The Slow Food Movement is the perfect antidote to today's fast food drive through, high-tech, social media distracted culture. It's also a great way to reconnect with the entire family to become healthier – both physically and mentally.
The basic concept of the Slow Food Movement, established in 1989, is to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.
Here are some simple but high-impact ways to introduce this movement into family meals.
Establish a No Tech at the Table Rule
While mobile phones have many benefits, they also have become so ingrained in our daily life that it's tempting to stay tethered to the screen all waking hours. The dinner table is the perfect place to take a break.
At first, there could be some resistance and it could be difficult for parents, too, who are worried about a work text. But this rule has to apply to everyone, grown ups included.
If it helps, have a bin or large bowl near (but not on) the table where everyone can silence and deposit their phones for dinner.
Once the phones are secured, you'll find family members return to important dinner table traditions like talking to each other.
Start a Dinner Table Tradition
Old habits can be hard to break. If the no phone rule is resisted at first and you find a table full of disgruntled family members, you can try to spark the conversation.
It doesn't have to be a round of "how was your day?" followed by mumbled "fine" statements from everyone. Here are a few ways:
- Involve the kids in coming up with conversation starters. Everyone can write topics to discuss on papers that get placed in a bowl at the center of the table.
- Go around the dinner table and ask each person to share good news or a win from the past week.
- Gratitude isn't just for Thanksgiving! Let each person say one thing they're grateful for at that moment.
- Have fun with storytelling around the table. Start a story with one family member, then go around the table and let each person add to the story.
- Have a joke night, and let each family member tell a joke.
Make One Family Meal a Week from Scratch with Whole Food Ingredients
The tenets of Slow Food revolve around the philosophy that food we consume should be:
- GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
- CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
- FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers
A great way to honor that is to make at least one meal from scratch with healthy ingredients that were produced without impact to the environment and with fair conditions and pay.
Sure, weeknights may not be the days for that, but one meal a week can be made from whole, fresh ingredients.
Shop at a Local Farmer's Market with the Family
A great way to find ingredients for those meals is at a local farmer's market. Go as a family, and let each member pick out produce or other locally-made ingredients.
Take the time to talk to the farmers about their philosophies on food, and how they produce it.
As a bonus, children will almost always eat an ingredient they've picked out at the market. They take ownership of it.
One Slow Food term, for example, is eco-gastronomy, which is a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet, and the fact that our food choices have a major impact on the health of the environment and society.
Experiment with Different Cultural Foods
Another fun way to go Slow Food is to try the recipes of other cultures. It encourages children to try new foods, and is a great learning opportunity about another culture as well.
If your children are learning about a culture at school, that is a great opportunity to try it at home (and let the child be the advisor and researcher).
If there is a place you've always wanted to travel, have a night making popular local dishes.
If there is something your children are passionate about that can be tied to a country or culture, take advantage of that! For instance, Pokemon's return to popularity is a great opportunity to learn about Japanese food.