Barley Salad /

Slow(er) food

While I’ve never been particularly enamored of fast food, neither is slow food much my style.

I’m not even a member of Slow Food, the international organization founded “to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions, and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes, and how our food choices affect the rest of the world”—even though that’s something slightly shameful for a culinary professional to admit, and even though I definitely am for countering all of those things.

(In fact, I was in Rome in 1986, the year Italy’s first McDonald’s opened, which is what drove founder Carlo Petrini to establish Slow Food. I even ate there, to be part of the hubbub, yes—the Romans were quite excited about their new American hamburger store—but also because I couldn’t resist the novelty of a glass of wine with a Big Mac.)

So, inaugural visits to Roman fast food eateries aside, philosophically I’m for slow cooking, but in actuality, unless it’s work-related, I typically don’t have the foresight for a roast or a braise. Much less a batch of bread or cheese. And as a result, faster grilling, sautéing, and stir-frying are my go-tos.

For the same reason, I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t eat a lot of whole grains.

I like whole grains, and always choose brown rice sushi at the supermarket. I swear. But they just take a while cook and I rarely think of starting them in time for dinner.

Happily, that’s changed a bit lately because of my work on The Clean Plates Cookbook.

As you can imagine, it’s resplendent with all manner of delicious grain and bean salads, soups, and casseroles. And as you also might imagine, when the recipe development was complete, I had heaps of grain and bean odds and ends leftover. So, one by one, I’ve been cooking them up.

I’ll put some spelt or black-eyed peas in water to soak overnight, and the next day, maybe even while I’m having coffee and reading the paper, I’ll cook them up. Once cooled, I’ll stash them in the fridge and the foresight-needed part is complete. Now they’re ready to quickly and easily be turned into something delicious for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


Grains aren’t exactly the epitome of slow food, but they’re slower than my usual fare. And enjoying them has been very satisfying.

Which is something you’ll never hear me say about a Big Mac.

Even one eaten in Rome.


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