In today’s world of I-want-what-I-want-now, it’s refreshing to encounter movements that encourage introspection, patience, and, well, time. So it goes with the Slow Food movement, which has been occupying the mental real estate of foodies since Carlo Petrini spearheaded it in the 1980s. Slow Food USA, the grassroots organization committed to making food edible again, is wide-reaching in its initiative. With 6,000 members nationwide, Slow Food propagates its mission statement—Food that Is Good, Clean, and Fair for All—through local and national means, aiming to “transform the way we produce, consume, and enjoy food.” Collaborating with Chef’s Alliance and the Slow Food Youth Network, Slow Food USA seeks to change the relationship between food and eater in the youngest Americans.
Eighteen states currently have Slow Food USA Governors, individuals who have been appointed to increase awareness about the movement on a local level, grow chapters, and organize regional activities. From 2013 until 2017, the New York State Governor was activist Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, a teacher of botany, environmental design, and farm-to-table classes in Bridgehampton. That role has recently been turned over to the newly appointed Laura Luciano, a Westchester native who contributes her expertise at Edible East End. In 2013, she and her husband Chris, of Christopher Jeffrey Architects, completed a sustainable home in Hampton Bays, which they named Sheridan Green.
Luciano’s entrée into the Slow Food movement has been a circuitous one. A graphic designer by training, she was laid off from her job in 2008, which inspired a certain brand of career independence. While she and her husband began the project that is now Sheridan Green, Luciano started Out East Foodie, a food blog reflecting her passion. “I was brought up in an Italian family,” Luciano said. “We were always surrounded by food. We were very, very aware of where food came from. At that time, I didn’t know what Slow Food was.” Luciano’s blog focused on local farmers and purveyors. “I would take their product, create a recipe, and post a story about them.”
As chance would have it, a North Fork Foodie Tour put her in touch with the Slow Food movement, from which there was no turning back. “I felt really at home with these people,” she said. She signed up, attended the annual meeting for Slow Food USA, and covered the event for Out East Foodie. Eventually, she began taking photographs for the Slow Food events, which parlayed itself into a role as unofficial recruiter for the movement.
Two years ago, Slow Food USA asked Luciano to be a guest leader. “I got to see how it works—how they vote, their financials, what they’re up against,” she said. She felt herself more and more drawn to slow food and to biodiversity. Eventually, she was sent to Terra Madre Salon del Gusto, the international Slow Food conference held in Turin, Italy. Luciano’s advocacy for the Ark of Taste—a catalogue of 3,843 global heritage foods that are on the verge of extinction—cemented her role as a Slow Food leader. In Turin, she brought with her samples of dehydrated cheese pumpkin, a heritage squash from Long Island that had disappeared from seed catalogues in the 1970s and has since been saved from extinction. She shared with colleagues the importance of seed saving. “To save these varieties, you need to consume them,” Luciano said.
In 2017, Luciano joined the Slow Food board. Her position as New York State Governor was announced on October 23, 2017. She will oversee the chapters in New York State, focusing on food policy and the farm bill. “My goal,” she said, “is to rally around the regional varieties, which are the fabric of our community.”
And how does Luciano view her nascent role of Governor? As a change maker, of course. “The choices we make in consuming food are our most successful voting tools,” she said. “We are immersed in understanding who is living by these values—that everybody should have access to good, clean, and fair food. Eating is an agricultural act. We are beginning to tell stories on why our choices are so important.” Big change starts with community action. “Our fight against big ag[riculture]: they may be giants, but we are millions. We can make a change by the choices that we make.”