Slow food and slow travel go together like wine and cheese – or should I say rakia and locally made cheese?
The cheekily named “Slow Food” movement was created in response to the invasion of fast food chains in Italy in the 80’s.
Slow food is supposed to be the antithesis to fast food, embracing the development of the ingredients into one perfect dish.
Slow travel is the antithesis to “fast travel” which is the checklist approach to seeing as much of the world as possible in a short time.
Naturally a great time to enjoy and experience slow food would be when you are taking your time and immersing yourself into a local culture!
Your Guide to Slow Food
The slow food movement is actually a pretty simple concept:
Eat seasonal, local foods, and engage with the growers and creators.
In a nutshell, it’s the same thing as “Farm to table.”
Slow Food Travel Experiences Around the World
Here is a round up of some of the best and most unique farm-to-table experiences from around the world.
Sofia Retro Tours – Ihtiman Culinary Tour
Let’s start this list of worldwide slow foodie experiences in Europe, but maybe not one of the culinary capitals that you’re thinking of!
If you spend some time browsing this site, you will see Bulgaria mentioned often, and this article is no exception!
Sofia Retro Tours mainly offers tours around Sofia in a retro car to look at Soviet era sights.
In a completely unrelated offering, Sofia retro tours also offers a 24 hour culinary experience!
The tour will pick you up in the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia and charter you to a village where you will spend the day learning to cook Bulgarian food. Accommodation is included.
Cost: 115 Euros per person
Covert Farms Hands On Harvest Tour
Oliver, BC, Canada
Back in North America and probably a little closer to home, this slow food experience takes place in small town Canada.
From the Covert Farms website:
Hop aboard our cherry-red ’52 Mercury truck for a private, personally guided 1.5-hour outdoor tour throughout our 650-acre organic farm and vineyard.
Enjoy breathtaking landscapes, learn about the fascinating world of sustainable farming and winemaking, meet our resident farm animals, taste wine grapes straight off the vine and pull fresh strawberries from the U-pick.
After, we’ll make our way back to our rustic outdoor patio to taste wine varietals crafted from the very grapes sampled earlier in the tour while enjoying local charcuterie and artisanal cheeses enhanced by seasonal farm-fresh veggies and edible flowers (vegetarian option available).
Let us share the story of our fourth-generation, family-run farm with you during this truly incredible experience!www.covertfarms.ca
That’s two tours in a row in classic cars! Is this a slow food thing?
Even though this tour is at a winery, it is actually family friendly and your kids are welcome!
Covert Farms is rated the #1 thing to do in Oliver, BC by Trip Advisor, AND has five stars.
Cost: Adults – $79 CAD Kids (5-18) $20 CAD
Cu Chi Tunnels Tour with Cooking Class
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
For an Asian flavor, head to Vietnam for this next experience!
This full day tour begins in Ho Chi Minh City at your accommodation, and heads to the nearby agricultural villages.
There you will pick your own vegetables and herbs for the cooking class that follows.
During the cooking class you will create an appetizer, two mains, and one dessert, and enjoy them as they are ready.
After the cooking class the tour moves on to the rice paper villages where guests learn about making rice papers.
Next a trip through the rubber tree forest on the way to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Cu Chi Tunnels were used by the Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War for hiding, as well as accessing supplies, communication, and for living in.
During the tour, guests will learn about the tunnels and their history as they make their way through the labyrinth.
Finally, one last food experience as you try a basic meal that soldiers would have eaten during war time.
This tour is great for the slow traveller because not only will you pick your own food from a local producer, you will learn to cook and hear about the tunnels’ history from a local.
Plus, part of your tour fee will go towards future preservation of the tunnels.
You can book this tour through withlocals.com
Cost: 54 Euros per person
Mexico City Taco Tour
Mexico City, Mexico
Of course everyone loves a good taco, so what better way to immerse yourself in Mexico than with a taco tour!
This recommendation is a little less specific, because Mexico City has a LOT of different tour options through many different providers.
This tour: Best Tacos in CDMX Off the Beaten Path is bookable through Airbnb and has a 4.95 rating.
I chose this particular tour because it is 2.5 hours instead of a much longer tour. Walking through Mexico City whilst stuffing oneself with tacos is a time-limited venture in my opinion.
We can only be expected to stay on our feet for so long!
The tour promises to take you through the historical centre of Mexico City to some lesser known taco spots where you can eat classic authentic recipes.
Since it’s shorter, this tour is also a little less expensive. A lot of options are $85 and up, which I would have a hard time spending per person when the tacos are so affordable. The price includes the tacos and beverages.
Airbnb tours are great because they really are hosted by locals too!
Cost: $38 USD per person
Whakarewarewa – The Living Maori Village
Rotorua, New Zealand
This tour is as much about the amazing New Zealand geography as it is about food!
As “touristy” as this tour and village are, it really doesn’t get a lot more authentic or local.
Not only will you experience the Maori culture, you will get the once in a lifetime experience of cooking in a natural steaming pool!
From their website:
On the Whakarewarewa Guided Tour, you will:
Explore an authentic living Māori village where people live on a daily basis, using natural geothermal resources to cook, bathe and heat their homes as they have for centuries.
View the geothermal wonders of Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley including the world-famous Pōhutu geyser, boiling mud-pools, steam vents and bubbling pools.
