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Slow Down.
November 26, 2007 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Beginning with Slow Food in 1986, the idea of rejecting the "cult of speed" has gradually spread from a focus on food into other fields. In his book In Praise of Slow, Carl Honore explores the spread of the worldwide Slow movement, urging greater attention to all aspects of daily life, human relationships, and the quality of experience. Meanwhile, on the web, witness the spread of Slow. Slow down your stuff with Slow Home, Slow Travel, Slow Fashion, Slow Art, Slow Craft, Slow Design. Relax with some Slow Reading; check out a Slow Read from a Slow Library. Plan for Slow Cities governed by Slow Leadership. Use Slow Schooling, Slow Research, and the Slow University to explore Slow Science and Slow Math. Bank with Slow Money [PDF]. Explore the world with Slow Travel, using Slow Fuel for Slow Transportation. What's the rush? Come on. Take it easy.
posted by Miko (60 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

Slow music for fast times.
posted by davebush at 7:46 AM on November 26, 2007

It must be my upbringing, but I can't see "slow" as applied to people without thinking "retarded."
posted by klangklangston at 7:48 AM on November 26, 2007

Ob. "I don't have time to read all this" joke.
posted by cortex at 7:49 AM on November 26, 2007

I can't wait to read these, but I have to hurry up and get to work.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:49 AM on November 26, 2007

Slow, slow, slow... The word has lost its meaning to me. It doesn't even sound like English now.
posted by hjo3 at 7:52 AM on November 26, 2007

See also Walter Kirn's "The Autumn of the Multitaskers" from last month's Atlantic.

I remember seeing a little aphorism in one of those coffee-table collections of Buddhist sayings that went something like: "When you eat, don't do anything else. Just eat." I break this rule myself too often, but whenever I take the time to do it the Buddhist way, I feel much better about everything.
posted by gompa at 8:00 AM on November 26, 2007

The Slow Making Manifesto:
1.To strive for appropriate excellence in the making process

2. To make objects that enhance the life of the user

3. To know the origins of our materials, ensuring that they respect country; the communities who produced or harvested them and are from sustainable sources

4. To make objects that will last, can be easily repaired when necessary and are made using materials and processes that do not harm the makers, the community or the environment

5. To deal with our co-workers, clients, suppliers and sellers in an ethical and fair manner

6. To foster, utilise and pass on skills that enhance the making process

7. To enjoy and relish the way of slow making
What's so sweet is that I totally already do all this stuff, but up till now it was called "procrastination" or "could improve on time management." The next time I get a call because my TPS report is late, I'm going to tell my boss I'm simply striving for appropriate excellence.

Hilarity aside, I think that "Slow" is a great concept, even if it's ripe for mocking. I wonder, though, whether capitalist, individualistic America can ever actually understand it, much less embrace it.
posted by pineapple at 8:02 AM on November 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

Do you have any idea how long it takes to open all those links using a dial-up connection?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:08 AM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

pineapple: see also How to Be's a tongue-in-cheek book, but with a very serious undertone about what quality of life really is.
posted by Miko at 8:18 AM on November 26, 2007

the idea of rejecting the "cult of speed" has gradually spread from a focus on food into other fields.

The Pointer Sisters were way ahead of this curve when they sang,

You want a man with a slow hand
You want a lover with an easy touch
You want somebody who will spend some ...
When it comes to love, you want a slow hand ...

posted by three blind mice at 8:24 AM on November 26, 2007

This is a great post. I knew "slow" was a fad but clearly something larger is going on. Although, I would not be surprised to learn the "slow" movement was around in the 19th century (perhaps under a different moniker) and we just think its new.
posted by stbalbach at 8:26 AM on November 26, 2007

Wow, only four minutes between when the 26 link post was posted and when the first comment was made.
posted by Bugbread at 8:27 AM on November 26, 2007

But what if I don't want eating, travelling and the other necessities of life to use up more of my time? Where's the Slow Urinating movement, making a time-consuming virtue of the necessity of waste-removal?
posted by DU at 8:33 AM on November 26, 2007

I propose that it started in 1966
posted by horsemuth at 8:36 AM on November 26, 2007

