part of the event (plus the flyers were cool and I’m a sucker for advertising). Slow Food Nation promised the education I desired (panels with famous food activists, writers, and chefs) but also offered, well, food. Both the large Farmer’s Market at Civic Center Plaza and the Tasting Pavilion at Fort Mason Center had food that was presented in a very nicely designed and marketed way. I thoroughly enjoyed the pomp with which everything was done and I’ll admit to having developed a huge crush on San Francisco, again. But, at the end of it all I still felt, well, hungry.

While I was participating I was so busy that the days and nights literally flew by and the volume of people was amazing if often annoying (waiting in line for 45 minutes for a cheese sample). I felt the entire time that I was a part of something historic, and I still feel that way. The thousands of people that flooded San Francisco that weekend was staggering and for awhile it seemed everyone I met had had their own food epiphany. (I should also mention that I was flying solo that weekend. Just me and a girlfriend, which exclusive of Slow Food would have been a fantastic event itself.) I enjoyed everything just a little bit more, stayed out just a little bit later, slept in just a little bit more, and thought clearly, without interuption.

I experienced Slow Food in an interesting way in that I was on both sides of the event. The first day I was a regular participant, going to a couple of talks, touring the victory garden, checking out the (farmer’s) marketplace and hitting the tasting pavilion that evening. The second night however, I worked behind the scenes with the “bread crew” helping with the end of the afternoon shift, preparing for the evening shift, and working the entire night shift. This was of course followed by the kitchen tradition of drinking until late, making some more food with whatever you find around and then stumbling home early in the morning. Without this second night, I wouldn’t have had a full experience. I realized something that Slow Food Nation forgot: everyone needs to eat. Not just the people who paid thier $65 to enter the pavilion, but the hundreds of people who made and served that food. At the end of each shift there was literally no food for the workers who had been working for hours without a meal. What was there plenty of? Alcohol. Wine tastings, spirits tastings, and a beer pavilion…yet no vegetable tastings. 

In the end it was an incredible, historic experience. But I think it can be improved upon for next year…especially for the vegetarians in the world!

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