Learn what it’s like to live in the challenging geothermal plateau where daily life includes cooking in the bubbling pools and steam vents, and bathing in the refreshing therapeutic waters.whakarewarewa.com
Whakarewarewa is truly NZ’s iconic Living Maori Village experience.
Cost: Adults – $35 NZD
Children – $15 NZD
Family – $92.50 (2 adults and up to 4 children)
Kelly’s Brighton Marina
Rockaway Beach, Oregon
You can’t get any fresher or more local than plucking your own seafood right out of the water, and that’s exactly what you can do at Kelly’s Brighton Marina!
There are lots of options at Kelly’s, you can go camping, clamming, crabbing, or all three!
First, you can rent a boat complete with all the equipment you need to spend two hours crabbing.
If the tide is low, you can rent rakes and shovels and make a short drive to dig clams at a nearby beach. The staff at Kelly’s will tell you where to go and how to do it!
Another clamming option is to rent a boat from Kelly’s and have someone shuttle you across the bay to dig Purple Varnish clams on your hands and knees.
After your catch is….well, caught, you can cook it up at Kelly’s Marina and hang out while you eat your fresh seafood.
If you fancy staying awhile, Kelly’s has both RV and tent camping sites available. If you don’t want to camp you can still come enjoy the property for the day.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but for some reason clam digging has been on my bucket list for a while. I just find the whole thing so fascinating!
If you want to read a detailed post about the experience, here is one that I found on roadtripsforfamilies.com.
Cost: $120 for two hours of crabbing by boat.
$25 for boat shuttle to clamming beach
$10 each for rakes and shovels
You can also crab from the dock (space permitting) for $15 per pot/ring.
You will need an Oregan shellfishing license for anyone in your party aged 12 or older (also available at Kelly’s Brighton Marina.) – $19 for 3 days
DIY Slow Food Travel
We like to discover most things on our own when we travel, and don’t tend to plan very far ahead.
If tours aren’t your thing, either because of anxiety (hello!) or just because you like to find things for yourself, here are some ideas for a slow food travel experience ANYWHERE!
Catch of the Day
If you are anywhere near the ocean, visit a local fish market to see what fresh seafood you can try tonight.
Fish markets are actually a pretty great place to experience new things. Maybe you will see something strange that you’ve never heard of, or maybe you will have a good conversation with a local.
Plus, the world of seafood can be a bit baffling, so why not try to cook something new!
Even if your area doesn’t have a fresh food market, during the growing season you are probably going to encounter roadside produce stands.
Take the time to stop and support a small business while you embrace one of the hallmarks of slow food: Eating seasonal!
I understand that not everyone has the same comfort level with roadside food, but produce should be washed before consuming anyway. At that point it is no more likely to harm you then produce from the store.
So you aren’t the best chef, or you’re just looking for the night off! Food trucks are an easy way to experience local treasures. Better yet, ask around about where you can find one that serves locally grown items.
In less developed countries, whatever a truck is serving is more likely to be from a local producer than a large chain store, so take your pick!
Look for trucks or street vendors that seem to be serving mostly locals and not catering to tourists.
Traditional foods will not only involve ingredients that can be grown locally, but they will take local experience to make. Sample foods on restaurant menus that are specific to the region.
Never underestimate the power of your accommodation when it comes to experiencing life as a local!
While a local host through Airbnb or Booking.com is ideal, even a hotel clerk will know where to go for a local slow food experience.
Just ask the right questions:
“Where would you go for a casual dinner?”
“What should I eat while I’m here?”
“Is there somewhere that I can learn to cook?”
These should give you at least some ideas of where you can experience slow food ANYWHERE you end up. Locals are usually really proud of their favourite spots and want to share.
Luckily most of the world has markets, and Farmer’s Markets are getting more and more popular in North America too.
Luckily everything at a farmer’s market is local (or should be) so you can get spend happy and make yourself a meal from whatever you find.
Maybe a little harder to find in foreign countries, but U-picks are such a fun way to get local produce!
If you don’t know where to find one, search local facebook groups and you will probably turn up something.
Even better, U-picks are usually pretty affordable, since you are doing the harvesting work.
Slow Food Guidelines
It can get overwhelming out there, so when in doubt, remember the cardinal slow food rules:
If you are seeing an abundance of a particular produce in every market, chances are it’s in season.
Shopping seasonal is more sustainable because the product will have less of a journey to market, and require less resources than something that doesn’t grow naturally year round.
Have your ingredients been grown, harvested, and/or raised locally?
Is the restaurant local and independent so that your money stays local?
Find opportunities to connect with growers and local entrepreneurs to not only understand the journey your food has taken, but to dive deep into the local culture.
Unfortunately I don’t remember where I heard this, but there’s a quote that says “Tomorrow’s kitchen starts on the farm.”
It’s a great expression, because it really takes you through the process. If you can’t (or don’t want to) start on the farm, what’s the next best thing?
Buying it from a market!
If you don’t want to shop and cook (or can’t at your accommodation,) find somewhere to order from “tomorrow’s kitchen.“
I tried to pick some slow food travel experiences that you wouldn’t have heard of, but I did skip over some obvious contenders!
I’m sure there are amazing slow food experiences in Italy, France, Japan, and other culinary capitals.
What has been your BEST food travel experience?