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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 06:26 GMT 07:26 UK
Delhi tastes 'slow food' revolution

By Geeta Pandey
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Guests at the Navdanya slow food cafe
Organic, healthy, varied produce is the cafe's slow food mantra
Delhi has become the latest city to join the slow food revolution.

The Indian capital has recently seen the opening of its first slow food cafe.

It was inaugurated by Carlos Petrini, the Italian founder of the movement that tries to counter the consumption of fast food worldwide.

The movement began in Italy about 20 years ago and has now spread to 45 countries across five continents and has more than 80,000 members.

Despite its rich and diverse cuisine, India is no stranger to fast food - chains like McDonalds and Subway are everywhere.

Sumptuous snacks

Slow food is essentially a movement for the protection of the right to taste.

Carlos Petrini
I don't think Indians will accept gastronomic imperialism
Carlos Petrini,
slow food founder

Mr Petrini says: "Each nation has its own identity with regard to food culture, each village has its own particular foods and recipes, whereas fast food represents a homogenisation and standardisation of food cultures and tastes all over the world."

The key to slow food is to tap into the many types of indigenously grown food.

Mr Petrini says Italy has hundreds of types of pasta, risotto and tomatoes, whereas Ireland has its salmon, cheeses and breads.

In India the variety of food is huge, says Mr Petrini, tucking into Indian delicacies like millet tabouleh, dhoklas and apple amarnath crumble at the Navdanya slow food cafe.

"I've just eaten this absolutely fantastic dish made from millet," he says. "It's delicious... I've never eaten anything like this before."

Many others enjoying the sumptuous snacks at the café agreed with him.

In between mouthfuls of food, actress Nandita Das tells me she's a real "foodie".

"Whether I go to a small village in Kerala or France, I like to try the food of that place. I'm delighted that there's a place in our city like this where we can get authentic organic food."

Green activist

Vinay Aditya is a printer and designer. He says he does like to eat fast food too but knows it is not healthy.

Nandita Das and Vandana Shiva
Actress Nandita Das (L) dines with cafe director Vandana Shiva

"This food is very interesting," he says, "and it's different. I remember these tastes from childhood, but they'd been lost to me in the past 15 years. Everybody should try it."

The director of Navdanya, Vandana Shiva, is a well-known green activist.

She says the food served at the café is made from ingredients grown organically and is meant to provide healthy food to the "successful-but-overstretched" Indian.

"It's a place where you can eat out without worrying about your diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol," she says.

Mrs Shiva says the café will double up as "a place for food literacy for the young who are in the 'McDonalds-Coca Cola' culture".

They are condemned," she says, "because the human body is not designed to survive on that diet."

Mr Petrini believes fast food is a passing trend in India.

"Indians are very linked to their tastes and traditions and I don't believe they'll abandon their rich food heritage for low-quality food produced by these fast food chains. I don't think Indians will accept this gastronomic imperialism," he says.

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30 May 03  |  Business
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25 Oct 00  |  Europe
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