Carlo Petrini and the History of Slow FoodSlow Food founder Carlo Petrini

Carlo Petrini and the History of Slow Food

by Tanya Wardell, Fort Worth, Texas


When McDonald’s opened its doors in the Piazza di Spagna, one of Rome’s central treasured historical sites, Carlo Petrini decided he’d had enough. It was 1986, and the fast food industry had been permeating the food cultures of country after country, replacing regional flavors and homegrown cooking with generic, standardized food products. Petrini, an Italian food and wine writer and connoisseur, could no longer sit by and watch food turn into a commodity, bought and sold at the cheapest price with little concern for taste or quality. He could no longer watch as people began to lose interest in what they ate and where it came from.

So, he and a group of local foodies in his hometown of Bra, Italy created an organization called Arcigola. “Our goal at the beginning,” said Petrini in an interview for Food Arts, “was simply the preservation of different food cultures as an answer to globalization and taste standardization.” The group quickly captured the attention of international food activists and aficionados, who understood that Petrini’s message and goals were relevant to the future of food cultures around the world. In 1989, Arcigola was renamed Slow Food International, and the official manifesto, declaring a “vaccine…against the universal madness of a ‘fast life’…by cultivating taste, rather than impoverishing it, by stimulating progress, by encouraging international exchange programs, by endorsing worthwhile projects, by advocating historical food culture and by defending old fashioned food traditions,” was signed.
Since the official creation of Slow Food, it has remained true to its word and the mission of Carlo Petrini. The organization launched successful branches in over 150 countries around the world, including the United States, and has the support of over 100,000 members. Slow Food, under Petrini’s guidance, founded the University of Gastronomic Sciences in 2004 as a center for research and education, dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and sustainable farming methods. The organization works actively on campaigns to protect small farms and communities from practices such as land grabbing and seed patents, and strives to bring awareness to the benefits of a local, seasonal diet.

In 1996, Petrini coordinated the first “Salone del Gusto,” a massive event which took place in Turin, Italy and brought together chefs, activists, and communities from all over the globe to showcase their regional cuisine and discuss important issues. The gathering proved to be a huge success, and has since occurred every two years. This year, the “Salone del Gusto,” scheduled to happen in October, will be joined for the first time by “Terre Madre,” a network of Slow Food producers, chefs, students, and educators who hope to make the event one of the most important food advocacy meetings in the world.

Slow Food International believes in the vision of “a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it, and good for the planet.” Petrini, named by British newspaper The Guardian “one of the 50 people who could save the planet,” continues to be a powerful force at the forefront of the Slow Food movement. He works constantly, speaking at events, traveling to meetings, arranging projects and supporting programs which bring together communities and breathe life into the Slow Food cause.

Carlo Petrini and the History of Slow Food

Works Cited

Corradin, Roberta. “Carlo Petrini.” Food Arts, 2007.
Hickman, Leo. Slow Food: Have we lost our appetite?” The Guardian, 2009.
History and Mission.” University of Gastronomic Sciences.
Popham, Peter. “Carlo Petrini: The Slow Food gourmet who started a revolution.” The Independent, 2009.
Salone del Gusto and Terre Madre 2012.” Slow Food USA Blog, 2012.
Slow Food: Birth and Growth of an International Association.Slow Food.
Slow Food Manifesto.Slow Food.
What We Do.Slow Food.