Italy Bound


Not too much cooking in my house lately as we are scrambling to get ourselves ready to get out of town next week. This trip has been in the works for a while and while we have put off most of our travel this year to nurse our sick dog (yes, Zoë is still with us for now, and many thanks to those of you who have sent good wishes) this is business as well as fun and we have got to go.  (The sacrifices we make!)

Our destination is the 2006 Salone del Gusto (Hall of Taste), a biennial Slow Food event held in a beautifully renovated Fiat factory on the outskirts of Torino, Italy.  Slow Food, in case you don’t know, is an internationalorganization, founded by Italian Carlo Petrini in 1989 to push back against the tidal wave of fast food culture sweeping the globe. Slow Food supports native food producers and traditions and emphasizes the satisfaction that can come from eating regionally, leisurely, and sociably. There are now more than 80,000 Slow Food members in more than 45 countries around the world including the U.S.  They are organized into more than 850 local chapters — called convivia — including one here in Bloomington, of which Dave Tallent and I are co-directors.

The main project of Slow Food (besides creating opportunities for outstanding, convivial eating) is to identify foods that are in danger of being lost to the Fast Food juggernaut — exceptional regional foods produced by artisans on a small scale that cannot compete with mass production techniques but which have a long and delicious heritage worth preserving. Movement members work to add these foods to the Slow Food Ark of Taste — a roster of foods in need of rescue which now includes all manner of cheeses, fruits and vegetables, honeys and preserves, meats and fish. Grassroots efforts promote, subsidize and defend these Ark foods  — working to get them onto restaurant menus, household shopping lists and local political agendas to help ensure their survival.

The Salone is Slow Food’s signature event. We went in both 2002 and 2004 and I am still at a loss for words to describe it.For a food lover, it may be the most fun you can have. Part food fest, part trade show, part ideological showcase for the merits of biodiversity and ecological awareness, the Salone is an exposition of everything Slow. Artisans and producers come from all over the globe (although for logistical reasons, Europe in general and Italy in particular are best represented) to display their wares, offer tastes, conduct workshops, and discuss the difficulties and challenges of being a small scale producer of exquisite food in a mass-production world. The giant convention hall is organized with international foods in one section, Italian in another. Here’s what I wrote when we came back in 2002:

“The Italian section was so massive, it was organized into separate roads or paths: la via del formaggio (cheese), la via dei salumi (cured meats), la via dei dolci (sweets), la via dei pescatori (fish), la via dell’olio (olive oil galore) and so on, and on, and on.

As we strolled up and down these wide, indoor boulevards, 138,000 of us over the course of the Salone’s five days, we sampled cheeses both common and rare, along with dried meats, proscuittos, salamis, and sausages. We sipped and compared olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars; we swirled and sniffed and tasted innumerable Italian wines and spirits, including grappas poured from stunning glass bottles, and sticky sweet liqueurs. We savored cool gellati, (the granddaddy of ice creams), crunched biscotti and bread sticks, and gleefully consumed chocolates, cheesecakes, and candies.”


The Salone itself is a phenomenal experience, but two years ago it acquired a companion event that, from a food politics perspective, is even more amazing. Terra Madre is a meeting of 5000 small-scale food producers, chefs, and educators from more than 150 countries, gathering to share their experience and knowledge, to network and brainstorm and come up with collective solutions to their common challenges. Slow Food pays the expenses of these individuals while they are in Italy; the local convivia pay their airfares and travel expenses.

I am thrilled that Slow Food Bloomington is sending four local farmers (Teresa Birtles and her daughter Jess, from Heartland Family Farm and Linda Chapman and Deryl Dale, from Harvest Moon Flower Farm) and one chef (Alan Simmerman from the Bloomington Country Club.) Dave and Krissy Tallent are going to Torino as well,  though not as delegates to Terra Madre. They will attend both Salone and Terra Madre events and do a little slow travel.

On their itinerary is a side trip to Alba with my husband and me and some friends of ours from Florida. Autumn is the time for truffles in Italy and the truffle market in Alba is the place to find them – the very cobblestones seem to exude that magical, marvelous aroma, beckoning you on to spend way too much money for the pleasure of consuming theknobby little fungus shaved over a heap of buttery pasta or creamy eggs. In fact, the food of the Piemonte region of  Italy is  fantastic in general, and I plan to eat my share of it (or more) and blog all about it here.


One of the things I do besides eat is teach political science and as I am missing two sessions of my food and politics class week after next to attend these events I am doing a little “distance-learning” experiment – blogging about the Slow Food experience when I can, drawing connections to some of the reading we are doing in class. If you read this blog for wonderful eating experiences and recipes,those things will still be here — please continue to show up and share your comments. If you are not after academic credit, just ignore the stuffy stuff.

Ciao for now.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. This sounds wonderful. I cannot wait to read your reports on the event. Slow Food is definitely the way to go, appreciating the processes behind food that sometimes take long, but for good reasons! An appreciation of life at the same time! Have a lot of fun! It is a great time of year to be in Italy!


  2. Harmonia says:

    What a wonderful blog you have here! I included my URL incase you are surfing online sometime. 😉


  3. Christine says:

    Bea, if I can do half as enticing a job on the Italy posts as you did with your trip to France, I will be happy.
    Harmonia, welcome! Please join us again!


  4. Trip to Italy? I’m becoming more interested in food every minute. Have a great trip!


  5. Kevin says:

    Wow. If you need anyone to help carry your luggage…
    It sounds like a fantastic, romantic and utterly tasty adventure. I can’t wait to hear more about it. Ciao!


  6. Bruce Moore says:

    Slow is good, in so many pursuits. Take the time to chose, prepare, and indulge. It’s like jazz. More tension leads to rewarding resolution.
    I have a friend in Seattle, an alum of The Herbfarm in Woodenville, who is doing wonderful things to move (slowly) the movement along. Check Becky Selengut out.


  7. katrina says:

    I hardly think our class discussions are stuffy! I just wish we could have edible examples in class. Reading about food makes me so hungry…


  8. Courtney says:

    Though you aren’t in Italy yet, I won’t have access to a computer until Sunday night. I’m going to Michigan for the army, but don’t worry, Fast Food Nation is coming with me. As I was browsing the site, I found all your pictures of food. I thought they were really good, and they reminded me of the food markets I photographed in Paris, especially the Bastille market.


  9. Meaghan says:

    Professor Barbour,
    I hope you made it to Italy safely. Have a wonderful trip!


  10. Hannah says:

    Professor Barbour,
    I hope you are having an amazing trip in Italy and I can’t wait to hear about the convention when you get back!


  11. Professor Barbour,
    I hope you are not thinking about your blog at all while you are in Italy. But when you come back please know that we are all very curious.


  12. Matt L says:

    I hope the Salone was everything you dreamed it would be this year. I’m sure you’re sad to see it end.
    There had better be pictures…=)


  13. Ashley says:

    Professor Barbour,
    I hope you are having a great time in Italy! The food at the Salone sounds amazing.:)


  14. Cari VanLue says:

    Hello Professor Barbour,
    I hope your trip is going well…I’m sure it is amazing! I can’t wait to hear all about it!


  15. Mae says:

    Have a fabulous time Christine. Can’t wait to hear all about the trip when you get back.


  16. Christopher W. says:

    Hello! I hope you are enjoying your trip so far. Hopefully you are experiencing better weather than we are here back in Bloomington [ rain 😦 ].


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