Happier Meals

The slow food movement challenges our fast food nation.

By Melanie Williams


A side view of Heartland Restaurant’s warm, inviting atmosphere in Saint Paul. Photo by Elizabeth Klein.

One year after McDonald’s celebrated its 30-year anniversary, the franchise expanded to Italy and built its first restaurant in Rome in 1986. Studies would later point out fast food’s contribution to the rise in factory farming, global warming, the obesity epidemic, and unfair trade and labor practices in underdeveloped nations—a myriad of effects the Western world didn’t associate with their instantly gratifying meals.

And yet, amidst the hordes of consumers flocking to the drive-thru windows, a select group of Italians reacted to the fast food expansion by instigating a meager movement in the opposite direction—a movement that would eventually go global. Slow food.

Today there are more than 1,300 Slow Food convivia (groups), including one based in the Twin Cities. The organization works to build an agricultural infrastructure that, though not as instantly gratifying, emphasizes the production of organic and locally cultivated food.

Jane Rosemarin, chair of Slow Food Minnesota, is unwaveringly dedicated to whole-system wellness for people and the planet. It’s that same attitude and common goal that attracts a diverse group to the movement, everyone from lawyers and chefs, to young urbanites.

“People become members primarily to be connected to others who support local, sustainable farming,” says Rosemarin. “Some join to show support for our national campaigns on issues such as better school lunches, or a farm bill that promotes small farms and growing vegetables rather than commodity crops.”

Whether their reasons are agricultural, culinary, or environmental, the movement’s subscribers are taking a drastic step away from conventional eating habits. “I’m not all that involved in political movements, but I eat this way because I know that I can at least go to bed at night knowing I’m doing what I can to be more sustainable,” says Heidi Anoszko, a slow food practitioner from Minneapolis. “I know that every choice I make can make a difference in the world.“

Luckily for people like Anoszko, dozens of slow food eateries and co-ops dot the Twin Cities landscape, each of them willing to cultivate culinary creations with organic, fairly-traded, local ingredients (despite Minnesota’s short growing season).

One sentiment almost every slow foodie can identify with is the hope that the movement continues to gain momentum and make progress in its stand against unsustainable food practices.

“I think our future is in community work,” says Rosemarin. “The national organization has seen a move away from just working with farmers, and is really working in the community, organizing around policy.”

“That,” says Rosemarin, “is where I see this movement going. It’s always been about good food. Now it’s about food justice.”


RESTAURANTS

French Meadow Bakery and Cafe
2610 S. Lyndale Ave., Mpls.
612-870-7855
www.frenchmeadowcafe.com

Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market
289 E. 5th St., St. Paul
651-699-3536
www.heartlandrestaurant.com

Wise Acre Eatery
5401 S. Nicollet Ave., Mpls.
612-354-2577
www.wiseacreeatery.com

GROCERIES

Kowalski’s Markets
Several locations
www.kowalskis.com

Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops
www.themix.coop

DRINK UP!

Alexis Bailly Vineyard
18200 Kirby Ave., Hastings
651-437-1413
www.abvwines.com

Summit Brewing Company
910 Montreal Circle, St. Paul
651-265-7800
www.summitbrewing.com