What is Slow Food?
Slow Food was founded to counteract the effects of fast food and fast life. We work to save disappearing food traditions and traditional food products, to help people rediscover the joys of eating, and to understand the importance of caring where food comes from, who makes it and how it’s made. We believe that: the food we eat should taste good; it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; food producers should receive fair compensation for their work; and that everyone should have access to good, clean, and fair food.
What is the Snail of Approval?
The Snail of Approval is Slow Food West Michigan’s way of recognizing the food-related providers that are making significant contributions to the transformation of our food system to one that is good, clean and fair.
How does one get a Snail of Approval?
One has to be nominated by a member of Slow Food, and then chosen by a committee of members who review the nominees’ contributions to three standards: Quality, Authenticity, and Sustainability. Look at the standards, the nomination form and the procedures used to select recipients on this website. The Snail of Approval awards are reviewed on an annual basis and renewal is determined by the Committee.
How do I know if my favorite place is qualified for a Snail of Approval?
Take a look at the standards, and ask yourself: Do the foods (how they taste, where they come from, what culture or tradition they represent), and/or the processes (in-house curing, farmstead cheesemaking, baking in a wood-fired oven), and/or the business practices (using local ingredients, featuring fair-trade products, informing the public where the food comes from) help move us toward a food system that is better, cleaner, fairer? You may also have to ask some questions of a proprietor, or chef, to understand exactly what they’re doing and why. “Where do the ingredients come from?” “What do you do when strawberries go out of season?” “Why do you make it that way?” To fully appreciate the food we eat, we need to enjoy it, and we also need to know something about it.
So does a Snail of Approval guarantee that a restaurant or shop is “Slow?”
No. We can’t make that kind of guarantee, and we don’t certify that any food or food business is “Slow.” A Snail of Approval means that Slow Food members think the recipient is making a real contribution to the kind of food system we believe in, and we think their effort is worthy of our support.
What about a place where the food is great, but it’s not sustainably raised? Or a place that serves local foods, but has all imported wines?
The Snail of Approval standards talk about food that makes “significant contributions to Quality and/or Authenticity and/or Sustainability.” The American food system is a long, long way from the good, clean and fair system that Slow Food envisions; in order to help us get there, we want to recognize those who are making real steps in the right direction.
Let’s take a French restaurant, for example, that buys all its food from small local farms, but where the chef wants to pair French regional wines with his French regional dishes. He or she is not supporting the Grand Haven wine industry, but is making contributions both to sustainable agriculture and to authentic French cuisine—not a bad day’s work. Whether those contributions add up to a Snail of Approval will be for Slow Food members to decide.
If I patronize Snail of Approval recipients, am I supporting Slow Food?
You’re not supporting the organization, but you are supporting the cause. When you eat at a Snail of Approval restaurant or shop at a Snail of Approval store, Slow Food doesn’t benefit financially, but the food system benefits a great deal. You’re supporting local farmers and food artisans, sustainable agriculture, and humane treatment of animals. You’re helping to stop agricultural pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, and slow the loss of biodiversity. You’re ensuring the survival of endangered heirloom varietals, heritage breeds, and traditional food ways.
Is the food from Snail of Approval providers organic?
Maybe, maybe not; you’ll have to ask. Organic agriculture certainly tends to be more sustainable than agriculture dependent on the overuse of chemicals. On the other hand, organic vegetables from China burn a lot of fuel getting all the way to West Michigan, which might be much worse for the planet than using a little fertilizer on a Florida tomato.
And getting USDA Organic certification is expensive, so some small farms don’t bother, even though they use no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
How can I find Snail of Approval restaurants and stores?
You can search for them right here on the Snail of Approval website.
There’s a great little restaurant near me that uses all local produce—can I nominate them for a Snail of Approval?
You do not need to be a Slow Food member to nominate your favorite farmer, food artisan, restaurant, market or farmer. Just take 2 minutes to fill out the online nomination form.