04 November 2014

Slow Food - Fast Food, What's All the Fuss?

Slow Food Movement…? 

Our Slow food flag flying at Bella Baita
Where to begin?
If you want to learn more about it first hand, you can skip this article and just head over to their very extensive site now, at this Slow Food link. Or you can read on and head over later.This is my take on the Slow Food Movement and some of its many faces. I had such a varied experience this year at the 2014 Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre event, that I though tI would break my story up into a few stories that I experienced for a series of post over the next few days. First a bit of background on Slow Food and next up will be some stories and lots of photos to give you a general feel. I will post some links to past editions of Salone del Gusto that I have attended over the years. 

First up...I live in the Italian region of Piedmont where what is known as the "Slow Food"  movement was born. You may perhaps not be familiar with it, or perhaps you have heard of it and not exactly sure what it means, or you have no idea what in the world I am talking about. Rest assured, you are not alone in any of these categories. However, I suspect you may have heard a reference or two in more recent years as food has become not only a huge source of entertainment, but also quite the talking point for a wide ranging of topics be it our health, our children's health, the health of our source of our food and the condition of the land that produces it. Whew, that's a mouthful. It would be fair to say that food has become political. Actually, it was and always has been political, but I think it would be fair to say that it was usually confined to the realm of food security and hardly concerned about the state of what exactly we are consuming.  Then there is the small matter of the myriad of repercussions of our food choices in that what we consume and its effects that ranges from production, supply, food safety, environmental degradation, and ultimately the economy. So what started as a group of Piemontese Italians reaction to the "fast food" culture that seemed to be taking over Italy and the world, "Slow Food" was born and not too long after it was declared a movement. You can read all about Slow Food's history here. So what exactly is a "movement" you might ask? I know I did.The dictionary describes it as such;
  • a group of people with a common ideology, esp a political or religious one
  • the organized action of such a group
  • a series of organized activities working toward an objective; also : an organized effort to promote or attain an end movement. (example, the civil rights movement)
So for the past 28 years, "Slow Food" has existed as a push back to the "fast food" culture that seems to have globally engulfed traditional foods and culture and in its wake much has been lost or abandoned in the sense of biodiversity as well as culturally. To grasp this movement would be like trying to grab hold onto an ocean of water, which is vast, elusive, ever changing and stubbornly rooted. I have been aware of this movement since nearly it's beginning, and have lived what I think of as a slow food kind of life in a fast food world. I've cooked and baked professionally and yet, after work when I went home I still enjoyed cooking most meals from scratch. I thought that's what most people did, my mom and most people I knew did. I took a degree in horticulture many years ago in college, but found that the agribusiness aspect of it all, off putting and ultimately I knew that I was  more suited to serving up food than growing it. Gardening is fulfilling enough for me. Over the years, I have shopped in farmers markets whenever possible and always tried to seek out ingredients that didn't have too many ingredients that were unpronounceable or chemically sounding.  So my life went.However, until I moved to Italy, and found that the fresh food market was still alive and well in almost every small and large village in Italy, did I find the satisfaction of being able to locally source such a variety of foods.  Not everyone has that luxury in their busy lives, but everyone does deserve food that you can trust that is healthy. I think that is one of the things that has been lost, that closer connection to our food sources, of personally knowing where our food comes from and that it is safe to eat, or that there is a face that stands behind the quality and humane treatment of our food sources. I love being able to put money directly into the sometimes gnarled hands of people that are growing our food. It's nice to have a friendly chat about what we are buying, and what they are selling. Again, not everyone can do that, but we need to bring back that trust of what we are being served up from the industries that we once trusted implicitly. The "Slow Food" movement challenges us to get involved with what we eat, how it is produced and who benefits, amongst a myriad of other concerns also. 
Association of Potato Growers from neighboring Cuneo
Since 1996 the "Salone del Gusto" arrived as a biennial International exhibition of foods "dedicated to artisanal, sustainable food and the small-scale producers that safeguard local traditions and high quality products," it has been evolving ever since. What once was mostly a food fair, has now combined with another Slow Food organization called "Terra Madre" in 2004 whose network " unites food producers, fishers, breeders, chefs, academics, young people, NGOs and representatives of local communities who are working to establish a system of good, clean and fair food from the grassroots level."  The  organizations goal is also designed to  "give a voice and visibility to those around the world whose approach to food production protects the environment and communities." Over the years, I have attended the "Salone del Gusto" mainly taking in the massive food fair and usually finding it mildly overwhelming, always inspiring and vastly educational. I have always discovered foods that I have never heard of and some that are in danger of disappearing from the face of the earth. Mostly these foods are associated with Slow Food's Presidia and Ark of Taste, which are a part of their foundation for "preserving biodiversity" which you can learn more about here.