"Power and speed are inseparable... [P]ower is always the power to control a territory with messengers, modes of transportation and communication... [A]n approach to politics is impossible without an approach to the economy of speed."
- Paul Virilio, Politics of the Worst
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:48 AM on November 26, 2007

Must be a Slow Day. Heh.
posted by jamstigator at 8:54 AM on November 26, 2007

DU: Slow urination is linked with urinary tract infections, however, if you pretend to be slow urinating, that is, by clenching and relaxing the muscles associated with stopping and starting while not actually urinating then there may well be benefits in terms of reduced likelihood of incontinence and premature ejaculation.
posted by biffa at 8:57 AM on November 26, 2007

Seen also James Gleick's book Faster which documents the increasing pace of society. Although honestly, it was kind of a slow read.
posted by Nelson at 9:15 AM on November 26, 2007

slow is boring
posted by j.henry at 9:20 AM on November 26, 2007

Ha, Slowhand still wins. Eric.
posted by ersatz at 9:24 AM on November 26, 2007




thank you.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:31 AM on November 26, 2007

I am sure the big unions will try and incorporate this ideal somehow.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

it's just a lark now, but wait till we run out of crude oil and are forced to adopt a slower pace. how many of you are ready for that?
posted by bruce at 10:15 AM on November 26, 2007

it's just a lark now, but wait till we run out of crude oil and are forced to adopt a slower pace. how many of you are ready for that?

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:19 AM on November 26, 2007

I approve of slowness in general, and I personally would benefit from slowing down when I eat, but slow travel? There's a major problem with that. Douglas Adams said it best.

Space is big - really big - you just won't believe how vastly, hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.

Walking is the most appropriate scale for most transportation, we are literally made to walk. But if you really want to get somewhere, you need a little intermodal help. The faster the better.
posted by bitslayer at 10:24 AM on November 26, 2007

Chris Clarke wrote a fantastic blog post about the gendered implications of the various quality-of-life movements (including the "slow food" movement from your first link) that have been gaining in popularity over the past few years. Every time I see something about the slow food movement now, I can't help but think back that post of his, so I'll do the nice thing and share it with all with you.

The relevant part, for those who don't want to click through:

But when parts of our lives get corporatized, it’s generally the case that the associated relationships get monetized. In English: suddenly we find ourselves paying someone for labor we once got for free...In a paper published a couple weeks ago, Dr. Sherilyn McGregor of Keele University in Staffordshire points out that when environmentally sound living requres extra work, that work is usually “women’s work.” This is not news to environmentalist women. What decisions are environmentalist citizens asked to make? Choosing the green laundry detergent and toilet paper and buying organic groceries. Carrying cloth bags to the supermarket. Using non-toxic cleansers. Adding corporate citizenship to one’s list of brand loyalty factors and schlepping the Seafood Buying Guide around. Sorting trash into the proper containers for recyclables, compost, and landfilling.

I totally get the appeal of the whole "slow food" movement and the reflexive disdain for packaged food (well, packaged EVERYTHING) which never tastes *quite* as good as the stuff you bought at the farmers market and spent 2 hours preparing. But then I think about how it would be to try to live the "ideal" of making everything from scratch myself in the kitchen, and I shriek in horror. If there's a problem with a world that is increasingly pre-packaged and commoditized, I'm not sure I totally like the solution of just slowing down and moving back to a world where (some) people did all the food preparation from scratch for free. Is that really progress? (Does your opinion on whether it is progress depend on whether you're the one stuck in the kitchen?)
posted by iminurmefi at 10:51 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

"I'm not sure I totally like the solution of just slowing down and moving back to a world where (some) people did all the food preparation from scratch for free. Is that really progress? (Does your opinion on whether it is progress depend on whether you're the one stuck in the kitchen?)"

