We’ve eaten some fabulous food in the last few days – but it has been far more than food that just tastes good. Long, leisurely meals of traditional Piemontese fare, shared with very good friends, a couple of whom I’ve known since I was 15! It’s been Slow Food at its very best.
In the end, though, it will be far easier to digest the rich and delicious food than all the implications of this Slow Food conference. When I get back home I will do some Q & As with the farmers and chefs we sent from Bloomington about their experiences here, and I will blog in detail about some of our finer food moments.
For now, here are some quick snapshots.
There was a total crush of people at this year’s Salone. In the past we were able to stroll around, tasting food and learning about various products and techniques of food production. This time it was a struggle to battle the crowds. I haven’t found estimates of the total attendance but one press release said that 24,000 people attended on the opening day. I got here later but I believe it. By yesterday, however, things were slowing down and I got a chance to talk to some producers and see what they are doing.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is not just Italians turning out but people from all over. Slow Food says they will have outgrown the Lingotto for the 2008 Salone and are working with the Turinese government to find a larger venue. This movement is going mainstream in a big way. Wonder if that means the world is getting slower or the movement is getting faster?
Slow Food project is so impressive. About
300 endangered foods or food traditions stand a chance for survival thanks to being
designated as presidia by Slow Food, which then lends them its support and
protection. I think many of these foods
were represented at the Salone (although some were missing, like the US raw
Here are just a few of the “protected” foods I tasted: buttery, toothsome Sorana Beans from Tuscany; hearty Ur-paarl bread, full of fennel, from the upper Val Venosta; the Bronte pistachio from Sicily, more expensive but also more delicious than the more common version of the nut; the rosy, green striped Rotonda eggplant from Basilicata, preserved in oil (see picture above): the Alcamo Purceddu Melon, yellow and sweet, from Palermo; Oscypek, a smoked sheeps cheese from the Tatra Mountains in Poland; sharp artisan cheddar from Somerset, England; chewy nutty einkorn (petit epeautre) from the Haute-Provence in France; Perlardon Sec, the aged version of one of my favorite cheeses, from Languedoc-Rousillon; and Irish raw milk cheeses.
There were many more kinds of cheeses and cured meats and dried fish and unusual fruits and vegetables – like red garlic (yes, red), hunchback cardoons (like an artichoke without the thistle head), and rare olives… oh my, the olives!
presidia foods from our hemisphere were remarkably different from the European
foods: Andean corn and potatoes, several different kinds of nuts, coffee,
cocoa, spices. From the US, only the Anishinaabeg Manoomin (a kind of
wild rice grown by native Americans in Minnesota) was physically present, but other US presidia
I need to think a little bit more about if this is in fact true and if so, why, but it seemed to me as I walked through the halls that the old world presidia were much more likely to be based on traditional methods of raising or processing food (cheese or salami making, for instance) as much as the raw materials of the foods themselves while the new world foods seemed to be more likely to be the raw materials – specialty kinds of plants or animals that are in danger of extinction.
The presidia booths were located all around the center of the convention area. The middle was filled with vendors of amazing food products that were for tasting and buying – not protected foods but artisan produced cheeses, meats, vinegars and oils, conserves, candies, cakes, liqueurs, pastas, gelatos, you name it. There were 700 booths all told, so that gives you an idea. Let me just say that we brought an extra suitcase, and it is already full.
big plans for blog posting seem to have been overly optimistic. We are heading out of internet range tomorrow
and home soon. When we get back I’ll
catch up with some of our side travels and meals and with the Terra Madre event
here in Torino.
H204 students, here's something to think about. We read a lot about interest groups in Nestle's book -- largely groups representing the food industry. Slow Food is an interest group too. How does it compare to the kinds of groups we talked about in class? Can it fight the kind of power that the corporate groups have?
Ciao. See you soon.