Seeing slow fast food in action…

On my last day in San Francisco, I visited a branch of the Chipotle chain (see blog entry from April 22, 2008). Even on a busy, bustling working day, there were several office types happily waiting for their food. One woman, a fortysomething accountant, ordered a chicken burrito. “I don’t mind waiting the extra time,” she said. “It’s reassuring that you can see them making the food fresh rather than just pulling it pre-made off the shelf like they do in other places.” The man behind her, a young lawyer, nodded his head. “A lot of fast food is just too fast,” he said. “If you slow things down a bit you get a more quality experience.” I told them both about Slow Planet so maybe we’ll see them on here soon. I can’t speak for Chipotle’s food, however. I was too stuffed from my own slow lunch even to try the chips and salsa

Blast from the past

The first leg of my North American book tour for Under Pressure is over. My last interview here in San Francisco had a nice symmetry to it.Back in 1990, when I was in the final year of my undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University in Scotland, ABC’s Good Morning America came to town to do a few shows. I got taken on as a runner and ended up working with one of the presenters, Spencer Christian. We got along well and I’ve always remembered him fondly. So what a happy surprise to find Spencer waiting to interview me onView From the Bay.We even had a laugh about it on air. Sometimes TV can be a lot of fun…

Maiden blog

Hi everyone! My new site is finally live. I will be blogging here and at At the moment, I’m in Ottawa, four days into the North American tour for my new book, Under Pressure. There is nothing less slow than a book tour but it has to be done every few years. The upside is that the reaction to the book has so far been very favourable. People seem to get it. And it’s not just parents. Yesterday, a 24-year-old told me about her over-scheduled childhood. Her college application contained two pages for extracurricular activities and she won a scholarship based on her work in community development. But as soon as she left home and school, she dropped everything, including the community development. “I feel ashamed because everything I was doing in high school had an ulterior motive,” she said. “Looking back it would have been nicer to done things for their own sake.” Sure, she got the scholarship, but what did she lose along the way?

Best job in TV?

Last Friday I appeared on an Argentine TV show called Mañanas Informales. It’s one of my favourite shows for talking on. It manages to be noisy and dynamic without being stressful. One reason for this may be the Laughing Trio. In one corner of the studio, three rather scruffy young men sit in front of microphones sipping yerba mate and providing the show’s live laughter soundtrack. They whoop, whistle, make cheeky remarks and laugh with infectious gusto. I know they’re laughing to order but the effect is still the same: I find them hugely amusing and weirdly soothing. Certainly beats the hell out of the canned laughter that blights so many sitcoms. I even feel a bit envious: if you have to work in TV, then what better job could there be?

Slow down South

I’m in Buenos Aires at the moment. It’s amazing how the Slow philosophy strikes such a powerful chord here. I have a theory. Well, actually, I have several theories but here’s the one on my mind at the moment. Like others in the developing world, the Argentines feel that drive to catch up with the West as fast as possible, perhaps without even asking whether everything we have is really worth striving for. But Buenos Aires is also a very cultured city, a place where people read books and talk about ideas, which means they are more open to cultural shifts like the Slow philosophy than are other places. Result: a fascinating paradox and an ardent desire to make sense of it all. Just a thought.

Slow camping

There is nothing slower than camping. We have just returned from three nights at theResurgence Summer Campwhich was held near Malvern, Worcestershire in England. I spoke on the first morning and then the rest of the time we slipped into festival-goer mode. It was a joy waking up to the sound of birds singing instead of the trill of the mobile phone or that ping from the email inbox. The site was set by a river and surrounded by trees, and the sun shone constantly. The best part was watching our children spend the whole day, and some of the night, running around playing with new friends. So much freedom. The composting toilets take a bit of getting used to, but nothing beats showering in the outdoors. We’ve got the camping bug now and are already planning our next trip.

Slow Big Brother

Argentina is one of the countries where In Praise of Slow has made a big splash. In the last few months I’ve twice been to Buenos Aires (my home in the early 1990s) to do television, radio and other interviews. In fact, I even sang a little ditty from the old days on national TV – long story . Anyway, a few moments ago my publisher sent me a photo from the latest incarnation of Big Brother Argentina. It shows two contestants. One is a bkini-clad bottle-blonde smoking a cigarette – very Buenos Aires. The other is a dashing young man with long curly hair – also very Buenos Aires. The guy is clutching a Spanish copy of In Praise of Slow. I’m not a big fan of Big Brother in any language but somehow this photo makes my day. I won’t dwell too long on why that is. But here’s a thought: Is life in a Big Brother house an example of good slow or bad slow?

The Red room

I was in Sweden this week doing media interviews. I also gave a talk in what may be the most romantic venue I’ve encountered so far. It was inside the Berns Salonger, an elegant 19th-century hotel–cum-restaurant-cum-bar on the edge of the water in central Stockholm. The main hall is all dark wood and leather, with vast chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The talk was in a small space upstairs, just off the balcony that looks down onto the main hall. It turned out to be the celebrated Red Room, setting for the eponymous novel written in 1879 by Augustus Strindberg. In the book, the hero hangs out with bohemians in the Red Room. I spent the evening with businesspeople. But in the end we probably ended up in the same state anyway: well-fed, well-watered and wondering how to change the world.

Slow Mandarin

I don’t speak the language, but I am told there is a word in Mandarin, “kuai-huo, ” that means “cheerful” or “thrilled.” It is made up of two characters whose literal meaning is “fast living.” When In Praise came out in Taiwan last year, the publisher coined a new word for the title: “man-huo,” which means “slow living.” Apparently, “man-huo” has now entered the Taiwanese vernacular, with people using it as shorthand to describe a better way of doing pretty much everything.

Maybe I’ll try it out on the waitresses at our local dim sum restaurant in London. Sometimes they could do with putting on the brakes a little….

From the beach in Bahia

I lived in Brazil long ago, and even then felt a strong pull to visit Bahia. Spicy food, colonial architecture, colourful folkloric dress, music everywhere – my kind of place. The Bahian people are also famous for being friendly, relaxed and unhurried – for being the slowest people in Brazil, in other words. At the moment, I’m at Praia do Forte, an eco-resort in Bahia, telling a gathering of Brazilian CIOs why they need to slow down. Maybe it’s the warm wind blowing in from the sea, maybe it’s the steady stream of caipirinhas, or maybe it’s something in the Bahian air, but they seem to like the idea.