Slow Food for the Holidays

The upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas are about emphasizing what is best about us, about giving thanks, celebrating the spiritual, and practicing generosity. The slow food movement would like us to extend this focus to our food.

As we consider what we eat and how we eat it, Slow Food USA’s guiding principles apply: Food should be good, clean, and fair. “What’s all this about ‘good, clean and fair’ food?” says Slow Food USA’s interim executive director, Kate Krauss. “It’s delicious and nutritious food that’s created in ways that are good for the planet and for the people who grow it. We believe everyone has a right to food like this.”

The slow food movement is a natural complement to the traditional Christmas and Thanksgiving feasts, as slow food encourages us all to make meals a deeply rewarding social experience by partaking of wholesome food together, as opposed to the culinary equivalent of filling up your car’s gas tank with drive-through burgers, fries, and soda. Here are a few tips to eat good, clean, and fair this holiday season.

Be a locavore.

Instead of getting a mass-market turkey this year, see if you can get a local, organic, or heritage bird that is humanely raised at a farm 50 miles away or less. Or, if you’re going meatless, get a product made with non-GMO soy, or make your own meatless main dish with beans, nuts, onions, carrots, celery, herbs, and breadcrumbs.

Yams? Think again.

If you find a yam in your supermarket, that baby is a long way from home. Yams only grow in the tropics and are supposed to be huge and starchy and not so tasty. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, grow well in the US, are scrumptious, and are better for you than potatoes. If you can find the Nancy Hall variety of sweet potatoes, well, you’re in for a treat.

Cranberry sauce—ditch the can.

Cranberry sauce is great, but it’s even better when you make it yourself from organic cranberries! The homemade variety will have more fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants than the canned version, and it’s easy to do. Put cranberries in a saucepan, add a bit of sugar, a cinnamon stick, and some orange zest. Simmer until thick (about 20 minutes). That’s it!

Stuffing.

Part of the slow food ideal is cooking together. If you can, recruit a family member or two to help you make stuffing from scratch. Choose organic ingredients when you can, and focus on enjoying each other’s company—you can do it the day before if that works better. It’ll be the best stuffing you ever made.

Put the pumpkin back in pumpkin pie.

Most of the time, canned pumpkin pie filling is actually winter squash. (So you’ve been having winter squash pie all these years? Who knew?) If you have time and want to go all in, try making your own filling by pureeing the insides of a friendly local pumpkin. If that’s not an option (and really, we’d understand) call up a locally-owned bakery and ask if they have a pumpkin pie made with a real pumpkin.

Whether you adopt one or all of these tips or just take them as food for thought, make sure to take the time to really savor a meal shared with family and friends. Good food in the company of loved ones is one of the best parts of the holiday tradition. If you can incorporate some slow food insights into your culinary endeavors, so much the better.