The Slow, the Raw, and the Cabbage
Next year, the global Slow Food movement will mark 30 years since its founding in Italy as a reaction to the rapidly expanding reach of McDonald’s and its ilk. Serving as a counterpoint to a culture the movement’s proponents considered increasingly infatuated with the convenience of fast food, Slow Food sought to restore the prominent place of eating within our society, fearing that choices around what and how we ate had been relegated to the status of “afterthought” amidst hectic career-oriented lives.
Just two years prior to Slow Food’s emergence, Leslie Kenton’s Raw Energy – Eat Your Way to Radiant Health hit bookstores, marking a rallying cry for those who believed that raw preparations were key to extracting maximal nutritional value from foods – most particularly vegetables.
Now, I don’t want to set up a false dichotomy between these two movements: Slow Food doesn’t necessarily require long cook times but mostly emphasizes diligent selection of local ingredients, preparing them with care and giving due respect to local food traditions, while raw food – despite what some might imagine – is not just “cut carrot, eat carrot” and can prove incredibly laborious and time-consuming, particularly once you get into drying foods. That said, in the battle of raw versus cooked, a breadcrumb-less gazpacho is a far cry from all-day simmering veggies in a Bolognese sauce.
Writ large, Haitian cuisine is not really a haven for raw food, and is arguably too often guilty of overcooking its ingredients, likely initially in an attempt to ensure that food would be safe from harmful foodborne bacteria. However, the latest studies are not all terrible news for Haiti’s pseudo-Slow Food in that respect: In many cases, foods can benefit from longish cook times, as is famously the case with tomatoes, spinach and a variety of others. Certain other veggies, however, provide maximal nutrition when served raw, like cabbage (pikliz sadly doesn’t quite qualify as raw, though it is nutritionally still a massive improvement over cooking this leafy treasure to death – and is kind of everyone’s fave) and turnips (sorry, soup joumou).
As we’ve pointed out in the past, though, beyond these very real concerns of extracting the most nutrition possible from the food supply, long cook times exact a terrible price on average Haitians. The fuel required to simmer a dish for hours on end translates into a major expense, and given that wood charcoal is the fuel of choice, contributes heavily to Haiti’s grievous deforestation problem. For a number of reasons, Haiti is arguably in need of more raw or quick preparations of local veggies – something Chef Jouvens will no doubt be happy to oblige in providing.
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