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Devotay

Assault on Slow Food: Too elite?

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The March, 2008 issue of Metropolis focuses on the overarching idea of localism and its relationship to sustainability. It is, as always, a beautiful and well-written issue, but in it one particular columnist, Bruce Sterling, has taken Slow Food to task accusing us once again of that old canard, elitism.

Now while it is true that the movement is often accused of such things, it is not an accurate accusation, nor is it always such a bad thing anyway. Bear in mind that most of the great social movements throughout history were begun by the so-called “elite,” (witness abolition and suffrage - not to mention that Ghandi was a well-to-do attorney). But the places Mr. Sterling gets it wrong are so manifold it’s hard to know where to start.

Let’s try here:

The Cornish Pilchard. The Chilean Blue Egg Hen. The Cypriot Tsamarella and Bosnian Sack Cheese. You haven’t seen these foods at McDon­ald’s because they are strictly local rarities championed by Slow Food, the social movement founded to combat the proliferation of fast food. McDonald’s is a multinational corporation: it retails identical food products on the scale of billions, repeatedly, predictably, worldwide. Slow Food, the self-appointed anti-McDonald’s, is a “revolution” whose aim is a “new culture of food and life.”

Actually you haven’t seen these foods at McDonald’s because McDonald’s sells hamburgers. Here Mr. Sterling has blundered by believing that who/what Slow Food is is somehow stagnant and monolithic. If such things were true then the US would still be a few puritan slave owners dotted up and down the east coast. Or the Chicago Cubs would have been the National League power for the last century. He goes on…More...

Slow Food began as a jolly clique of leftist academics, entertainers, wine snobs, and pop stars, all friends of Ital­ian journalist and radio personality Carlo Petrini.

I’ve often wondered what it is about food and wine that makes those who appreciate it automatically labeled “snobs.” Wine is just fermented grape juice actually one of the simplest foods known to man. Appreciating quality is not snobbery. Pretending to know something one doesn’t actually understand - that’s snobbery. For some reason someone who appreciates the inner workings of a fine internal combustion engine is not a snob, but someone who likes a well made buerre blanc is.

The group is the suave host for massive international food events in Torino. Other Slow Food emanations include a hotel, various nonprofit foundations, and—in a particularly significant development—a private college. The University of Gastronomic Sciences, founded in 2004, is the training ground for 200-plus international Slow Food myrmidons per year, who are taught to infiltrate farms, groceries, heritage tourism, restaurants, commercial consortia, hotel chains, catering companies, product promotion, journalism, and government. These areas are, of course, where Slow Food already lives.

My, we are sinister, aren’t we? We are “suave,” and we are “infiltrating” a host of consortia and other institutions (notably journalism, after all, here I am) with our “myrmidons.” (Curious? Yeah, I had to look it up too - despite my apparent position in my ivory tower as an intellectual elite - it means “a follower who carries out orders without question.” Evidently now we’re a cult)

I’m not sure why Mr. Sterling considers these ideas to be so threatening, but the fact is Slow Food couldn’t care less what the McDonalds and Monsantos of the world do, until they start to crap where we live. In the meantime, we promote these ideas because we believe them to be good ideas worthy of proliferation and preservation. Food defines who we are as individuals and as cultures. We are truly what we eat, and too many people are fast, cheap and easy. The right of ADM or Monsanto, Applebees or Burger King to swing its arms ends at the tip of the eater’s nose. Who owns your food owns you, and it is unwise to let that power rest in the hands of a very few wealthy corporations.

As the spiritual, political, and ideological wellspring of all things “eco-gastronomic,” Slow Food has woven a set of quiet understandings with the city of Torino, the region of Piedmont, the Italian Foreign Ministry, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Sir, due respect and setting aside your constant condescension for a moment, but there’s been nothing “quiet” about it. Logos for those government bodies and organizations are emblazoned on, for example, ALL the literature regarding the Salone Del Gusto, (need proof? click that link) the largest food show of its kind, atracting 200,000 people each year. Oh, and yes, it’s in Italy. The organization was founded there, that’s why. Our last International Leaders’ Congress was held in Puebla, Mexico because preserving the foods and traditions of the so-called “developing” world is at the top of Slow Food’s mission list. We are not as exclusionary as you seem to think.

