Pressed meat floor by Wim Delvoye

It’s about labor, environment, obesity, air quality, climate change… Oh yes, and happiness.

In his recent note in the Opinion blog of the NYTimes, Marc Bittman points out the real importance of the Slow Food movement. Counter to the suspicion that caring about food is a pastime for elites, Bittman talks with Slow Food’s founder Carlo Petrini and reveals a movement with roots closer to populist outcries as like Occupy and petroleum divestment.

Below are some gems about the movement from Petrini as Paraphrased by Bittman. Leave it to the Italians to be poetically idealistic and grounded in bodily experience all at once:

“A gastronomer who is not an environmentalist is just stupid. Whereas an environmentalist who is not a gastronomer is sad. It’s possible to change the world even while preserving the concept of the right of pleasure.”

“gastronomy is holistic. It’s not only recipes and cooking but agriculture, physics, biology, genetics, chemistry, history, economy, politics and ecology. If we adapt this vision of gastronomy, our relationships with food and each other changes.”

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It is the holistic nature of this movement that speaks to me so loudly as a defender of concept in a society in love with data points. My mother is founder of a progressive school in Davis, CA, one of the agricultural cultural capitols of the United States. Much of Peregrine School’s project-based curriculum is centered around the edible school garden. No coincidence that the educational approach apon which Peregrine is based, Reggio Emilia, also originated Northern Italy.

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It’s clear that a lot is riding on our ability to feed the billions of human residents on our planet and that what we’ve been doing is starving some while overfeeding others. If food is recognized as a catalyst for reform that touches all parts of society, we can make positive changes to the health of all eaters, from fruit-pickers, to bankers, to livestock, crops, huge trees and microorganisms.