I thought much the same thing at first - but in reality, the meals that we are used to are nothing like the meals that were prepared back "in the day." Usually there was one big cooking/baking day, and then meals were augmented with vegetables and side dishes throughout the week. Stouffer's has us expecting meals like lasagne or roast beef ever ynight, and that just wasn't the way it was. Usually, you'd get a nice sandwich and a salad in summer - soup and bread in the winter with a nice fancy meal one night a week. It's not hard to cook with care and eat well and still spend plenty of time away from the kitchen - it just takes planning and training one's self away from expecting novelty at each meal.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:20 AM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Sometimes I imagine opening up a restaurant and putting a sign like this in the door:

"Dear customer, our food is prepared to exacting standards by our expert chefs. For this reason, and for the purpose of giving you more time to enjoy our culinary expertise, we would like to advise you that you will spend, at minimum, one-and-a-half hours eating before all your delicious yet inexpensive courses are complete. The main course will most likely not be served until after about an hour. Please refrain from eating here unless you have at least one-and-a-half hours to enjoy. Thanks. -The Management."

Now, you're thinking that one and a half hours isn't a long time for eating in, say, a fancy steak house. But what about a lunch bistro? What about breakfast? Would people eat there even if it was free? I'd like to think so, but our culture is so impatient that I have my doubts.
posted by Avenger at 11:31 AM on November 26, 2007

I'll bite, iminurmefi.

Every weekend, I haul my X-and-Y-chromosome-containing ass down to my local farmers' market, and most of the time I bring my daughter. Many of the stall owners now know her by name, and she sleeps with a blue stuffed monkey one of them gave her one time. There's a little food court - the market's a large, mostly indoor affair - and sometimes we get fries or a German sausage.

At the peak of the season, we buy pounds and pounds of fresh field tomatoes, and if I've got my shit together I even boil and freeze some, but in any case those weeks we gorge on homemade salsa and Caprese salads and the rest. I rarely buy more than a tomato or two the rest of the year - and then usually vine-ripened ones from the one market stall that stays open year-round.

These are just a couple of examples of the thousand unquantifiable ways in which our lives are richer for having chosen to spend more time on the procurement and preparation of our food. The satisfaction of knowing where that food comes from and who sells it is beyond measure (and in season, most of it's cheaper than the flavourless "Produce of U.S./Canada" junk Safeway's selling anyway). Is that progress? Absolutely. And my answer's entirely dependent on the fact that I'm the one "stuck" in the kitchen.

Finding and cooking good food is probably my favourite hobby. I find it meditative, soul-nurturing, often joyous. I'd suggest starting perhaps with Jim Lahey's "no-knead bread" from scratch, which I tried for the first time a couple weeks ago and which was revelatory and satisfying in a way that almost nothing else I do from the comfort of my own home can be.

Some nights - fair enough - we just grab a take-out roast chicken. It's not an either/or thing. But there's never been a take-out chicken that's fed me as fully as that first bite of bread I baked myself.
posted by gompa at 11:33 AM on November 26, 2007 just takes planning and training one's self away from expecting novelty at each meal.

You're right, it's definitely progress. It's just a matter of learning all of the tricks that let you quickly prepare slow food.
posted by XMLicious at 11:43 AM on November 26, 2007

Metafilter: sleeps with a blue stuffed monkey.

Gompa, my x-and-y ass also loves good food- and there are two ways to go about it: your way, and the work-your-ass-off-to-afford-it fancy restaurant way. I'll take the farmer's market every time. The smiles of my guests makes it worth the effort, and the pleasure of creation is its own reward.
posted by wzcx at 11:46 AM on November 26, 2007

gompa, I didn't intend to imply that there aren't men who cook. Hell, I also visit the farmer's market religiously every Saturday morning, and I get a lot of pleasure out of cooking a really involved meal probably once a week. (Bread is a frontier I have not yet crossed, as it seems VERY complicated. Perhaps I'll try your no-knead recipe, though!)

I'm just pointing out that there's a *reason* that pre-packaged, pre-prepared everything has become so ubiquitous in our society, and I think that reason has a lot to do with the fact we don't have the same number of "homemakers" (of either gender) that may have existed in the 1950s who had the time to do all that labor-intensive preparation. It's a trade-off, and although there are some negative aspects to the increasing commoditization of all these parts of our lives (it sure doesn't taste quite as good!), I think that often we fail to recognize the positive aspect: commoditizing things means that people who used to provide those services for free don't have to anymore. Or at least can get paid for it.

