When Carlo Petrini spoke out against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in his native Rome, he couldn’t have guessed that he’d be heard around the world.
Petrini rejected the ill effects—both physical and cultural—brought on by fast food, calling for a movement toward food that promotes good health, respects the environment, and, most importantly, preserves age-old culinary traditions. He called it Slow Food—and it caught on fast.
Today Slow Food is an international organization with local chapters—called convivia—in over 120 countries, each of which has developed its own flavor. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where the basic tenets of slow food have been growing organically since the 1970s, the spirit of the movement is now reflected everywhere from restaurants and cafes to schoolyards.
Each year, the panoply of food lovers, farmers, chefs, activists, educators, and policy makers that comprise San Francisco’s culinary hotbed emerge for Slow Food Nation, a four-day event celebrating the pleasures of eating and addressing the social and political issues that plague U.S. food systems.
It’s a special blend of foodie activism that founder Alice Waters calls “the delicious revolution.” To give Slow Food Nation a presence in the city beyond the festival, artist Amy Franceschini has designed a Victory Garden in Civic Center Plaza. The project takes its inspiration, and its name, from the gardens planted during World Wars I and II, when citizens grew vegetables in backyards, in empty lots, and on rooftops to contribute to the national food supply, symbolize self-sufficiency, and boost community morale.