Archive for the ‘Slow Food’ Tag

Comment: Salone del Gusto   Leave a comment

Salone del Gusto by Gabriella Paiella

On Friday, October 22nd 2010, four friends and I made our way up north for Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre. The trip was initially up-in-the air as we had only managed to secure a spot at a hostel on the outskirts of Torino a few days before – the city had been booked up for the event since July. Bright and early the next morning, we caffeinated and began the brisk forty-minute walk to the old Fiat factory where the event has been held for several years. The festival was a clear economic boost to the city of Torino and signs everywhere advertised the Salone del Gusto and pointed tourists in the correct direction.

The first people we encountered at the fringes of the factory grounds were animal rights protesters brandishing gruesome signs of slaughtered animals with statistics of how many animals had been murdered for Salone del Gusto. We avoided them as best as we could and made our way to the line, which was organized and moved forward quickly despite the extraordinary numbers of people. Because we were all under 23, we could get access to the festival for the student rate of 12 euro each.

The theme of the Salone this year was ‘Food + Places: a new geography for Planet Earth’.  Upon entering, we found ourselves in a spacious, and well-lit main room with the atmosphere of an IKEA store. Indeed, every booth on this floor was advertising possible eco-friendly solutions to food packaging. Aside from a few curious visitors, most people avoided this first room in favor of the food fair itself – which was packed to the brim.

Salone was split up into several sections. First and foremost was ‘Italy’, – divided up like a grid according to region. We tried almost everything, including lenticchie from Umbria, peperonata from Piedmont, and cannoli from Sicily. It also seemed as if every other stand was sampling some sort of olive oil and bread. My traveling companions and I were surprised (and pleased), by the overwhelming amount of artisanal beer from Italy. All of the producers were extremely friendly and took the time to answer any questions we had for them about their products.

The international section was comprised of representative producers from everywhere from America to Azerbijan. In the middle of all of the food stalls were tables manned by indigenous representatives from Latin America and Africa. Many of them had spoken at Terra Madre and were selling handicrafts and distributing fliers about the current state of agriculture and small farms in their home countries.

There were also more specific novelty areas – such as the  ‘Cocktail Bar,’ ‘Enoteca,’ and ‘Street Food’ area, though those were both significantly less crowded than the other sections. This was most likely due to the fact that visitors had to pay extra to access them.

The demographics of the crowd were incredibly mixed. Every once in a while, a Native American farmer in indigenous dress would pop through the fair grounds with their Terra Madre delegate badge on. At the same time, there were several hundred well-dressed Italians teetering around in high heels and purchasing bags of wine and olive oil – making me wonder if they actually ever thought twice about the ideology of Slow Food. The stark difference between the two groups was interesting.

I was also surprised to see Autogrill and Coop stands scattered amongst the other stands. I knew that the Coop supermarkets had initially started as small cooperative movements on the left, but they have certainly strayed far from that model. Autogrill, meanwhile, seems to exemplify the very nature of fast food.

Even when we left Salone del Gusto and headed back to our hostel, we still felt as if we were in that general atmosphere. Everyone staying with us was in the city for the same reasons we were. For example, I met a girl from North Carolina studying abroad in Dijon and compiling an independent research project on organic food regulations. Another one of my roommates graduated from the college that I’m attending right now ten years ago; she was in Torino visiting her sister who acts as a liaison between farmers and farmer’s market organizers. One girl had graduated college in the States and moved to Rwanda to help AIDS victims set up small, microfinance farming operations. Additionally, we met two chefs: one from Lecce who had previously traveled around Europe acting out in “Chef’s Theater” plays. The other was a Brazilian who was hopping around Europe and getting by working at restaurants all over the continent.

As we all stayed up that night talking, I realized that there was a strong and diverse community of people dedicated to bettering the global food system.

Posted January 11, 2011 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Comment: On Chestnuts   Leave a comment

In a recent gastronomic insert of the Corriere dell’Umbria (16 Nov 2010, p.15),  there is an article called “Regina d’autunno dal bosco alla tavola” (Queen of Autumn from the Woods to the Table), which discusses ways to cook chestnuts. The author, Agnese Priorelli, underlines that chestnuts have been used for food since time immemorial, and mentions their use in many traditional dishes.

After these “historical” comments, Priorelli gives two recipes, one from the Gambero Rosso, a Slow Food publication: Duck Paté with Chestnuts. The recipe calls for duck breast, chestnuts, chicken livers, laurel leaves, onion, garlic, butter, pancetta (like bacon), white wine, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Though nowhere in the text is this recipe called “traditional,” the tone of the article (and, in fact, of the whole gastronomy insert) and the fact that the recipe is from a Slow Food cookbook, implies that this is a recipe that could have been eaten centuries ago.

Here again I see a desire for what I would call “philological food,” food that supposedly is the direct lineal descendant of ancestral culinary traditions, passed near-unchanged down through the ages, a cooking lets one fulfill the injunction of Mens sana in corpore sano through eating peasant food. But would an Italian peasant of, say, the mid-eighteenth century have made this dish. Given that the vast majority of Italians were poor, and the poor were effectively vegetarians, it’s unlikely. We can forget about duck breast, chicken livers, and pancetta (and even olive oil and wine, more than likely) being part of “popular” culinary traditions. The onion, salt, and garlic can stay, along with the laurel leaf, but the rest is an invention of more recent times, or is philological only with respect to a small upper class that could afford these products. ZN


Grazie a Daniela Buglione per la segnalazione.