My impression of the "slow food" movement is that it seems to be presented as not so much a hobby--which I'd totally enthusiastically get behind--as much as a way of life, which I have many more misgivings about. The holding up of the unpaid, labor-intensive process of shopping and cooking food for your family as a moral choice, rather than just the yummy choice, makes me uncomfortable. In my mind, it doesn't seem a huge jump between "there's never been a take-out chicken that's fed me as fully as that first bite of bread I baked myself," and "real parents buy organic fruit and cook all their own baby food from scratch, because that's the only way to *really* nourish your child (and if you have a full-time job and have to buy baby food from Gerber, you're a terrible parent)."
posted by iminurmefi at 11:48 AM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Okay, I get where you're coming from, iminurmefi. (You don't seem, that is, to be trying to kill my dOOdz).

See, the way I see it, this "commoditizing" effect you're describing may have done wonders in its day as a liberating thing, but it's past its due date and laden with unintended negative consequences. A convenience-based world is, in fact, terrible for the soul. It's like the plastic that originally defined it: Miraculous at its birth, still a wonder in some applications, but choking our sewers and poisoning our earth from its ubiquity.

If you're in a largely egalitarian, dual-income North American household (like mine and a great many of my generation's, though I admit far from all), then coming to the realization that your life will be more fulfilled if you invest more of your non-(paid)-working time in cooking from scratch, making things, investing in your community and the people in it - coming to this realization is definitely progress. (I think there's ample evidence that this can be true for many other socioeconomic strata - the South Central Farm story comes to mind - but I'd rather not presume to speak for those too far beyond my direct experience. My fellow shoppers at Calgary's Crossroads Market are, in any case, primarily lower-middle to upper-middle class, and disproportionately recent immigrants, I think.)

Maybe the quasi-doctrinaire slow foodies can teach you this (I always assume they're half-kidding in their earnestness, though to be fair the organized slow food group in my city clearly assumes a lifestyle with far more disposable income than I have). Or maybe it'll be ecological 100-mile-diet concerns or (as in my case) extended immersion in cultures both modern (Germany) and developing-world (India) where traditional modes of food (and other) production have survived to present day more intact than they have in suburbanized North America.

In any case, you are, I think, richer for that revelation, and a Marxian economic-determinist argument against it is at least as limited as the utopian arguments in its favour.
posted by gompa at 12:06 PM on November 26, 2007

While I think there is a modicum of peace and wisdom to be gained through the mindful cultivation, preparation, and consumption of food, I am more likely to be found in the Taco Bell drive-through shoving candy-bar wrappers out of the way to make room in the cupholder for a bucket of Dr. Pepper.

And I have no excuse. I'm a competent, organized cook with access to a well-stocked kitchen. I have the time. There's a kickass farmer's market not twenty minutes from my front door.

*resolves to change, microwaves a frozen chicken pot pie for lunch*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:29 PM on November 26, 2007

You know, I am conceptually very keen on this. We do a lot of what is covered in that list here at our house, but (oh irony) the Slow Home link absolutely reeked of being written from a position of enormous privilege.

To be perfectly blunt, poor people simply do not have that much control over their housing. Nothing highlights this better than the quiz on that site:

[ ] I prefer a home with one large space that integrates living, dining, and kitchen together.
[ ] I prefer a home with separate spaces for living, dining and kitchen.
[ ] I prefer a home with both formal living and dining rooms and a family room open to the kitchen.

Well, yeah, I'm sure most of us would love to be making choices between these American Dream dilemmas. But a HUGE proportion of the US population prefers a home with a roof that doesn't leak, a rodent population that is somewhere below Threat Level Elmo, and a rent that doesn't take food off the "dining room" table "integrated" into the kitchen counter.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:42 PM on November 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

I'd like to think so, but our culture is so impatient that I have my doubts.

I've often wondered whether it's our culture or nature to be impatient, or if it's due to the fact that society and its institutions too easily give into impatient, type-A whiny pricks (like the guy my dad used to be when he was in his 50s) thereby reinforcing this terrible behavior.
posted by psmealey at 1:06 PM on November 26, 2007

Faster! Faster! Live faster!