This year I wanted to take a deeper look beyond the food fair aspect, which I naturally would not entirely abandon, but I just wanted to make sure that I participated in some of the vast array of topics,  speakers, discussions, taste workshops, conferences, movies, and dinners that this 5 day event has to offer. There was an 85 paged handout on all the various events that one could participate in. Some were free and open till the room was filled to overflowing and others had limited amounts of participants and some involved extra payment beyond the entry fee to the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre venues. I barely scratched the surface and even though I have been on numerous occasions, I still wish I had been better organized and prepared to have jumped in even deep er than I did. It truly was wonderful. Because I found this years event more of a discovery of events that I really haven't participated in before, I have decided to share a few posts on the various things that I participated in this year. I also want to make sure I am able to share a goodly amount of my photos from this year as well, so with a couple more posts I should be able to do that. 

Some of my experiences and insights that I will share in the next week or two will be a combination of photos and short stories. 
Champagne's renown pasta of Gragnano 
I will take a look at the vast Italian and International food market.
I want to share a few of the Terra Madre delegates stories as wells their contributions and market offerings to raise attention to what they are working to achieve. 
African delegates and crafts from home
Lavazza coffee and their 2015 "Earth Defenders" calendar initiate to raise money for the "10, 000 Gardens for Africa" project, plays prominently in the visual telling of some of the Terra Madre stories.

I was inspired at the "Cooking to Spread Awareness" seminar, that was a conversation between three of some of the more well known names of people who are trying to do just that. The panel featured, Carlo Petrini, of Italy and founder of Slow Food, Alice Waters of the US and an early voice of eating local foods that are produced lovingly with care and founder and advocate for the Edible Schoolyard project, and Jamie Oliver, from the UK, a celebrity chef and food activist, that has done more to raise the bar and awareness of what our children are being fed, and how that can be improved. 
Then there was a taste workshop featuring "Presidia" beans and lentils as well as a gourmet dinner aptly called, Antonia's vision. 
So stay tuned as these and other of  my stories of my Slow Food journey from last weeks Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre, come spilling out for your reading pleasure over the course of the next week or maybe two, as I digest this latest edition. 
The Ark of Taste Project
For your consideration, "Slow Food", my view
To be continued......
Me - Marla, your guide from my Bella Baita View
Some of my past posts on the Salone del Gusto
Oct 29, 2010
So we start at the grass roots level and every 2 years the "Salone del Gusto", provides a market place open to the public with a reasonable entrance fee, €20, where buyers and sellers can meet and sample all the wondrous ...
Nov 27, 2012
Every two years "Slow Food International" puts on a food extravaganza they call "Salone del Gusto", which roughly translates to halls of taste, or an exhibition of flavor. We live in the mountains of Italy's Piedmont region, in the ...
Nov 03, 2008
A week has come and gone, more guests have come and gone, and yet the buzz of Slow Food's Salone del Gusto 08 still lives on. That is, at least for me, especially when I break out some of the delicious foods and products ...
Oct 22, 2008
It's a very exciting time in Torino at the moment that only rolls around every 2 years. Yes, it's the Slow Food 's Salone del Gusto extravaganza. For those of you not familiar with this movement, it was born here Piedmont in the ...

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