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by Slow Food Rhode Island chapter leader Amy McCoy

There’s much to love about Slow Food – the story of its inception, Carlo Petrini and his band of hungry activists, doling out pasta at Rome’s Spanish Steps in protest of fast food (can’t you just see yourself, walking down the street, men and women with pots of pasta and pasta forks approaching you, asking if you’d care for a bowl with nonna’s sauce? How could you say no?), its evolution into an advocacy group, a group that cares about where our food comes from, that the people who grow and make our food earn a fair wage, and that good, clean, fair food be accessible to all.

Along with all of the other Slow Food devotees out there, I am passionate about these issues. How can you not be once you learn a little, and then a little more, about where your food comes from?

But if I’m being totally honest, the thing that initially lured me in – that got me hooked on Slow Food and its ideals – is that this is an organization dedicated to the love of food and the joy that sharing a good meal, made with care and high-quality ingredients, with friends and family could bring. You know that joy, too. The laughter and conversation, the smiling faces of your loved ones basking in the glow of a good meal. That’s as much a part of the enjoyment of food as is the flavor. And sharing that love – of food, family, and friends – was the biggest motivation for my food blog when I started it in 2008.

Out of work and prospects dim for the foreseeable future, I knew that our household food budget had to take a hit. A sizable hit at that. Yet, I also knew that I didn’t want to lose enthusiasm for cooking, for sharing meals with my husband, our extended family, and our friends. I also didn’t want to start shopping where the store’s values were different than my own just because the prices were lower on items like meat. I didn’t want to skip the farm stand or farmers market, and I still wanted to visit my friends at my favorite Italian market, even if Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto had to be relegated to special occasions only.

So a few adjustments were required. First, I set my weekly food budget. Then I did some research about sales. I became very familiar with the prices at the farm stand. I bought copious amounts of slightly blemished butternut squash from my farmer neighbors (and other fall vegetables, too, but, boy, did we eat a lot of butternut squash that first fall. Good thing we’re winter squash obsessed.). I made a meal plan for the week. The shopping list followed the meal plan. And I slapped myself silly – figuratively, of course, that would be over-the-top weird to whack myself in the store – every time I so much as looked at an item not on the list. “Stick to the list, only the list,” I chided myself.