You don't want to be the last one to cross the finish line, do you?
posted by tgyg at 1:25 PM on November 26, 2007

There's the sense in this country that easier and less self-sufficient is always better. You can buy hot dogs already in the bun in a microwavable package so you don't have to deal with putting a hot dog in a bun all by yourself. It's horrible. There's much more to be gained by doing things the hard way and doing them yourself.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:28 PM on November 26, 2007

I think about how it would be to try to live the "ideal" of making everything from scratch myself in the kitchen, and I shriek in horror.

I do make most things from scratch in my kitchen (with the exception of bread, yogurt, cereal, and desserts like ice cream), because it's fun for me and a personal priority. It actually doesn't take that much time, especially not once you have a basic repertoire of easy, weeknight-style dishes. I was just reading in Cooking Light about a study which showed that the time it takes to cook a simple meal from scratch is not much longer than the time it takes to prepare a processed convenience meal, or to stop on the way home and purchase a ready-made meal. I'm going by memory, but even at the extreme end of the study (the longest-case scenario), which was done by observing 800 families at dinnertime, the scratch-cookers spent only 4 minutes more getting dinner than the non-scratch cookers. In some families, that four minutes could probably come out of our 4 hours average TV watching each day.

As a feminist, I'm very sensitive to the concern about who does this extra work, but I just don't find the thinking applies. I have two responses to that critique of Slow Food:

1. That it isn't a Slow Food issue, it's an issue of how you organize your family life and divide up the labor. If you both share the embedded values, you both do your part to make it happen. If too much of this burden is falling on one party or another, the problem does not originate in the Slow Food movement - it's right there at home, in your definitions of "women's work" and "men's work." There's no need to assume that the woman is going to be responsible for making all the changes and doing all the cooking - to me, putting all the housework, of all kinds, on the table for negotiation is an essential element of feminism. If there isn't enough time between two adults in a household to make "Slow" choices (something I'm skeptical of, since I know it can often be done where there is willingness), then maybe relaxing that priority for a while is the way to go.

2. I don't think of it as 'extra work' - I think of it as a better life. I do the Slow Food thing not because of social expectation or moral superiority, but because I like cooking, and because shopping, cooking, and eating Slow is an expression of my values and desires. It's much more fun and pleasurable for me. I really like the people I've gotten to know through the farmer's market, and the hour I spend there is much more pleasurable, social, surprising, creative, and fun than the same hour spent at the store in the winter. The relaxation and pleasure I get from chopping, stirring and cooking at the end of the day, the scents in the house, the challenge of trying a new recipe - all these contribute to daily satisfaction in life in a way that does not feel like work. You have to eat - why not make it an event, a source of enjoyment?

DarlingBri's point is good, and in threads like this it is common for people to begin exploring how these ideas relate to the poor, and how hard it is for the poor to make these choices. Well, I completely agree; the more limited your budget, the more restricted your choices. But I don't think it's incumbent upon people in the most challenging circumstances to be the first to make the changes. The poor aren't creating the bulk of our environmental or quality of life problems. It's the well-heeled consumer that's traded money for time by buying convenience with waste and celebrating continual acquisition. So it makes sense that efforts to change the value set should be directed at people who have more choices about how they live - the impact of their choices, where they put they dollars, will be much greater. Changing the habits of the affluent can make good choices more available to everyone else, as well - that's what happened to organic food (not that I'm a big fan of organic) - the super-committed promoted it, the wealthy gradually adopted it, and now organic food is available in almost every supermarket chain in the U.S.
posted by Miko at 1:35 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Another thought: arguing that domestic work has more monetary value today because there are fewer women at home providing free labor. I agree that some of that is true (hence the job title "day care provider", for instance), but in the case of my food and laundry, the logic doesn't apply. It's not as though I'd be paying someone to do it if I weren't doing it. I'd still be doing the work, only making my life less pleasant and less healthy in the process. I think part of the Slow idea is respect for work - not rushing through it or outsourcing it, but enjoying it and paying attention to it whenever possible.
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on November 26, 2007

Slow Winter. An NYT article about what the French work week used to look like in the summers - and winters - of 1845.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:54 PM on November 26, 2007

There's much more to be gained by doing things the hard way and doing them yourself.

