17 December 2014

Catching the "Slow Food Movement" Train

You would think I would have run out of things to talk about concerning "Slow Food" by now wouldn't you; but you would be wrong.   I have only scratched the surface in these first couple of articles of the breadth and depth of this movement. This article is about what the Slow Food movement is really doing besides eating. My post today coincides with Terre Madre Day 2014.  More on Terra Madre later on.

This third article is an overview of  what I think of as the heart and soul of Slow Food and links to follow up and learn more. This is about the people that are "Slow Food",  their concerns, the networking, the ideas and solutions to preserving and conserving and most of all protecting and sharing.  It's about connection with our food, our earth and each other in a way that meets in many places and ways, but usually ending up at the table together to eat. It is also a call to join in the conversation whether or not you get involved with the formal organization or not, you can make choices that supports the small farmer and protects our environment. If you do join in,  you will meet like minded people working towards a more equitable world and a better connection to our food and how it arrives at our table, hopefully doing as little harm as possible and hopefully maximizing the number of people around that table. First I will give you a brief run down of the organization of the movement, an overview of what it does, and them some of the highlights for me of my "Salone del Gusto / Terre Madre" experience this year.
The Slow Food's grassroots movement is organized into many networks of local and international  groups. The main networks are described below.  You can learn more about each of these groups at this link to the Slow Food website. Below are some direct quotes from their site.

Slow Food International is:

  1. Network of members with over 1,500 local "convivia" chapters located throughout the world
  2. Terra Madre Network is an international network of food communities - groups of small-scale producers and others united by the production of a particular food and closely linked to a geographic area."
  3. The Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) is a worldwide network of young people creating a better future through food.
  4. The University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) came to being in 2004, becoming the first university of its kind and offering a holistic approach to food studies. 

The division of  what Slow Food International's main focus of action can be described as the following:

  • Defending Food Biodiversity: "coordinate projects that defend local food traditions, protect food communities, preserve food biodiversity and promote quality artisanal products..." These are some of their projects.
  1. "Presidia – Working with groups of small-scale producers to sustain quality food productions at risk of extinction in over 400 projects...
  2. The Ark of Taste – Cataloging endangered traditional foods: an extraordinary heritage of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, sweets and cured meats... 
  3. Earth Markets – Building an international network of farmers’ markets that promote good, clean and fair food… 
  4. The Alliance of Chefs - Uniting over 300 chefs with local small-scale producers…
  5. 10,000 Gardens in Africa – Our plan to create 10,000 food gardens across the continent; in schools, villages and the outskirts of cities…
  6. Narrative labels - Going beyond legal labeling requirements to provide the whole story of a product..."
  • Food and Taste Education
  • International events to facilitate defending biodiversity, education and promoting networking.
All of these actions are carried out through the various networks.
Terra Madre Opening Ceremonies and Delegates in Turin October 2014

