Arts and Entertainment

In Good Taste: Learning the value of slow food

Columnist Monica Downen, along with her husband Mark, owns Monica’s Waterfront Bakery & Cafe in Old Town Silverdale. Contact her by phone at (360) 698-2991; by email at; and find her on the web at

Lately I have been mentioning the group Slow Food to various people and have been surprised to find out many folks don’t know about it. Slow Food International’s roots are in 1986, when a concerned group resisted the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy. Slow Food describes themselves as a “nonprofit, eco-gastronomic, member-supported organization that was founded ... to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.” Slow Food even opened the University of Gastronomic Science (aka Slow Food University) in Italy, with the main objective of bridging the gap between agricultural science and gastronomy. My husband and I are lucky enough to get to visit it next October when we take a small group on our food and wine tour in Italy.

This group is important for many reasons: It forms and maintains seed banks to preserve heirloom food varieties in cooperation with local food systems; it developed the Ark of Taste, which saves those heritage foods in danger of extinction, such as our region’s own Ozette potato; and it is behind Michelle Obama’s crusade against “food deserts,” or neighborhoods with inadequate access to fresh food.

One of the most notable and influential members is Alice Waters, who co-owns the restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and she is a hero of mine. She has written several books about her restaurant and the slow food movement in general, and if you aren’t familiar with her the library is a great place to start. I am currently reading a book about her, written by Thomas McNamee, and I highly recommend it if you love food. It will have you good and ready for farmers market season to open, which is right around the corner.

Slow Food came to my attention as I searched for anything that would lend support to our mission to live our values through our work. Even though I have much more to learn, this group has taught me more than I ever imagined.

Because we do not have a convivium (or chapter) here in Kitsap, I think it would be wonderful to compile a list of places that we all think live up to Slow Food standards. I don’t know every restaurant in Kitsap and you all know some great places that I don’t, so will you help me make this list? Send an email or post on my blog at and I will keep it updated as more folks add places. Any locally owned restaurant that focuses on high quality foods they make in-house can be on the list. If it uses local sources, even better. Once we have a list going we can all have lunch.

In the meantime let me start you out here: Juanito’s Taco Shop in Bremerton, 6721 Kitsap Way, where you will get great hand made foods and you will keep going back for more. Ciao for now!

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