Here's where I think the interesting part lies for me: why do we (as a society) think that we gain more from doing certain activities ourselves rather than paying for a product or service, but not other activities?

Why do I gain more from baking my bread from scratch (versus buying it at a baker or grocery store), but I don't gain more from changing my own oil? Or cutting my own lawn? Or fixing my own toilet when it starts to leak? I know there's an argument that there's value in being completely self-sufficient and not purchasing services from anyone, but to me it doesn't read like that's what the Slow Food movement is talking about. I get the sense that there's a moral value in buying the raw materials and DIY'ing it with food--that the process of cooking it yourself versus buying it pre-cooked is inherently valuable (moral, even)--that doesn't exist with other services we regularly buy.

From the first link to the slow food site: We seek to catalyze a broad cultural shift away from the destructive effects of an industrial food system and fast life; toward the regenerative cultural, social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.

And I think that's interesting. Perhaps it's because food is more directly linked with our survival; perhaps it's because food is a source of comfort in a way other services aren't; perhaps it's because food in the 20th century is what sex was in 19th century in terms of cultural narratives of denial, morality, and pleasure. I think it's interesting to question whether the services that we traditionally protest are best when done unpaid, out of love--cooking, caring for children, teaching--have anything to do with who is usually doing those things unpaid. (Eh, it's the unruly feminist in me. I can't help it!) I think it's interesting to question whether it's better to deal with social problems like obesity and traffic congestion by exhorting people to consume more carefully (via slow food or slow home), or whether that's ultimately ineffective compared to pushing for government solutions (like vegetable subsidies rather than corn subsidies, and expanded public transportation or higher mileage standards).

For the record, I do shop at the farmer's market and buy organic when possible. I actually get an enormous sense of pleasure out of cooking, although I think that has a lot to do with spending so much time sitting at a desk job doing thinking-work all day, followed by sitting at a desk in class doing thinking-work most nights, and the contrast with the process of doing something with my hands that ends with tangible results is very pleasing. (I'd probably love changing my oil if I still had a car.) So I'm not knocking cooking as a pleasurable process, or something that we should question the ethics of (buying organic or free-range). I just think the language used on some of those sites goes so far beyond promoting it as a pleasurable thing to do, and pushes it into the right and moral thing to do, that it raises questions for me.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:06 PM on November 26, 2007

Where's the Slow Sex?
posted by limeonaire at 2:23 PM on November 26, 2007

Why do I gain more from baking my bread from scratch (versus buying it at a baker or grocery store), but I don't gain more from changing my own oil? Or cutting my own lawn? Or fixing my own toilet when it starts to leak?

Interesting that you would say that, but it makes so much more sense for me to buy my bread. I'm lucky enough to live in an area with amazing bakeries, and the bread is wholesome, delicious, and cheap. I learned to make bread as a kid, and never liked doing it. That being said, I can't bring myself to hire someone to mow the lawn, and I do as much plumbing as those sharing my household will permit me to do.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:33 PM on November 26, 2007

Why do I gain more from baking my bread from scratch (versus buying it at a baker or grocery store), but I don't gain more from . . . fixing my own toilet when it starts to leak?

Believe me, if I had any aptitude at all in this direction, I'd be too busy converting my shed into a photographic studio for my wife to bother with this discussion. As it is, I'm good at cooking and enjoy it a lot (for the same reasons you mentioned - thinking-work all day, projects with sometimes three-year life cycles, long time to wait to be finished something). So I focus my energy on the kitchen.

As for cutting my lawn, I do it as infrequently as possible because it feels inherently counter to the natural order, and my neighbours' chemically induced putting-green lawns here in semi-arid Calgary are a daily affront to my sense of moral decency all summer, but that's a discussion for another thread . . .
posted by gompa at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2007

I just think the language used on some of those sites goes so far beyond promoting it as a pleasurable thing to do, and pushes it into the right and moral thing to do

This hits the nail on the head, for me. As someone who A) doesn't enjoy cooking, and B) has a couple of family members who definitely use food as their religion-surrogate, I usually run screaming at the first mention of this kind of stuff.

