Last month author Carl Honoré visited Iowa City. A guest of the Department of Leisure Studies (aren’t you glad we have one of those?) at the University of Iowa, Mr. Honoré came to discuss his latest book, In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed.
One day not long ago, caught up in the “cult of speed,” Mr. Honoré found himself trying to be more time-efficient by reading one-minute bedtime stories to his son. Struck by the ludicrous, almost ironic nature of this, he set out to find another way. He found not only the Slow Food Movement, about which readers have seen me pontificate in these very pages, but also slow cities, slow art, slow medicine, and, perhaps most enticingly, slow sex.
He begins the book by explaining how the world got so fast in the first place, then goes on to describe how one might go about “being slow” in such a fast-paced world. From a TV-free household in Toronto to a Chi Kung squash class in Edinburgh to Tantric Sex workshop in London to Slow Food’s flagship event, the Salone del Gusto in Torino, Honoré shows how it is not merely preferable, but even possible to slow down in a society that puts such a high value on being fast.
While here, Mr. Honoré enjoyed a Slow dinner of local foods prepared at the Cottage in Iowa City by several of the area’s best chefs. The next day, he had a Slow lunch with members of Slow Food Iowa at my humble downtown establishment. He spoke to students at several venues about his Slow epiphany and how one can turn one’s back on fast-paced society without becoming a Luddite.
More and more people, in Iowa, the nation, and the world, are becoming aware of the insidious virus of fast life, how it pervades our lives, invades our privacy, and herds us into the drive-thru lane. Slowing down is the only truly progressive solution for, as the Slow Food manifesto puts it, “the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.”
Of course readers of this column know well that one of the best ways to begin this journey is in the garden, taking the time to tend the soil and commune with the Earth. If done well, gardening teaches the importance of patience, avoiding the false promises of chemicals that pretend to be shortcuts. The bounty that this activity provides is the foundation of our nation’s best holiday, Thanksgiving, and is the tie that binds us to each other and the land. To undo that tie would be folly.
Honore’s book is a handbook for those seeking, to use the vernacular, to chill out. It is of use to those who wonder, like I do, how long can we continue to hasten to our own demise? If the pace of our culture continues to accelerate at this rate, how long will it be before our entire lives resemble the sound bites that pervade the media and serve only to perpetuate themselves? Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini said it best: “We are all going to the same place. Why not go there slowly?”
Chef Kurt Michael Friese is co-owner of the Iowa City restaurant Devotay. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.