The "Salone del Gusto / Terra Madre" 5 day event that is held every two years  in Turin, Italy and arguably its largest and main international event that Slow Food hosts kicked off to an exciting start.
The opening ceremonies were held in Turin's Palasport Alpitour Stadium was a fitting venue, as it was used during the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic games and this slow food event had all the excitement and feel of being the Olympics of Food.  Representatives from the 3,000 strong Terra Madre delegates  paraded colorful national flags and often native costumes  from 158 nations just like an Olympic ceremony. There was music and a wide variety of speeches from Slow Food Founders and organizers, stories of success from the Terra Madre and Youth Network as well as challenges facing  Indigenous and other Terra Madre groups throughout the world. Every continent was presented with a voice to add to the conversation of food and how it is produced and used. This years theme being the Family Farm to coincide with the United Nations' 2014 International Year of the Family Farm. Other highlights were a video message from Michelle Obama thanking everyone for what they are doing to promote healthy eating and nutrition, as well as raising awareness of the issues across the globe." Pope Francis sent a letter stating that "no one should be without sufficient food." After all the speeches, Terra Madre representatives of the 3,000 strong delegates, from 158 countries,
paraded with colorful national flags and some native costumes. It was exciting, moving and impossible not to catch  the enthusiasm and energy that night. It lasted through out the whole of the 5 days for me.
International Market - Youth Network- University of Gastronomic Sciences-Ark of Taste Pavillion
Whilst attending this year, I tried to sample even more events than I usually do, as there are so many diverse speakers, workshops, cooking classes, forums and discussions. Many diverse voices from chefs, farmers, food activists to scientists, all with varying viewpoints that added to the varied and multi layered  conversations going on. It was difficult to choose what to attend everyday with over 40 events going on as well as the market places and general sights and sounds.  It is a sensory overload and for me, not to be missed.
Ark of Taste- Cataloguing Endangered Food Species
The Ark of Taste  project and display, which was fashioned to look like an ark, continued to grow over the 5 days as people brought food or photos of food that were special to their home or heritage that seem to be at risk of disappearing. One of our neighbors from Grandubbione brought some apples to add and register on the ark. I love that. It was fascinating to see so many different foods, some I certainly have never seen or heard of. It was touching to to hear peoples stories because food is one thing that unites us as humans, the need to eat and the desire to share food, love and fellowship. There was a lot of activity in this area as the BBC Radio 4 came this year and set up an impromptu studio and began to recored  peoples stories about the food they were bringing to the ark. They will be broad casting these stories next year on one of their longest running programs, simply named the "Food Programm". I found it through their website and subscribed to their podcast via iTunes. I was able to down load their excellent introductory story here if you would like to listen to an excellent 3o minute program about their project and experience this year. 
Follow this link to their program Terra Madre 16 Nov 14.  You can also view many of these Ark food projects on Google's Cultural Institute . A very interesting site to discover.
Several Presidia Piemontese cheeses, salami and Lazio's Valpietra beans that I sampled at a taste workshop

The Presidia is another International Slow Food project to save and protect species of native plants and animal breeds from extinction as they are usually no longer viable economically as the world globalizes and dictates what foods are available to us.  The Presidia seeks to identify, protect and sustain ecosystems and traditional methods of production and economic pathways to keep our foods and livelihoods diversified and vibrant.  I attended one Taste Workshop out of 107 offerings, that was entitled,
"Noble Indigenous Legumes, Extra Virgin Oils and Lazio Wines". It was a fascinating presentation. We sampled beans that were almost forgotten bout from several small villages in the Lazio region of Italy, some that had almost been abandoned but had seen a small return of families with a desire to grow their local beans and sell them in order to preserve them from extinction and to provide a modest income. We sampled black lentils and 2 types of white beans that were incredible in their simplicity and yet so intriguing in their flavor. The various olive oils from the Lazio region made different combinations to be delicious discoveries with such a simple flavor palette. Of course the wines paired nicely with all, but it was the creaminess of the beans and pure flavorfulness that continues to flick through my food memory. I like beans, but not normally large dry ones, but this giant one was so perfectly cooked, firm and intact with the creamiest of interiors.I read too that the rockiness of the soil where they are grown contributes to the thin outer skins. Aha,  that is one of the things I usually am not crazy about is the tough outer skins. I had never really paid that much attention to a bean before. Hearing the farmers talk of how they only had 80 people in their village and hoped they would be able to produce and sell enough to continue on their life in their beautiful Valpietra, (valley of stone) made me determined that I found their booth to purchase some beans the next day to enjoy their deliciousness again in the future. I have a couple of small bags, that I am hoarding for just the right moment this winter when their creaminess will transport me back to their stories and imaginings of life in their village.
Earth Defenders - Lavazza's Calendar Project to Benefit "10,000 Gardens for Africa"