I think the Buddhist concept of "mindfulness" informs some of the slow movement's thinking, which is excellent (and is something I believe in myself). Unfortunately, it does lend the whole business an air of "morality" that can lead to relentless proselytizing, to the point that some folks might be tempted to start the same old discussions every time the family gets together, until finally your relatives are forced to say, "We're not going to talk about this anymore, and you'll never save me from hellfire food you don't approve of, so please just give it a rest already!"

That's been my experience, anyway.

I'm glad that some people can afford it and find a lot of happiness with it, but I personally feel better about changes like iminurmefi mentioned that will effect everyone across the board, like more efficient transportation, and better access to healthy food for those who currently don't have it.

(P.S. none of this talk about food-as-religion refers to Miko or this post- I find her to be a voice of sanity and pragmatism on these issues.)
posted by BoringPostcards at 2:45 PM on November 26, 2007

I looked for slow sex - believe it or not, couldn't find a decent link.

I'minurmefi, all your observations are embedded in the idea of Slow Food, the idea that has now migrated to other aspects of life. But food is the well we all come to, usually at least once a day. It is a lot more than sustenance - it's culture, identity, memory, sensory pleasure, comfort, nourishment, a component of good health, a carrier for chemicals, a global commodity, and so on and so forth.

The "moral rightness" actually is an important component of the slow movement. You ask whether Slow Food is effective compared to pushing for a different government subsidy program: you don't need to make the comparison as an either/or. THis is a political as well as social movement, and SF is one of the organizations that has been pushing for radical improvements to the US, Farm Bill that would increase funding for food stamps and school lunch programs, improve the quality of health information about food, and reduce commodity subsidies in favor of 'specialty crop' (ie vegetable) subsidies. It's all of a piece. Personally, our present food system is amoral to immoral most of the time; changing it, both personally and at the societal level, seems like a moral responsibility to me - something like what the environmental movement was to the 70s.

As for the other examples - changing oil, cleaning the bathroom - I think they fit into a Slow life, too - that's the whole spirit of this post, that the ideas apply not just to food, but to all aspects of life. I think taking care of yourself, enjoying the mundane tasks of life as well as the peak-experience ones, has an intrinsic value. Not every moment in life needs to be maximized for pleasure and productivity - does it? We rush around trying to 'save' time - and what do we do with the time we save? Spend it working? Do we choose to work so much because it's more pleasurable than changing the oil? Do we use work as an escape from ourselves, our families, boredom, fears, anxieties the realities of life on earth? Why do we fill our time with activities that seem so terribly needful - groups, shopping, sports, kids' activities, weekend trips, projects, home improvement, an endless parade of DVDs - only to feel we're somehow missing our lives? What are we running from? What are we so afraid we're missing out on? What terrible things will happen if we actually slow down?
posted by Miko at 2:55 PM on November 26, 2007

Slow Food and the Farm Bill. And thanks, BP. People do get all kinds of neurotic where food is concerned. I try to be sane.
posted by Miko at 2:57 PM on November 26, 2007


As a card-carrying member of Slow Food Seattle and imminent market gardener I am entitled by law to make this joke
posted by stet at 3:35 PM on November 26, 2007

The Slow Design page does not respond well to enlarging the font size. I'd say they fail at the design part.
posted by effwerd at 3:42 PM on November 26, 2007

The Slow Design page does not respond well to enlarging the font size. I'd say they fail at the design part.

They just need more time.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:39 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

This post reminds me of my favorite quote overheard in a bar: "Fuck Zen, that shit takes too long."
posted by tighttrousers at 7:29 PM on November 26, 2007

"I think taking care of yourself, enjoying the mundane tasks of life as well as the peak-experience ones, has an intrinsic value."

Yeah, but only if they're tasks that bitches do. If it's manly work, you gotta hire some Mexicans instead.
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:49 PM on November 26, 2007

Where's the Slow Sex?

Cue Sting.
posted by ikahime at 11:19 PM on November 26, 2007

Miko said: Changing the habits of the affluent can make good choices more available to everyone else, as well - that's what happened to organic food (not that I'm a big fan of organic) - the super-committed promoted it, the wealthy gradually adopted it, and now organic food is available in almost every supermarket chain in the U.S.