In regard to Slow Food’s Presidia project, he had this to say:

The cleverest innovation to date is the network’s presidium system. The Slow Food “presidia” make up a grassroots bottom-up version of the European “Domain of Control” system, which requires, for instance, that true “champagnes” must come from the province of Champagne, while lesser fizzy brews are labeled mere “sparkling wines.” These presidia have made Slow Food the planetary paladin of local production. Slow Food deploys its convivia to serve as talent scouts for food rarities (such as Polish Mead, the Istrian Giant Ox, and the Tehuacan Amaranth). Candidate discoveries are passed to Slow Food’s International Ark Commission, which decides whether the foodstuff is worthy of inclusion. Its criteria are strict: (a) Is the product nonglobalized or, better yet, inherently nonglobalizable? (b) Is it artisanally made (so there’s no possibility of any industrial economies of scale)? © Is it high-quality (the consumer “wow” factor)? (d) Is it sustainably produced? (Not only is this politically pleasing, but it swiftly eliminates competition from most multinationals.) (e) Is this product likely to disappear from the planet otherwise? (Biodiversity must be served!)

Sterling seems to think this is being done for our organization’s own aggrandizement, or perhaps even profit. Simply not so. it s being done because, as the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity do clearly states:

5% of European food product diversity has been lost since 1900

93% of American food product diversity has been lost in the same time period

33% of livestock varieties have disappeared or are near disappearing

30,000 vegetable varieties have become extinct in the last century, and one more is lost every six hours

The mission of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is to organize and fund projects that defend our world’s heritage of agricultural biodiversity and gastronomic traditions.

We envision a new agricultural system that respects local cultural identities, the earth’s resources, sustainable animal husbandry, and the health of individual consumers.

And yes, Mr. Sterling, biodiversity MUST be served. Nature does not function without it and the industrialization and standardization of food and flavors is a direct threat to that diversity. For those who would like to know the true mission (and criteria) of the Foundation for Biodiversity and the Presidia Projects, please click here.

It is, among its many other roles, a potent promotion machine. Transforming local rarities into fodder for global gourmets is, of course, profitable. And although he’s no capitalist—the much honored Petrini is more justly described as a major cultural figure—he was among the first to realize that as an economic system globalization destroys certain valuable goods and services that rich people very much want to buy.

There he goes again, thinking that there is some profit motive behind what we do, like our 501©3 status and clear and concise billing as an educational organization is just some sort of front for gluttonous Nobles Oblige rather that an honest attempt to help preserve flavors, traditions, and ways of life. Does he really believe that mankind’s only choices are get on board with the agribusiness oligarchs or get run over by them? We think not. We think it’s a good idea to try to preserve great food. We think there should be more than one kind of hamburger in the world. More than one flavor of beer. We believe foundations and traditions are important because they make us who we are.

He concludes:

But while McDonald’s mechanically peddles burgers to the poor, Slow Food acculturates the planet’s wealthy to the gourmand quality of life long cherished by the European bon vivant. They have about as much in common as an aging shark and a networked swarm of piranhas.

Yes, McDonald’s does do that, as the overwhelming rates of obesity and diabetes among “the poor” (especially children) so clearly demonstrates. But far from reserving these “cherished” foods of the world for some elite class, Slow Food is working to proliferate them, and to return them to the artisans and yes, often peasants, from which they originated. we seek to make people aware of the connections between food and pleasure on the one hand, and awareness and responsibility on the other.

Mr. Sterling’s dismissal of Slow Food’s successful efforts as snobbery or elitism rings quite hollow on closer examination of what Slow Food is truly trying to do. I suggest, Mr. Sterling, that you read more, learn more, and perhaps visit Slow Food Nation this coming summer. There you may open your eyes to a food system we call “Good, clean, and fair.”

“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food,” Thoreau once wrote, “cannot be a glutton. He who does not, cannot be otherwise.”

Read Mr. Sterling’s entire article here


Edited by Devotay (log)

Peace,

kmf

www.KurtFriese.com

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Who owns your food owns you, and it is unwise to let that power rest in the hands of a very few wealthy corportations.

I wonder why the kneejerk reaction against encouraging and promoting food diversity. The article seems fine with what, to me, seems to be the continuing recreation of the conditions that created the Irish potato famine on a massive macro scale.