Posted November 28, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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History: The McItaly   Leave a comment

In January of 2010, McDonald’s Italy launched its McItaly burger, billed as “A meeting of tastes: the unmistakable taste of McDonald’s® meets the tradition of typical Italian ingredients.” The launch of the burger took place at the McDonald’s restaurant at the Spanish Steps, where in 1986 the protest (against the opening of that same restaurant) that launched Slow Food had taken place. Present at the launch was Luca Zaia, the then Italian Minister of Agriculture. Zaia praised the McItaly, made exclusively of Italian products, and even gave the burger the ministry’s official patronage.

This unleashed a storm of criticism, both from Slow Food and other commentators abroad. Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, wrote a letter to the McItaly burger (and to Zaia) and even denounced the menu item as

Minister Zaia at the unveiling of the McItaly.

something anything but Italian: “Whose grandmother ever made something that looked like this?” he asked rhetorically on the RAI weekend show Che Tempo Che Fa. The Ministry of Agriculture issued press releases denouncing the gastronomic snobs and underlining the Italian-ness of the burger and its aid to farmers in Italy. The polemic continued for two months, until the (already planned) end of the McItaly promotion dampened further polemics.

The unanswered question is “What is Italian?” Is it the presence of Italian-made ingredients? If so, then practically all of McDonald’s products are Italian, as the sourcing is largely national. Or is Italian grandmum’s cooking, as Petrini implies? Modern dishes like spaghetti all’amatriciana are out, then, as they are largely post-war, meat abundance-induced dishes. Despite Italian opinions to the contrary, most of their food cannot be philological in the sense they want it to be, i.e. that “Our food is good because it’s the way we’ve been eating for centuries, a balanced diet based on a peasant diet.” More on “philological food” to come. ZN

View the original press releases of McDonald’s and the Ministry of Agriculture, Petrini’s letter in La Repubblica, and Zaia’s response.

Comment: Petrini’s call to “return to the fields”   Leave a comment

In a recent commentary published in an insert of the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, Maurizio Molinari casts an uncritical eye towards Slow Food Carlo Petrini’s “American blitz.” Petrini, in the days leading up to the recent Salone del Gusto in Turin, made a whirlwind tour of the United States to encourage the youth of America to “return to the fields” (quite literally) and to build a “New Global Network of Sustainable Communities.”

It’s a rather thankless job to be the curmudgeon, but a few details seemed to merit a more critical eye. First, the students of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton universities (the three noted in the article) are rather unlikely to “return to the fields,” in fact rather unlikely to have been there in the first place. It seems also a little naïve to think that a bunch of college kids could create, ex nihilo, a global network out of their local production. This is fact is another seeming contradiction in Petrini’s program: sustainability, at least if one is concerned with a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, necessarily means local food production, distribution, and consumption. It’s an open question whether farmers can sell their authentic agricultural products across oceans and still maintain the pretense of sustainability.

Petrini also finds the source of our current global malaise in the current system of agriculture, and suggests a return to the model used by the first colonists and enouraged by the Founding Fathers of the United States. The idea that the colonial methods of agriculture were sustainable was put to rest over thirty years ago in Changes In The Land, but this point obviously has not as yet sunken in. While small-scale, organic agriculture has fields that have a much higher degree of biodiversity than their industrial counterparts, they are virtual wastelands compared to any two hundred yard square piece of forest. Agriculture–the razing of all trees and intensive cultivation of a small number of usually annual plants–is a massive assault on biodiversity. Organic and industrial differ only by degree.

There is much that Petrini said that is praiseworthy; his push for farmer’s markets is perhaps the best of the ideas listed by Molinari. But suggesting the near-impossible (that Ivy League grads become farmers en masse) or idealizing the never-was (colonial-era biodiversicators) is not a helpful contribution to getting out of our current alimentary mess.  ZN

Grazie a Daniela Buglione per la segnalazione.

Posted November 8, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Slow Food — Ed. Petrini   Leave a comment

Slow Food: Collected Writings on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures of Food (Carlo Petrini et al.) – This thoughtful volume avoids boredom by flitting around the world of Slow Food. The book is anthology of the best writing from the first five years of Slow Food Editore’s quarterly magazine Slow. Among the best of the articles are  Piero Sardo’s “Vermouth” and the curious origin of the concept of the Mediterrean diet in Annie Hubert’s “The Convict’s Diet”. ZN

Posted October 30, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Leitch – ‘Slow Food and the Politics of Pork Fat’   Leave a comment

Leitch, Alison ‘Slow Food and the Politics of Pork Fat: Italian Food and European Identity’, Ethnos 68 (2003), 437-362. The author returns to the site of her doctoral thesis, Carrara, changing focus though from the local quarries to the local food speciality, lardo di Colonnata – pork fat… She follows particularly the efforts of Slow Food to defend lardo from EU legislation in 1996 and the re-remembering of food traditions in the town as lardo production is threatened. The work veers from the frankly bibliographical to the unrestrainedly theoretical and includes a good summary of the leftist background and early history of Slow Food. SY