Miko, I am more or less with you in sentiment. In fact, this is the only scenario is which I can ever see trickle down economics even theoretically working.

In practice, however, I don't think it works that way. First of all, supermarket chains are actually less likely to open in poorer neighbourhoods; these areas tend to be catered for by independent retailers. And, these retailers tend to charge more on an item per item basis, simply because they do not have the bulk buying power of the chains. (I hope...)

Second, I just double checked my grocery store's prices. Organic green beans: €8.76 kg. Standard green beans: €5.86 kg. Frozen green beans: €1.95 kg. Buying choices are driven out of necessity by price for large segments of shoppers, so the presence of organic goods doesn't actually increase those shopper's selections when there is a significant price difference.

And while I have not really thought this through, I'm suspicious that if loads of middle class people started baking their own bread, for example, it might drive up the price for the rest of consumers. Obviously there could well be other benefits that offest this, but it bothers me that none of this seems to have been taken into account in all these "Come, live a better, simpler life" treatise.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:45 AM on November 27, 2007

Slow journalism.
posted by WPW at 6:14 AM on November 27, 2007

But DarlingBri, my point is that organic food wasn't even available in groceries 20 years ago, not at any price. Most people couldn't make the choice even if you wanted to and had the money to. Its popularity and its endorsement by the wealthy and the hypercommitted resulted in its increased availability.

I understand your very real concerns and share the worry about how we improve matters for the lowest economic tier. I just think that it's silly to reject socially positive change just because the poor may not be able to make the same choices immediately. For instance, more fuel-efficient cars and biodiesel are a good interim idea until we have something far better. The poor can't afford more fuel-efficient cars and biodiesel (I kind of can't). Does that mean the options should not exist? No, to me it means people who can choose those options should make every effort to, driving down the production costs and forcing society to adapt to a cleaner, better system which will benefit all people, directly and indirectly. Less emissions in the air help the poor, too (they suffer from athsthma, for instance, at out-of-proportion rates). People who have choices about where they live and can reduce their commuting time have the same power to improve the environment for everyone. People who can support locally grown and maybe organic food keep open space available in their towns, and - not incidentally - support farmers directly (and a lot of farmers have incomes at or below poverty level).

none of this seems to have been taken into account

It's a huge, 20-year-old movement with a dense body of thought and literature associated with it, and it really has been taken into account and is continually discussed and debated by people who believe in it. Take a look around and do some reading and explore some links. The idea of "Slow" has tendrils that reach out into some very interesting and globally important areas - biodiversity and keeping genetic material from seeds in the public domain as protection against worldwide blight or terrorist attack, for instance. It's been examined and continues to be - I hope you'll stay in the discussion. There are some other similar threads on MeFi - if you look for the Michael Pollan NYT Op-Ed thread from a few months ago, you'll find a lot more interesting stuff - points of view, links, arguments.
posted by Miko at 6:15 AM on November 27, 2007

I haven't listened to it yet (and I don't think it's been linked in this thread), but Princeton has a lecture by Carlo Petrini from May 2007 up on their lectures website. You have to scroll down to May to get to it.

(I'd actually been meaning to send you that link for a while, Miko, but I kept forgetting.)
posted by OmieWise at 6:48 AM on November 27, 2007

You can buy 'Slow food fast' in Australia. This is slow food which has been frozen, sold in meal sized portions for re-heating. So you can have both if you want!
posted by asok at 10:08 AM on November 27, 2007

Some home-made slow food can be pretty fast as well; pasta, stir-fry etc.

One problem is that the kitchen skills that are required can be a failry sharp learning curve for people who are relatively new to cooking. If you didn't grow up in a household that encouraged the children to help in the kitchen then your chef skills may be a bit weak.

Still, Nigella Lawson can't slice for shit and she is a millionaire food writer and presenter!

She has many slow food fast suggestions amongst her recipes. Well, the three programmes I have seen included them, which is the sum total of my Lawson experience.
posted by asok at 10:16 AM on November 27, 2007

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