Magazine article The Spectator

Linger Longer

Magazine article The Spectator

Linger Longer

Article excerpt

The Americans are rebelling - not against Arnie's election as governor of California and not against the policies of the Bush administration. No, these are still going down a treat. What is becoming stuck in US gullets is, amazingly, good old American nosh.

It started in Italy - I do not refer to American food (with apologies to what is passed off there as pizza) but to a determined and inexorable movement that may change the course of eating history. The thing happened when some Piedmontese rose up from the table as one and refused to eat fast food, and, what is more, to eat it fast.

Life, it was argued, should be taken slowly, and so should food, in the cooking and in the digestion. At least two hours should be given over to lunch and conversation, and three or four to dinner. One might call this good old Italian idleness, but doctors have indeed pointed out the sense in lingering over one's tucker.

Bolting down a hamburger in a bun is not only un-nutritious; it causes indigestion plus stomach problems later in life. After all, Gladstone used to chew each piece of food 50 times (I wonder how long it would have taken him to eat a large T-bone steak), but he was still prime minister when an old man.

One would think America would be the last country to adopt the Italian idea. But these days the US is always taking us by surprise. Moreover, in America people are slowing down in general. The nation that relishes what is fast - cars, bucks on Wall Street, commercial flights - is changing its appetite. It is revolting against fast food.

As we all know, fast food, that symbol of American speed, has become a target of myriad lawsuits. It is alleged that burgers and fried chicken contribute to obesity and heart problems in the plaintiffs. But health aside, to many Americans fast food seems increasingly tasteless and unpleasurable. Out of this hostile reaction has crawled Slow Food USA. The emblem of this movement is the snail. Its aim is to make meals 'the old-fashioned way' - with home-grown ingredients and time as the essence. Time being time for convivial conversation. (Mr Patrick Martins, executive director of Slow Food USA, hopes to bring back the 'rituals of the table'.)

When I was in America recently I attended one of these slow food promotions. They served slow canapes and slow wine. The canapes were very slow in coming and the wine even slower. …

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