Apparently I'm part of some elite for getting a weekly delivery of organic vegetables from farmers who spend their holidays visiting other farms and growers in Europe rather than sunning themselves on beaches. Until you realise that I was a wheelchair user last year with an income close to poverty, with no private means of transport, and the delivered boxes proved to be the most convenient, and ultimately economic way to receive food.

One only needs to read "The Road to Wigan Pier" (George Orwell http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/geo...r/chapter6.html to realise that poor people have always aspired to luxuries beyond their means. In Britain this was typified by the popularity of tea and sugar with people who could barely afford bread and dripping. Strange how it's OK now to spend inordinate amounts of your income on designer sneakers made by underpaid young cobblers who'll never in their lifetimes get a shot at meeting other shoemakers at a conference, but by using the same amount of money to instead acquire and enjoy wine and cheeses made by people with a decent living wage one is somehow 'out of touch'.


Edited by MoGa (log)

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Oh dear. Apparently this is the same Bruce Sterling who made his name as a science fiction writer and one of the main dudes of the cyberpunk movement. And apparently he has set himself up as a pundit of popular culture, and publishes the occasional article in non-SFnal magazines such as Metropolis, Vogue, etc. How these qualifications alone set him up as a suitable commentator on anything culinary, I am at a loss to explain.

(Not that one can't be both an author of speculative fiction and a knowledgeable food enthusiast--as witness former horror-fiction author turned culinary-themed novel author Poppy Z. Brite. Maybe Poppy should be requested to go pay a visit to Bruce and bite him in the neck, or otherwise do something to bring him to his senses. :laugh: )

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What gets me is (and I just learned this), Mr. Sterling now lives in Turin, where the Salone and Terrra Madre take place, just a few miles from Slow Food's birthplace and HQ in Bra. He should know better, yet chooses not to. To be controversial? To tick off overly-sensitive, internet-addicted Slow Food members like me?


Peace,

kmf

www.KurtFriese.com

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What's wrong with elitism? I believe that the opposite of elitism is vulgarity (in the old sense). What's good about that?

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It does become tiresome, having to defend yourself against the tidal wave of sameness and mediocrity - never mind that there are clear advantages to eating the way many of us choose to eat, economically, ecologically and gastronomically. I guess if you're not willing to eat mediocre, mass-produced foods, the profits from which typically wind up somewhere miles away from where we buy it, you're a bad person.

It's part of the "what's up is down" spin that turns heroes into unpatriotic traitors and conscientious farmers into money-grubbing profiteers who dare to charge more than WalMart for their "designer" produce, eggs and meat. Ironically, Mr. Petrino did that himself, to some extent, in the flap about pricing at the Ferry Plaza Market.


Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Clearly that article is tongue-in-cheek satire, simply a way to promote the cause by pretending to attack it! It is simply too ridiculous to consider it any other way.

BTW, Kurt, I did enjoy your defense of Slow Food, which I believe is certainly not tongue-in-cheek and absolutely on the mark!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Sterling is fairly typical for an SF author. He's well informed on some subjects, and not at all educated on others. Ignore him.

Many other SF authors are entertaining on the subject of food. Elizabeth Moon is one I find particularly good. She does animal husbandry (horses on her property, and an annual lamb and steer that live with herds on other farms) and is very good at explaining large domestic animals from the standpoint of a farmer. She'll sometimes talk about things like butchering as well. She's not very experienced but she has *done* a whole yearling sheep. It makes a nice antidote to the badly thought out vegans that infest bike shops.

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Wow.

I just finished dinging someone on Phillyblog whose sentiments about yupscale poseurs I generally share for displaying reverse snobbery in his criticism of snobs, and now this comes along.

I'd say this is another case of reverse snobbery.

And yet...and yet...while it's true that preserving agricultural/culinary/food diversity ultimately benefits everyone, and that our corn-fed regime of cheap food isn't really all that good nutritionally for the people who benefit from it the most, it does strike me that most of the local/artisanal products promoted through organizations like Slow Food are a bit beyond the reach of the poorest, price-wise if not geographically.

I know that organizations like our own Food Trust here in Philadelphia go to great lengths to bring local farmers and producers together with consumers in places like Kensington, Chester and Southwest Germantown; do Slow Food convivia contribute to these efforts? How do we best address this apparent flaw in the model?


