22 October 2020 | Reading 9 mins.

A brief history of Slow Food

Jack Coulton
Slow Food International – Communications Officer

Jack Coulton, Slow Food International – Communications Officer

Despite the hiccups of decision-making, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will take substantial steps in contributing to the new EU Green Deal.

Our story begins in Rome, in March 1986, where the first McDonald’s in the country opened near the famous Spanish Steps. The event was met with widespread protests from all corners of society involving thousands of people. In a symbolic action, one man decided to feed the protesters with plates of pasta, and a movement was born. His name was Carlo Petrini, a journalist from Bra, in the northwestern Piedmont region, and through his determination and zeal the nascent Slow Food organization started to spread.

The process was initially informal, through word-of-mouth, phone calls (the internet was still a distant dream), the Arci network (the Italian Recreational and Cultural Association, the largest non-religious association in the country), and Il Gambero Rosso, a food insert of the newspaper Il Manifesto. In November 1987 the Slow Food Manifesto, written by Petrini’s close friend and comrade Folco Portinari, was first published. The movement officially became international two years later, in December 1989, when the Slow Food Manifesto for an International Movement for the Defense of and Right to Pleasure was signed at the Opéra Comique in Paris by leading Italian cultural figures such as Dario Fo and representatives from 14 other countries.

It took human societies thousands of years to develop this rich diversity of food cultures, and it could all be lost within a few generations unless action is taken to save them

With its origins as a literary cultural movement, the next step for Slow Food was to set up a publishing arm—Slow Food Editore—and release its first book, Osterie d’Italia (1990), a guide to the slowest restaurants in the country. It has been published annually ever since, becoming a solid reference point for all those interested in a dining experience that reflects local food traditions. National associations were set up in Germany and Switzerland in 1992 and 1993 respectively, as the organization took root and continued its spread within Italy.

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