Introducing Slow Food St. Louis

By Terry Winkelmann,
Slow Food St. Louis Board Member
Founder of the Sustainable Backyard Tour

Recently, after one of our monthly board meetings held in a basement conference room at a local branch, a librarian inquired of me, as I dawdled leaving, the last to go: “What exactly is Slow Food?”

I’ve been a member of the board for just over a year in an organization that has been active in St. Louis for over a decade. Suddenly, it was showtime! I’d been meeting the dedicated and creative people who grow our local food and prepare it, learning the names of those who study our food system, probe its depths, and try to preserve its diversity and wholesomeness. How to sum up the amazing resource that Slow Food St. Louis has become?

I’d been aware of the non-profit for nearly as long as it’s been active, but as a vegetarian I didn’t think it was for me. I imagined foodies sampling tartares and discussing truffles with experienced savoir faire. I am a gardener. I grow food. And I am obsessed with the disaster that the industrial food system is, with its destructive effect on the soil and water, not to mention human and animal health. I felt like an outsider when invited to join the board. What I learned, to my utter delight and passionate support, is that Slow Food is so much more than restaurants and recipes, although it is that, too.

Officially? “Slow Food is an international, educational organization devoted to promoting fresh, local, and sustainably-produced food, biodiversity, and the preservation of food traditions, as well as celebrating the pleasures of the table.”
Founded in 1989 by an outraged Italian in reaction to the first McDonald’s opening in Rome, Slow Food has become part of a global movement to counter fast –fast, disposable, unsustainable, lifeless food cultivation, production, preparation and consumption.

This movement asks where does today’s food come from? How does it taste? How did it used to taste? What can it be other than fuel for the human engine? And how does the food I buy and cook, or grab on the run, affect the rest of the world?

The St. Louis chapter, internationally known as a “convivium”, works to educate and expand food awareness locally. We meet monthly for SloWednesday at Schlafly Bottleworks, where we feature films, panel discussions, or workshops and host two big events annually: Feast in the Field and The Art of Food. Monies raised from membership and events like these help fund our Biodiversity Micro-grants program. Since 2009, Slow Food St. Louis has awarded more than $67,000 to over 50 farmers supporting the cultivation of over 200 different heirloom plant varieties and heritage breeds.

The Slow Food motto is: good, clean, and fair food for all. We believe that the food we eat should taste good, that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare, or our health, and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work. Simple. So that’s what I told the librarian. And then I asked her to join us for a tasting event or for a movie night, or a class on growing garlic—any of the gatherings listed on our website—and get to know Slow Food St. Louis!

For more information visit slowfoodstl.org.