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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What's wrong with elitism?  I believe that the opposite of elitism is vulgarity (in the old sense). What's good about that?

Elitism and snobbery are often confused, especially by critics of the latter.

And since snobs often do a passable job of passing themselves off as elitists, it makes the job of distinguishing between the two that much harder.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Critiques of elitism in a design magazine? I know the guy's got to get his work out somewhere and he probably has a relationship with this publication but come on.

Does this antagonism really do anyone all that much good in the long run? How many people fit squarely into one side of this argument? How many are 100% invested in either Slow Foods or the world that could be imagined from Mr. Sterling's critique? I would think that of those reading this site, it is a minority that maintain strict allegiance at all times. The future of food on this planet is not something to take lightly but a lot of these arguments seem about as enlightening as the exchange between two tables in a high school lunch room.

There is a lot to caricature about Slow Foods-ish people (capitalized as representatives of the formalized organization) and it seems to me like they can be particularly easy to wind up. But Slow Foods as an organization has a right to defend itself against pompous attacks like this one, and the original poster has done a great job as an emissary of his group. But whenever an organization or a person sets themselves as an authority (let alone a global authority) it (and its adherents) should be ready to take some serious shots.

I think it would also do Slow Foods well to try to disassociate itself from the overall foodie/foodblog population that sort of provide most of the ammunition for people to attack its good ideas. Overwrought descriptions of super-expensive butter or salt don't really have anything to do with SF, but in my mind and probably in the minds of a lot of other people they are easily conflated. Too bad those are probably your biggest fans and supporters.

anyways...

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If slogging around in the mud working in compost and chicken crap so I can grow excellent heirloom vegetables to enjoy all summer because I can't buy those things in my area is elitist, I'd hate to see what being a peasant is. If taking the time to slowly braise a piece of meat that isn't the most popular cut because it's half as expensive and tastes better in the bargain because of the care I put into preparing it is elitist, people are sure paying a lot of money to be vulgar while thinking they are being elite. Who are the dummies here?

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I heard worse on the radio once. It was agricultural talk radio in Nebraska and the woman sounded like Dr. Laura. She went into a rant on how organic growers were Godless degenerates. It was not God's intention to help small family farms. Slow Food is obviously part of Lucifer's scheme.

We're starting our move to Iowa at the end of the month and happen to have sold some chicken brooders to a woman who raises several types of animals that are sold through Slow Foods. Slow Foods allows her to spend more time with her several kids. They have helped her with hooking up with other farmers who they can no split large quantities of feed and other goods.

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Huge fan of Slow Food here - good, hard work being done day in and day out.

My concern is with the selection of items for the Ark of Taste.

Just looking at the tomatoes: Amish Paste, Ground Cherries, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Cherokee Purple, Djena Lee's, German Pink, both of the Livingston tomatoes, Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter, etc, etc, etc.

All are readily available commercially. There are many more varieties out there who really are endangered. Dependent upon a kind soul saving seed and passing along, such as "Linnes Oxheart" - among about a thousand others. "Chapman" - "Wes" - it goes on and on.

I've got a back yard loaded with Mississippi Silver Hull Crowders on third leaf stage and more seed in the fridge. I had no idea they were "endangered." I purchased them from a commercial source, but see them listed at other seed sources as well. Pretty common. There are wonderful bean and pea varieties out there that are not commercially available, and are truly endangered. I mean, "Christmas" Lima Beans, or more correctly Butter Beans, are all over the place. Lumping all Southern Field Peas (including Pink Eye/Purple Hull that is as common as dirt) does little to save varieties such as "Green Eye" or "Cabbage" Peas.

I just wonder who chooses what goes into the Ark, and if the criteria is endangered, why there are not more really rare varieties listed. There are some out there that are tasty, carry wonderful genetics, and are hard to come by.

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It seems that most of the responses in this thread are to the tone of the article, which, I agree, is snarky and distracts from Sterling's argument. But that argument seems to me to be pretty straightforward: Slow Food has used the tools of globalization to allow producers of specialized, local foods to market their products to a global community of food lovers.

To me, that doesn't seem like an "assault" on Slow Food; it seems like a pretty accurate (if superficial, I guess) description of how the organization has used globalized networks in ways that McDonald's or Monsanto never could. What's the problem?

