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Though English has convivial, which is based on the Latin convivium for a feast or banquet (or, more broadly, a living together, from con + vivo), the latter word has not itself been in the language until recently.

It started to appear in Britain and other parts of the English-speaking world in the late 1990s to refer to local groups or chapters — usually named in the plural as convivia — set up by the Slow Food movement. This was formed in 1989, as a result of an Italian initiative, as a reaction against increasing globalisation and standardisation of food, especially fast food (hence its name).

One of its aims is the preservation, encouragement, and promotion of local specialities, for example in cheeses, traditional ales, breeds of animals, and varieties of fruits and vegetables. A key theme is to link together those who enjoy good food with the environmentalists who want to preserve and support local, small-scale producers, especially those using organic farming methods. Its emblem is the snail, seen as a symbol both of gastronomic delight and of “slowness”.

Each convivium has a leader who is responsible for organising food and wine events, tasting workshops and who generally raises the awareness of small local producers.

Independent, July 2001

Funding and support for these projects comes from local convivia and producers as well as the regional authorities — the ideal of community lies at the heart of the Slow movement.

Observer Food Monthly, Nov. 2001

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 15 Dec 2001