And yet another interesting project executed by Slow Food Partner and Turin's own Lavazza Coffee.
is their 2015 Calendar "The Earth Defenders" project. Lavazza became more involved with Africa in 2002 with their Tierra sustainable coffee project to improve environmental,  social and production conditions for small scale coffee farmers. They have been working with photographer Steve McCurry since that project to capture and document this part of their partner ship with coffee growers. The 2015 Calendar showcases everyday people in Africa that work daily to protect their food and way of life. You can learn more about each of these peoples lives and projects that they are working on in their communities to improve lives and protect their communities at this link. The proceeds of this years calendar will go to Slow Food's "10,000 Gardens for Africa" initiative. All of the people featured on the calendar are involved with various community projects that they have initiated or oversee. they are all involved with Slow Food through Terra Madre, The Youth Network, Ark of Taste, Presidium and many other branches of Slow Food. they all have compelling stories and interesting projects to put forwards. These photos tell much about their lives, home and livelihood. 
Rob Bulga of the nomadic camel herding tribe Karrayyu of Ethiopia
Earth Defender, Roba Bulga, an Ethiopian of the Karrayyu tribe of nomadic camel herders, spoke at the opening ceremonies about his involvement in setting up a cooperative of camel herders to sell their camel milk and the positive impact of this Presidium, coordinated by the Labate Fantalle NGO. Roba got involved with the first Terra Madre event in 2004 working first as a translator and was a founding member of the Labate Fantalle NGO. He has represented his tribe in several international conferences and been the subject of a documentary "Jeans and Marto"  about his story and struggles of his tribe. He is a graduate of Addis Ababa in foreign languages and literature was well as a masters from Slow Foods University of Gastronomic Sciences here in Italy and has returned to his home to work for Slow Food and the way forward for his country and his people. He is a very inspiring young man, and so many others like him with their own unique stories and voices that add so much to the conversation. I enjoyed meeting him at the Ethiopian booth the first day after he spoke at the opening ceremonies. I know he will accomplish much more as he has done so much already in his young life. Go Roba and the Karrayyu people!
Marla Gulley with  Roba Bulga
It was my greatest pleasure to attend the conference "Teaching Slow Food Values in a Fast Food World". These three influential people of this conference are ones that I have admired for many years for their ability to stand up and be heard about our food, how it is produced, what we are actually being served and the myriad of duplicities that the food industry has put forward over the years. Italian Carlo Petrini, founder and President of Slow Food International, has written many books on the subject of food and its politics, as well as leading the charge to promote transparency in our world food system, to protect and promote, small farms, food systems, the diversity our planet produces, whose very way of life are rapidly disappearing as we march towards a "one size fits all" approach to food. Well known American Chef of Chez Panisse fame and food activist Alice Waters, is Vice President of Slow Food International. She was instrumental in raising awareness of the plight of the American small farmers and encouraging People to buy and eat local foods. She also created the ""Edible Schoolyard Project", first in her home state of California to reintroduce a connection and education to food and where it comes from back into the educational program of children. The third panelist rounded out the discussion was English chef, cookbook author and food activist Jamie Oliver.  I first became aware of Jamie when he was a young, up and coming television chef when I first began to work for a British travel company. I liked his enthusiasm and boyish charm but never really took more than a passing interest in his career until he began to make a name for himself with his various philanthropic endeavors through his Jamie Oliver Foundation.  In particular I like his 15 Apprentice program that found mainly disengaged young people and gives them a chance for a career in the restaurant and food business by training them in an apprenticeship program for real skills to succeed and even possible opportunity in his 15 Restaurants in London and Birmingham. His taking on the challenge of the British school lunch program earned him a high profile and a serious voice that will not be silent. I like that. 
So with all three of these people presenting their projects and ideas during this lively discussion, it was a riveting couple of hours. They all agreed that there is much to do.  Alice spoke of having a moral obligation to feed children real food, but we are trapped in a fast food world. Carlo urged young people to get involved in changing the food system that has reached a tipping point. and Jamie ignited the the call to action by stating, “the enemy is very rich and strategic, they employ the cleverest minds and they’re well dug in." "We’re in a very damaging time as far as child health is concerned. There is not just one thing we can do to change the situation. This is an ambush,” Jamie added. “This is about coming together, not one voice, but a choir… we have to work as a team.”
 One thing is clear our food system is in need of change. We can no longer stand by and trust our governments to fix it for us. This is a call to action for everyone to get involved locally in reclaiming our food heritage and protect the earth that supports us, in whatever way seems appropriate for your neighborhood. We must be bold even if it means shaming big business and governments into doing what is right for our health, our economy, our planet and most of all our children futures. Look around and find what you can do, even if it is being more thoughtful and discerning in your food choices. Going groups like Slow Food with put you in touch with other like minded people, because together we can make a difference
Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver, moderator Corby Kummer and Carlo Petrini Conference on Slow Food in a Fast Food World

I hope you enjoyed my articles and I thank you for reading them. Naturally these are purely my opinions and impressions of Slow Food Movement, Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre. I am not official  connected to Slow Food, other than my affinity to their values.
Marla Gulley December 2014 

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