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wow until I read this thread I had no idea about "Slow Food" now I am trying to figure out what makes it so different from they way I have lived most of my adult life? all the things mentioned on the web site I already do for the most part including squeeze my own orange juice ..I never thought it was a big deal ..just more fun..more real and in my world very cost effective

I remember seeing a Slow Food magazine at my father's house one time and he told me I should read it ..but I never got to it..

I dont know how I feel about the article they guy does seem to have an issue with the pretencity (is that the right word?) of the whole thing..I can understand that ...sometimes I feel pushed out of area's in the culinary world because I am rough around the edges about a lot of things and not very refined in general..... but who cares really?.. if pretense brings changes then good!...and if it does us all good the bigger picture that is all people should be concerned with I think... the big picture ..not the menutia of who is elite and who isn't ....I do know for a fact that I am not part of the "elite" in life ..I am very "low end" and proud of it..but the quality of the life I lead is in my opinion worth the sacrifice ..I work very hard for the food I bring into our home and take great care in preparing it ..

..I do agree that all the grandest movements ...as mentioned above were started by people who have money ..status and the ablity to make changes ..and if this is what this "movement" is all about bringing things home ...local and sustainable ..producing quality and freshness..doing things from scratch .....well wonderful! ..my sad point here is the people that could really use this kind of lifestyle do not have the means or education to find the best deals on close to home sustanence ...but maybe the trickle down is already helping ..I have noticed even in our local food banks there are cooking classes teaching people how to use fresh local foods..many vendors at our farmers markets do take foodstamps and I love that.....

I can and always have found it very economical to eat close to where the food is grown ..I work less make less money so I can spend more time on a lifestyle of this kind ...I just did not know that it was part of a "movement"..

thanks for the thread it is kind of fun to be introduced to something by reading things like this

how funny I never knew about this

but really I dont get out much ..I am too busy moving slowwwwwww....

..I have to add when I saw the magazine my father had I thought of escargot!


why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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It seems that most of the responses in this thread are to the tone of the article, which, I agree, is snarky and distracts from Sterling's argument.  But that argument seems to me to be pretty straightforward: Slow Food has used the tools of globalization to allow producers of specialized, local foods to market their products to a global community of food lovers. 

To me, that doesn't seem like an "assault" on Slow Food; it seems like a pretty accurate (if superficial, I guess) description of how the organization has used globalized networks in ways that McDonald's or Monsanto never could.  What's the problem?

The problem is that the author appears to have a problem with that!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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It seems that most of the responses in this thread are to the tone of the article, which, I agree, is snarky and distracts from Sterling's argument.  But that argument seems to me to be pretty straightforward: Slow Food has used the tools of globalization to allow producers of specialized, local foods to market their products to a global community of food lovers. 

To me, that doesn't seem like an "assault" on Slow Food; it seems like a pretty accurate (if superficial, I guess) description of how the organization has used globalized networks in ways that McDonald's or Monsanto never could.  What's the problem?

The problem is that the author appears to have a problem with that!

I don't get that. Can you point to examples?

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It seems that most of the responses in this thread are to the tone of the article, which, I agree, is snarky and distracts from Sterling's argument.  But that argument seems to me to be pretty straightforward: Slow Food has used the tools of globalization to allow producers of specialized, local foods to market their products to a global community of food lovers. 

To me, that doesn't seem like an "assault" on Slow Food; it seems like a pretty accurate (if superficial, I guess) description of how the organization has used globalized networks in ways that McDonald's or Monsanto never could.  What's the problem?

The problem is that the author appears to have a problem with that!

I don't get that. Can you point to examples?

Basically it is the tone of his choice of words as exemplified in this paragraph:

The group is the suave host for massive international food events in Torino. Other Slow Food emanations include a hotel, various nonprofit foundations, and—in a particularly significant development—a private college. The University of Gastronomic Sciences, founded in 2004, is the training ground for 200-plus international Slow Food myrmidons per year, who are taught to infiltrate farms, groceries, heritage tourism, restaurants, commercial consortia, hotel chains, catering companies, product promotion, journalism, and government. These areas are, of course, where Slow Food already lives.

