A better, cleaner and fairer world begins with what we put on our plates – and our daily choices determine the future of the environment, economy and society. – Slow Food USA
It’s hard to disagree with that statement. The slow food movement also purports that “the future of food is the future of the planet.” Again, I couldn’t agree more.
The slow food movement originated in Italy in 1986 when Carlo Petrini led a protest against a McDonald’s opening in Rome. The philosophy is “good, clean, and fair food,” as defined by the slow food international website:
- GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
- CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
- FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers
Boiled down to its roots, the slow food movement encourages us to connect more with our food, be more intentional about its origin and how it arrives at our lips through preserving tradition and providing a “taste education.”
The movement has remained mostly in the sphere of counterculture, though its popularity is growing. In 2008, Woddy Tasch published Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered and opened the nonprofit Slow Money to support the efforts of small-scale and local food enterprises. In 2014, Slow Money has grown to nearly 1000 participants in their annual event and the organization has invested over $35 million in more than 300 small food enterprises since 2010. Slow food movement as a whole now has over 80,000 members internationally, including food community producers, cooks, and academics, according to the 2013 Slow Food Almanac.
What does this have to do with chocolate? I’d like to think of Root Chocolate as slow chocolate. Our chocolate is high quality, flavorsome, and contains only natural ingredients of cacao and sugar. Our chocolate is clean in that besides the ecological footprint of transporting the beans from where they grow near the equator to our apartment in the Bay Area, we try to reduce the environmental impact in all other ways, from the farm to the bar. And finally fair – we are highly sensitive to paying an appropriate price for the beans so that the cacao farmers earn a living wage. Granted, we’re not selling any chocolate at the moment, but when we do, feel free to remind me of this post, so we make sure it is accessible to those who want it!
Slow food has been integrating itself into my life for the past few years, and I’m enjoying its effect immensely. Richard and I received a dehydrator and a jarring kit for our wedding, both of which we’ve put to great use. Richard’s dehydrator has produced a variety of interesting jerkys and my jarring kit has resulted in cranberry sauce and apple sauce, which are wonderful gifts for friends and coworkers. What’s more thoughtful than homemade food, particularly something that hasn’t come from a kitchen since corporations decided they could take over that process for us. We’ve also successfully made cheese – both queso fresco (my personal favorite) and paneer, which went into the most delicious (and complicated) Indian dishes we’ve ever made from scratch. And finally, our favorite kitchen gadget, the Nutribullet, has provided us a variety of slow-cooked options, such as homemade hummus, juices, and nut butters like peanut and almond.
According to Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, which I’m absolutely loving reading, “cooking from scratch” has recently been re-defined as anytime a person interacts with their food at all, which constitutes as little as spreading mayonnaise on bread or heating a can of soup. That’s substantially different from my grandma’s homemade sugo and gnocchi, which could take half a day to prepare. You may lament that half a day of cooking would prevent you from doing so many other things, but that’s part of the problem – cooking in community is an amazing experience that we’re starting to lose as a culture.
Making chocolate together with Matt and Malenca last month, and even when it’s just me and Richard, constitutes a challenge to be conquered together. And the pleasure of enjoying a meal or in our case, a bar of chocolate, after laboring over it as a group, is immeasurable.
I challenge my readers to cook something from scratch with a loved one (or many!) and share your experience in the comments below!