How slow can you go?



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A few years back, I was hanging with my fiancé’s mom perusing food magazines. She saw an ad and exclaimed, “Oh look, it’s Slow Food ’08.”

“What does that mean?” groused her skeptical partner.

“Well. It’s …” she hesitated before declaring triumphantly, “Slow Food ’08!”

“Slow Food” is one of those phrases that all foodies love—like “artisanal”—but can’t always define. Searching for answers, I went to a Slow Food mixer this past weekend at OneSpeed, the first in a series of informal gatherings held by the Sacramento chapter. Five “Snail of Approval” awards were slated to be given out to local restaurants that embody the philosophy of Slow Food.

The chef of OneSpeed and The Waterboy (and past Snail of Approval award winner), Rick Mahan, circulated among the crowd of Slow Foodies, most of whom were ladies. I asked him what Slow Food means to him while he searched for a twist to go into my aperitif. Mahan went the vague route, saying, “I wish that everything was Slow Food, and I wish that life were as it were in regards to the food world.” And then finished with an emphatic, “I love it.”

No closer to my answer, I cornered Snail of Approval awardee Robert Masullo, owner of the eponymous pizza place, who was there with his statuesque wife, Jacqueline, and his cute-as-the-dickens toddler son. I caught him mid-olive and he demurred, saying, “Olives with pits: You just can’t hurry them.

Jacqueline pressed him further, asking, “I’m curious, what does Slow Food mean to you?”

Masullo went on at some length: “It essentially means what food should really be about. It shouldn’t be this stuff that you buy ready-made that you don’t have an involvement with yourself. This is stuff you’re going to stick in your body. …

“I don’t expect everybody to know how to cook at a professional level, but that some people don’t cook at home still surprises me. That sounds like illiteracy, like not knowing how to read.”

Advisory board member Charity Kenyon was blunt, saying Slow Food is “local, good, clean and fair” and pointing out that they work with the Sacramento Area Community Garden Coalition to encourage school gardens and that, partially due to their efforts, all Head Starts in the area now have farm stands.

Finally, something concrete to wrap my mind around.

I nibbled crispy chicken liver crostini and fought for my fair share of the bacon-topped pizza, and soon it was time to bestow the Snails.

A collective gasp went up around the crowd when president Karen Auwaerter confessed she had never eaten at Masullo’s.

The other awardees were the Mulvaney’s-operated Crocker Cafe; Ravenous; and Roxy and Lucca restaurants, both of which are owned by Ron and Terri Gilliland.

The ceremony was short, and the babble of the lively crowd soon rose again to shouting levels as the carafes of house wine were drained. A slow time was had by all.