October 14, 2004

Slow Food

by psu

Who would have thought that a pizza with fresh mozzarella and roasted potatoes would be a great thing?

Anyway. To go back to the beginning. There is an organization in Pittsburgh called Slow Food Pittsburgh which is a local chapter of an international group of the same name. They are dedicated to the proposition that we need to defend traditionally prepared regional foods against the onslaught of large scale generic mechanized "fast food". I think the organization got started in Italy when McDonalds started to open stores there.

In Pittsburgh, this movement has spawned a series of local food events that have been graciously hosted by Roberto Caporuscio, the owner of the excellent Regina Margerhita pizzerias.

Roberto has been hosting these events for the past few months. The theme of the series is "A tour of Italy" so each night covers a different region of the country. He serves two salad courses, several appetizers, and several pizzas. The dishes are made with ingredients and techniques that reflect the region of Italy that makes up that night's theme. The beauty of the food is that it consists of just a few ingredients and requires no specialized techniques. But, it transcends this simplicity and is like nothing you've had before.

The last one of these we went to was this last Tuesday. The courses were as a follows:

- Zucchini salad with olive oil, lemon, grape tomatoes and sheep's milk Romano cheese.

- A "caesar salad" with greens, balsamic vinaigrette and homemade croutons.

- Marinated artichokes, porcini mushrooms in a tomato sauce, spinach with raisins and pine nuts, roasted onions and roasted eggplant with tomatoes, garlic and Romano cheese.

- Pizza with Italian broccoli (rape), sausage and smoked provolone cheese.

- Pizza with artichokes and pancetta

- Pizza with roasted potatoes and rosemary.

Simply amazing. Nothing fancy, expensive, pretentious or complicated. Just simply amazing food.

I have this experience with food in only one other context, and that's when my mom shows up at the house, pulls random stuff out of the fridge and makes a set of Chinese stir fry dishes that are so far beyond anything I've ever managed that I just sit there at the table gawking in disbelief.

This is food like your mom made, if your mom could cook. Food that evokes your favorite food related times from your childhood. And I think that's the important point here. The issue is not slow food vs. fast food. Nothing in the menu above is particularly slow to make. The issue is preserving the memory and spirit of every mother's cooking. The issue is making sure that we don't end up burying the world in an ocean of conveniently packaged, mass produced, frozen, tasteless dreck that is so deep that no one remembers what real food is anymore.

Posted by psu at October 14, 2004 04:58 PM | Bookmark This

Eleven's claims of using exclusively local and seasonal ingredients also seem to follow Slow Food guidelines. I do prefer the idea of other, more affordable places that offer the same promise. Aside from Regina, is there anywhere else in Pittsburgh that you know of?

From what I understand, Slow Food is a bit of a political movement (organic, sustainable farming) as well as a gastronomical one (which is fine by me). There also seems to be some commonality with macrobiotics, but more in the effort to use only regional, seasonal, and unrefined foods than the metaphysical, disease-curing aspect.

I think this is great, not only for encouraging local farmers to produce interesting varieties, but to remind us that fruits and veggies taste much better when they haven't been picked before ripening and shipped thousands of miles (i bemoan the sorry state of avocado and mango to be had here, although at times they're hard to resist). Plus, it encourages creativity in working with what's fresh and available. Can you tell I'm a big fan yet?

Posted by april at October 19, 2004 04:00 PM

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