Anna Wootton

Let’s slow it down: A look at Slow Food Day and the Slow Food movement

I talk a lot about the importance of eating slowly in order to avoid emotional eating. Now I’m actually going to talk about slow food. As in, the Slow Food movement.

It originated in the late ’80s in Italy as a way to counter the fast food influence that was taking over the country. It was a way to remind people to return to the root of food – where it comes from, how it should be prepared, how it should be enjoyed.

There’s a lot of overlap in the philosophy of the farm-to-table movement with slow food. Certainly, eating local is a big, big part of slow food because before the age of planes, trains and super-fast automobiles, we really had to work with whatever food we could farm from a relatively small radius around us. 

Nowadays the fast food influence still rages strong, so Slow Food chapters have sprung up in locations all over the world, including in my home country, the Cayman Islands. As you know, I moved back home last June and in my day job I work as a PR Manager for a real estate developer, focusing in particular on a mixed-use development called Camana Bay.

The Camana Bay PR team!

At Camana Bay people can literally live (there are homes for rent), work (I work there, and there are many other office buildings rented out to corporate tenants) and play (we have dining, shops, the island’s only cinema and many outdoor amenities that we offer for use for free). We also host some pretty badass events.

If you follow me on social media (like FacebookTwitter and Instagram), you’ve no doubt seen some of the cool stuff we do, from hosting tennis players, to having Sir Richard Branson come and speak to our island’s students (and he actually played with the tennis players, and blogged about it!), to putting on amazing parties. Slow Food Day was last Saturday and that’s just one of the many amazing events we host – but it’s one that has quite a lot of crossover with my passion, which is my health coaching and spreading the word about healthy, clean eating that’s driven by nourishment rather than emotional urges.

A beautiful set up for the farm-to-table dinner on Slow Food Day 2015

In the morning, we hosted a farmers market, where local restaurants were paired with a farmer who provided them with fresh local ingredients, and they cooked up some canapés for snacks and samples. Then in the evening it was all about a beautifully decorated farm-to-table dinner with visiting chef, the James Beard Award-winning chef Susan Spicer from Bayona in New Orleans, and the chefs of the restaurants at Camana Bay – Cindy Hutson of Ortanique, Hedy Goldsmith of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Stefano Franceschi of Gelato & Co., Joel Olaguer of Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar, and Markus Mueri of Abacus.

As a vegetarian, I mainly snacked on sides (and dessert, bien sur) but I was hugely impressed with the quality of food and array of flavours on offer. We hosted a small group of visiting journalists from the United States (check them out on social media, they are were the coolest bunch of people I could have hoped to spend the weekend with: Kim SunéeAndy MurdockNevin Martell and Christopher Hassiotis) who came to write about the culinary scene in Cayman, including Slow Food Day, of course, and they were equally pleased with the food on offer (if you don’t believe what a fun bunch they were, just check out the crazy selfies they let me persuade them into taking):

Okay, okay, enough of the funnies.

The crux of the matter is this: slow food is about sourcing your ingredients locally, but also about preparing your meal with real ingredients, cooked over a stove, the old-fashioned way. And when it comes to eating it? Well, there’s a reason we set the tables up this way at the Slow Food dinner:

Dining together around a big table, sharing stories, enjoying your food and taking time to appreciate where it came from is a big part of slow food.

When I have clients who are struggling with emotional eating, particularly when eating out or at special events, I give them this piece of advice (it’s a bit hokey-sounding, so I see if they’re up for the challenge!):

Before you order your food, read the menu description and from that get an idea of where your food has come from. This doesn’t need to turn into an episode of Portlandia where you end up travelling to the farm to find out your chicken’s name before you eat it at the restaurant, but it’s a way for you to realize how much more goes into your meal than just a quick order at your dining establishment of choice.

Then, when your food arrives, look at it on your plate and give yourself a moment to register your gratitude for this meal, and your gratitude for where it came from, and the work that came into getting it to this point, where it’s on your plate, ready for your enjoyment. A lot of the time we are able to emotionally eat because we have lost all connection to the food we are consuming.

Taking this time to be grateful for it, and to respect the work that has gone into it, make us savour every bite more carefully, and enjoy every taste more deeply. Often this translates into a more genuine and enjoyable eating experience – and this often means you end up eating less. Quality over quantity, after all.

My challenge to you, then: how can you bring the Slow Food movement into your everyday life? Will you take that time to ponder the origin of your food? Make an effort to dine with others and sit around a table at each dinner? Try to buy more local produce and support your local farmers? Share the ways you are slowing it down on social media – and remember to tag me!