As the name would suggest, Slow Food Dinners take time. At College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, a few times a semester, groups spend a couple of hours savoring and re-learning the art of conversation around a table. Reservations go fast, though. The special dinners are entering their third year at the college, and word has gotten out about the five-course meals that feature local food, linen tablecloths, bow-tied waiters, good china and — gasp — no cell phones.
Arthur J. Korandanis, director of auxiliary services, has helped bring the big slow down to fruition. College students tend to eat and run, with their busy schedules made up of academic demands, extra curricular activities, text messages and the general frenetic energy of campus life.
“They're very hurried, very scheduled in the college world of today,” Korandanis says. “They jump in, grab a bite and then run out.”
Korandis witnessed “fear in their eyes” when the first partakers of the slow food dinner realized they were going to go “two whole hours” without their cell phones. But very soon, students got into the spirit of slowing down to savor the food and the company. “By the end, they're having a great time.” The cost is three “meals” from the meal plan.
“A typical dinner might be turkey from a local farm, or hanger steak from grass-fed cattle, or some wonderful New England seafood,” Korandis says. A dinner earlier this year featured local cheese, potatoes, salad greens and aparagus.
New this year will be produce that's even more local, from the college's own community garden, planted late in summer under the guidance of biology professor Robert Bertin.
Campus groups often sign up for the dinners as a bonding experience, Korandis says, and the Slow Food Dinners have also become a town and gown link, with the Regional Environmental Council of Central Massachussetts holding a fundraiser at a dinner each fall.
The REC's website hyped up its “Annual Slow Food Gala,” even posting a menu from Chef Marty Dudek including Butternut Bisque, Pumpkin Ravioli, and a choice of entrees which included Spaghetti Squash with “Hen in the Woods” Mushroom Marinara. At the end of menu is a disclaimer: “Please be prepared to savor your meal; slow food takes time to serve and eat.”
Taking that time to enjoy has a spiritual aspect that Korandanis thinks resonates at the Jesuit college. “We all sit at the same table,” he says, quoting Italian food writer Carlo Petrini, an early proponent of the slow food movement. “You could be talking about sharing the resources of the earth, or from the perspective of the people who grew the food, who are serving it, and who are sharing it,” he says. “Enjoying each other's company and serving the food family style could certainly be likened to sitting at the Lord's table.”