“A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.
May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.”
–from the Slow Food Manifesto
“Good food isn’t fast, and fast food isn’t any good”
Chef Cochran, one of the jedi masters who instructed me in culinary school, would remind me of this when he saw me trying to speed up the process. I have always been impatient, but you can’t be a good cook and not have patience. The only way to make 5 complicated dishes in one hour with no help is to know, to the second (or the exact shade of green) when each and every dish will be ready. There is no margin for error. The everyday magic of food is that it is so labor intensive, yet skilled craftsmen (and that is what cooks and chefs are) can make it seem effortless.
The Slow Food movement began in a place that takes food very seriously: Italy. McDonalds was planning to open a restaurant near the Spanish Steps, one of the great landmarks in Rome, and the Italians rightly thought this was a bullshit idea. In a nation with such good food, where culinary masterpieces can be found on literally every street, there is no reason to eat at McDonalds. (Don’t try to tell me Paris has better food than Rome or Florence. They don’t.) In response, the Slow Food movement was born.
The ethos behind slow food is one of radical localism; an emphasis on local products, local agriculture, local traditions and history. This is a set of ideas uniquely suited to Oklahoma. We are a singular and strange place, settled by refugees and outcasts and outlaws, both deeply connected to and alienated from our nearest neighbors.
The Slow Food Fall Picnic is the most Oklahoma thing I have ever seen. I mean this in the best sense. It’s at Harn Homestead, one of the original 19th century central oklahoma settlements; the music is acoustic traditional Western (the distinction between Country and Western music has been erased over the years. I’m bringing it back), you can play a game of horseshoes or ride a pony, and the food…oh the food…
It should be no surprise that local chefs jumped at the chance to be a part of this event; every chef worth their salt has been asked to cook food that is mostly utterly ordinary. We Americans are creatures of habit, and we like things that we have had before. Any chance to stretch, to really reach into the vault and find something fantastic, is jumped on instantly.
Oklahoma is part of the farm belt; we feed the entire world. Our grain and beef and pecans and veggies go everywhere from Kansas to Boston to Bangkok. Most of what we eat is trucked in from elsewhere. It’s preposterous. If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow and all of civilization collapsed, we would be one of the few places that could feed itself. If the food I had on sunday is any indication of what we would have in store, I say bring it. Dill pickles in a salad? Bison ribs? Canteloupe and Feta salad? Brisket tacos? Mashed sweet potatoes? Chef Katy Reddick‘s amazing pecan pie? Yes please. A million times yes.
As the sun set and the shadows grew long over the bonnie prairie, I was reminded that I love Oklahoma. It is an understated, friendly, unassuming place full of sublime wonders.
You’re doing fine, Oklahoma. And you taste great.