The words "myrmidons" and "infiltrate" don't exactly offer positive connotations, which is why I took the piece as being satire. The remainder of the article carries the same tone. There may be plenty to criticize Slow Food about, after all it is a human organization, but if this writer is serious, his critique is absurd.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "satire"; what is it satirizing? I mean, the description of Slow Food seems basically accurate to me: that sort of rules out satire right there. And as an assault-- or even satire-- on the movement, words like "myrmidon" are pretty weak sauce! Moreover, consider the final paragraph, which is frankly admiring of Slow Food:

But while McDonald’s mechanically peddles burgers to the poor, Slow Food acculturates the planet’s wealthy to the gourmand quality of life long cherished by the European bon vivant. They have about as much in common as an aging shark and a networked swarm of piranhas.

I'm not going to claim that the article is well-written-- as I said, it's snarky, which doesn't help Sterling's case-- but it doesn't strike me as at all unreasonable in its content.

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I think the net impression Sterling is trying to leave -- if he is being serious -- is that Slow Food is a bunch of effete gastronomical snobs who are actually making the world safe for well-off poseurs under the guise of protecting culinary and biological diversity. Or something like that. I'm all confused now.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "satire"; what is it satirizing?  I mean, the description of Slow Food seems basically accurate to me: that sort of rules out satire right there.  And as an assault-- or even satire-- on the movement, words like "myrmidon" are pretty weak sauce!  Moreover, consider the final paragraph, which is frankly admiring of Slow Food:
But while McDonald’s mechanically peddles burgers to the poor, Slow Food acculturates the planet’s wealthy to the gourmand quality of life long cherished by the European bon vivant. They have about as much in common as an aging shark and a networked swarm of piranhas.

I'm not going to claim that the article is well-written-- as I said, it's snarky, which doesn't help Sterling's case-- but it doesn't strike me as at all unreasonable in its content.

Had the writer chosen different words to convey the "content", the overall impression given would have been quite different and quite reasonable, leaving a positive impression of Slow Food. It is his specific choice of words though that make me question the seriousness of his intent. As a hatchet piece, if it really was intended to be one, it really is pretty poor. As for the last paragraph being "frankly admiring," I wonder which he admires more, "aging sharks" or a "networked swarm of piranhas"? I would hate to see what he would have written had he not been so admiring.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think the net impression Sterling is trying to leave -- if he is being serious -- is that Slow Food is a bunch of effete gastronomical snobs who are actually making the world safe for well-off poseurs under the guise of protecting culinary and biological diversity.  Or something like that.  I'm all confused now.

I didn't see anything in the article that suggested that Slow Foodies are poseurs, or that they are dishonest about their motives. It's all out there in the open: they're using the global market to protect culinary diversity.

I do think that what has people upset is the word "elite." But Slow Food is, among other things, an elite movement. I mean, what else would you call people who pay $100 per pound for jamon iberico? I don't consider that an insult; it's just a fact.


Edited by Andrew Fenton (log)

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I do think that what has people upset is the word "elite."  But Slow Food is, among other things, an elite movement.  I mean, what else would you call people who pay $100 per pound for jamon iberico?  I don't consider that an insult; it's just a fact.

No, it's an opinion. People from all walks of life place high value on things that interest them, and are prepared to pay for it. This doesn't make them elitists. The elite label attaches to certain things and not to others, and although it's usually based on cost/income arguments, this seems quite irrational to me.

For example, three pints in a pub in England will cost around 7.50 GBP. You can choose whether you want to drink it in a frightening inner city dive, a gracious 17th century coaching inn, or something in between, but it costs about the same from one pub to the next. And drinking beer, especially bitter, is seen as about the most down-to-earth, righteous activity you can engage in. It is also something just about anybody can afford to do, including those on low incomes. It's only beyond the reach of the destitute. For everyone else, it's not a question of "if" they can do it, but "how often".

You could just as easily spend that money on organic chicken. Or on slices of jamon iberico. But the moment you do this in Britain, there are people (a lot of them) who will jump on you for being elitist, being too middle class, or being a snob. And that's just the way it is. Some things are identified as appropriate for the ordinary man, like football (now an absurdly expensive spectator sport), and others are strictly for snobs.

I've eaten jamon iberico a few times myself and never once considered it something for the elite - just something a person interested in food in all its wonderful varieties might want to do.


Edited by Ohba (log)

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