Letter: Kraft’s defense of Slow Food backwards

By Letter to the Editor

The “buy better tuna fish” Strategy, outlined by James Kraft in his characteristically shortsighted article (The Weary Epicurean, 5/13/08), is less a suggestion of how to modestly apply Slow Food principles to everyday eating, but rather a bourgie attempt to refute a valid criticism of the potential implausibility of such a culinary movement existing in the South Side of Chicago. Those “mere wealth-hating popul[ists],” described in Kraft’s account neither reject the preservation of disappearing, artisanal food traditions as an unworthy cause, nor accuse Slow Food to be explicitly elitist at all. Instead, they raise the critical question of how Slow Food’s large mission may be adapted to the specific community surrounding the University of Chicago; they make practical considerations of how college students and South Side residents may become involved in an organization that remains accessible to a very narrow population of consumers in the United States. Kraft’s own statistical finding in Michael Pollan’s work, that “the average American spends only five percent of their income each year on food,” is in itself evidence of how selecting Italian-packed tuna in olive oil or groping 20 or so avocados at the market remain activities specific to the particular buying class that currently makes up the movement. For a campaign that promotes “rediscover[ing] the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish[ing] the degrading effects of Fast Food,” shouldn’t we respond to it by becoming patrons of the multitude of restaurants, farmers, and producers that surround our immediate community? A meal of authentic Soul Food at Army and Lou’s or a few dollars spent on local, seasonal produce at the new 61st Street Farmer’s Market are sufficient, if not better, responses to how Slow Food values may be implemented on a daily basis. Kraft’s suggestion of making forward “baby steps” is entirely correct, as a cultural movement cannot happen overnight. But encouraging the consumption of food that has traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles and the patronage of greasy spoon restaurants on the North Side of Chicago are examples of a very “adult” step backwards. After all, Slow Food has always been unhurried in pace, but never unhurried in wit.

Yennie Lee

Class of 2010