Slow travel: food as ethical experience

Provence trip from Saint-Paul-de-Vence to Aix-en-Provence, July 2017. Photo by Alexandra Mateus.

Food and travel combined can be one of the greatest joys in life. If taken with a sustainable and ethical approach towards the land, its people, and the ecosystem, it can inspire you and let you learn about the population’s multi-ethnic composition, history, and culture.

The notion of taste is a curious one. It signifies our intensely personal categorization of the flavours of the world. I believe one of the essential skills while we travel is to connect, and food is a way of experiencing a culture. To dismiss it is to ignore how it’s bound up with a culture’s identity.

We perceive history and people when we get into the local dishes. We swallow the ingredients that define the locale and reach a greater understanding of its community and landscape.

Our fondest memories of a place are often connected to taste and diverse smells, embedding the rustic, refined, modest, and other qualities we perceive while tasting, smelling and looking at food. The gastronomic experience makes a good meal a vital part of our travels.

Brad Hooper rekindles some of that passion as he looks at the connections that readers’ advisors can make between food writing and travel writing. He reminds us that it is okay to be passionate about books and to communicate that passion to our readers.

“The art of living,” says Carlo Petrini, the charismatic founder of the Slow Food Movement, “is about learning to give time to each and every thing.” And that, most surely, should include travel.

One of the key tenets of Slow Food is the belief in the right to pleasure. The Slow Food Manifesto declares that. It challenges us to think about how consumption choices we make form part of on interdependent network within a social economy — the pleasures of food preparation and consumption among friends and family helps develop social and cultural capital. Some places are setting out to be known as slow food destinations.

I am sharing my love for food and travel with ethics in mind. In most places, I experienced great connection while we gathered around a table and once, we tasted meals cooked with love, a nod to tradition, and savoured with conversation and laughter. Suppose cooked by local families, even better. It connects us to locals and the land. No one should be on their phone. No one rushes off to be anywhere. You feel people don’t ask for other things because they appreciate what they have and know that they have everything they could ever want. The passion for life is so genuine that even sharing a healthy meal or talking late at a summer night outside at the table is worth celebrating.

For example, the memories I carry about Provence are casserole dishes, charger plates and ceramics, and fresh grilled veggies with wild herbs. A simple and refined cuisine focused on preserving the taste and texture of seasonal, fresh ingredients provided by locals — however, it’s just while connecting around the table that we shared the cultural experience.

Remember that life is for living fully, and the simple yet essential moments are always to be cherished with good local and healthy food. Provence in this set remains in my mind and spirit as other places I carry in my memory. It reminds me of their balance with the ingredients, colourful veggies, herbs, balanced Mediterranean meals, and lifestyle in seconds.

Senior UX designer • Traveler • Circular design • Material futures •

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Alexandra Mateus

Alexandra Mateus

Senior UX designer • Traveler • Circular design • Material futures •

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