Fast food vs. slow food or fast food + slow food?
Who has never eaten at a fast food restaurant, please raise his hand. In front of an audience, whose
target goes from an age of 6 to around 40 and containing almost every nationality, it would be very
difficult to find some hands raised: for personal pleasure or forced by the situation or someone else
everyone nowadays has eaten at a fast food restaurant at least once. In the last 25 years there has
been a major development of this way of eating, which has turned out to be more a real way of
living rather than a simple nutritional modality and has started spreading around the world. That’s
why in 1989 an attempt was made to contrast a further development of fast food way of life, which
could seriously change our way of nourishing, and the Slow Food organization was founded. Let’s
see how these two trends and style of life act in our society and which are their aims.
Why fast food became a trend is easy to understand: in an always more dynamic world,
where achieving the most is seen as the establishing value in every field, no much time is left for
other activities, these including eating and nutrition. A new perception of what food is has come
into existence since the second industrial revolution, whereby food is not seen as a pleasure
anymore, but as a mere human necessity. This new way of conceiving nutrition was created
naturally in the most industrialized country of all, the USA, around the beginning of the 80s and
spread all around the world at the speed of light: today fast foods (and especially Americans chains)
are distributed in almost very country as a result of the globalisation. Since this fast food trend is
exporting not only its speed in feeding people, but also bringing its own food with it, this may lead
to a valuable loss in terms of conservation of cultural diversities. The global diffusion of patterned
meals represents a thread for those culture and countries, where the rite of eating still maintains its
important role in the cultural life. That’s why in 1986, a group of Italians gathered together and
brought to life Arcigola, the forerunner of Slow Food, which would be founded in 1989 through a
Manifesto1 signed by delegates of 15 countries2: the association aim was and still is the protection
Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine
and then took it as its life model.
We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits,
pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.
To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of
A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.
May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of
the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.
Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food.
Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.
In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes.
So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.
That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this
than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?
of the heritage of food, tradition and culture, while promoting a series of projects and events, whose
purpose is not only to fight back the diffusion of fast food, but also to create or re-create a more
aware concept of food and culture. Since 1989 Slow Food has grown to a number of 83.000
members in over 120 countries.
Although the continuous growth of fast food chains may be considered a threat against
cultural differences and represents a further step of what we usually call the “bad globalisation”,
whereby specific national characters are often washed away and ways of life completely changed,
sometimes also with serious consequences, on the other side of the coin it also embodies one of the
goals, globalisation is striving at: ensuring a basic nutrition to everyone. With their low cost meals
fast foods actually enable anyone to receive a good quantity of the daily recommended nutritional
elements at a cheap and affordable price. However, this doesn’t mean that fast food meals represent
a good way of eating: their diets are full of fat and sodium, that if taken in big quantities can lead to
serious health problems.
In opposition to the fast food way, Slow Food promotes a wide variety of different meals,
coming from all over the world: its aim is to make cultural nutritional differences not to disappear.
To achieve this goal the association has created many little groups, that work with a specific field.
One of the most important activity of Slow Food it’s the Terra Madre Conference, which takes
place every year in Turin and sees the participation of 5.000 delegates ready to discuss every
aspects of nutrition and biodiversity. All in all Slow Food presents itself as a reply to the fast food
style, trying to support a more aware information on food and the conservation of cultural
diversities, so that they don’t get cancelled from globalisation. It also encourage enjoying food in a
more relaxed and pleasant way in order to make eating not a necessity anymore but a real pleasure
again. The fast food style finds in the slow food style a new competitor, which however, in spite of
the good premises is not likely to succeed very soon. This is because Slow Food appears more a
high society of gourmets rather than an accessible way of living. Although its fights against the fast
food mentality aim to a “healthy globalisation” either the slow food way of life, neither the
association are well-known all over the world and that causes a major disadvantage towards fast
food chains. Further a slow food style might not be applicable in all nations and at all the times: in
many countries food is still seen as a mere necessity and maybe Slow Food should concentrate more
on assuring a regular access to foodstuffs to everyone rather than promoting gourmet fairs in
Slow Food guarantees a better future.
Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international
movement, with the little snail as its symbol.
Argentina, Austria, Brasil, Denemark, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, USA, Sweden, Switzerland,
developed countries, that most of the times are as well accessible only to a very small number of
However, in the contemporary society these two ways of eating are sort of merging together
into a solution that might reconcile them: on one side fast food restaurants are trying to enlarge their
offer of meals, including typical local dishes to their menus and following specific ways of food
preparation, so that everything is based on a sort of “glocal” idea, that maintains a certain cultural
diversity. On the other side, and this is happening especially in the western countries, restaurants
specialized in foreign food are experimenting “fast-food-solutions” by introducing special quick
menus at lunch at a low price or giving the possibility of a take-away: this strategies actually enable
the conservation of typical recipes, that can be tasted in a different way, which reconciles better
with the rhythm of modern life and which contributes to globalisation without smoothing nutritional
All in all people might argue that both ways of life, fast and slow food, have their own pros
and cons, which more or less help maintaining cultural differences without being an obstacle for the
real globalisation. What however is missing here, it’s an interest in ensuring a basic nutrition also in
those country where people are still starving: that’s mainly because these countries can’t afford
buying basic foodstuffs. Slow food as an association, which also tries to solve this problem should
maybe co-operate with fast food chains in order to ensure everyone a better future.