Contemplating the Meaning of Slow Food

Contemplating the Meaning of Slow Food

Read what UW student Maia Persche had to say about the 2015 Slow Food Midwest Conference held in Chicago.

2015 Slow Food Midwest Conference

2015 Slow Food Midwest Conference

By Maia Persche

This October, Slow Food delegates from chapters across the Midwest came together in Chicago for a regional conference. I was one of four students from the campus chapter at UW-Madison who attended, and learning about the wider world of slow food was inspiring. I think I can speak for all of the slow food chapters present when I say that taking time to share ideas and knowledge was a powerful experience. We all brought such different insights to the table, that one of the best outcomes of the conference was simply talking about our values and hopes for affecting changes in our Midwest food system.

During discussions at the conference, one of the strongest themes that emerged for me was the importance of appreciating solutions and positive changes in the face of complex problems. There is so much in our food system and society to be angry about. And yet, the more we fixate on what is wrong, the less energy we have to devote to doing meaningful work.

Additionally it is easy for us to become divided into ideological factions.

Should we support Wal-Mart if they sell organic produce? Because any change is better than no change? Or should we ignore this small improvement because they continue to undermine local economies? There are many ways to interpret Slow Food, and it is easy to get bogged down in the details.

After all, what really is the meaning of good, clean and fair? Rather than sticking to strict black-and-white definitions, we discussed the benefits of any advance at all in each of the three pillars of Slow Food. Perhaps a meal that is not locally sourced is still nourishing to some aspect of our lives if it brings us together as a community.

Along with taking time to discuss the direction and goals of Slow Food in the Midwest, we also toured some great places in Chicago that helped us connect to the city’s food scene. The Plant is a food business incubator in an old meatpacking building in the Back of the Yards neighborhood that is being converted into a net-zero energy system. The interconnected businesses that are starting up throughout the expansive facility are both cutting edge and rustic. From the brewery, to the aquaponics system thriving in the basement, to the coffee roasting studio and bakery on the top floors, there is a sense of creativity and practicality that aligns well with Slow Food.

2015 Slow Food Midwest Conference

2015 Slow Food Midwest Conference

It was incredible to be part of this weekend, and we would like to extend our thanks to Slow Food Chicago for hosting us, and especially to Slow Food WISE for assisting us financially. Returning to Madison after the Conference, we were able to share our experiences with other interns and start conversations about viewing Slow Food as a larger network. We are especially excited to reach out to other campus chapters and the national Slow Food Youth Network to connect to other college students.

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