Sorry for the long silence – turns out it’s hard to blog with your mouth full.
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?
The 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 milk cheese presidium, which didn’t make it through customs.)
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!
The 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 foods include the lost cheeses, the Cape May oyster the Navajo-Churro Sheep, and the Sonoma County Gravenstein Apple.
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.
My 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.
16 Comments Add yours
Wow! That sounds absolutely amazing! I’ve never even heard of most of those foods. It sounds like the Slow Foods Movement is gaining momentum. Maybe one day, “Slow Foods” can make a comeback and become popular again?
I think slow food would be one of the interest groups that the general public would benefit from, whether they cared about it or not. I think it sounds like a great way to eat, though it sounds a little expensive at times.
Mouth. Watering. I think Slow Food as an interest group is a lot like the environmentalist groups we talked about in class. It doesn’t get the support it needs, because everyone benefits from its gains, whether they support the group or not.
This convention sounds fantastic! I, too, have not heard about most of the “endangered” foods mentioned above, but they all sound interesting. I’m also impressed by the number of producers and farmers present, the thousands of people attending the Salone, and the estimate that they will need a larger venue in the next couple years to come. As a person who wants delicious, traditionally-made foods to keep their place in the food industry, I see this as definite success for that. Can’t wait to hear more when you return!
You’re THERE? How cool! There’s a St Louis contingent, look for “Cat”, the entrepreneur publisher of our local great food magazine called Sauce and a couple of local chefs …
Oh, I really would like to go there next time, until then I will have to read what you lucky ones write and listen to what my lucky friends tell me! and drool…
I fully understand the irony of this comment from somebody with a blog entitled “AcmeINSTANTfood” however–I thank you for your posts on the Slow Food movement. I previously knew little or nothing about it and now I am intrigued and feel compelled to learn more about this issue that inevitably affects each of us (even if we are unaware of it). I want to find a local Slow Foods chapter.
Your time in Italy sounds like the most romanticaly tasteful experience! I can’t wait to hear more.
Sounds like the experience in Italy is going really well. All that food sounds really good right now. It will be interesting to hear more about it when class meets again.
wow what an experience!!! im very excited to hear all about it next week and im so glad to hear that my home state of MN was well represented with its wild rice 🙂
Too bad we couldn’t go to Italy with you! I would love to try different endangered foods, especially the ones here in the United States (like the Minnesota rice) that are basically unknown to the general public.
As far as Slow Food as an interest group. I would agree with Sara in that Slow Food definitely falls into the category of “helping everyone,” so it might not get the support it needs. However, it sounds like the major difference between Slow Food and environmental groups is that Slow Food could probably at this point (with it’s growing global popularity) financially hold it’s own against the corporate groups.
Thinking about food makes me so hungry!
I found it curious as well how the new world exhibits were only about ingredients, not techniques or processes. Why is that?
As for the Salone…I was there opening day at 11 and while there were a ton of people, it was manageable. But by the weekend, the crowd was so thick I found it unbearable, and definitely not “slow”. While it was a blast tasting all the unique foods I’d never seen before, the shoving and crushing and grabbing did not put me in a slow frame of mind. That said, experiencing the markets, restaurants, caffes and overall Italian way of life outside the Lingotto did show me what it’s all about. Not a bad way to live your life.
I agree with Sara and Melanie…I don’t think that the Slow Food organization has the potential to have the kind of persuasive power (read: $$$) while keeping true to the ideals. For Slow Food to find the capital needed to participate in the US gov’t (sad, but seems to be true), they would have to abandon the small producers who aren’t doing this for the money. Slow Food is about a love of food first, not capitalism.
This sounds such a nice experience! So many interestingly different foods! Enjoy every bit of it!
Thanks, H204 kids — you’ll probably be sick of hearing about this event, if you aren’t already!
Ilva, you must go!
Kevin, California is Slow Food heaven — there are groups galore out there. Join!
Lisa, isn’t it ironic that you need to get out of the Salone to find the slow life?
I traveled to Turin with a group celebrating slow food and the literature of gastronomy. Sounds a little weird, but we attended the Salone del Gusto – and it was jammed – and we also visited the beautiful area of Alba and had fabulous meals and wonderful wines, while we talked about the importance of food and meals in different books, etc. Food not only nourishes us physically, but mealtimes help us bond with family members, solve problems, be ourselves, and slow down. Food is the most important thing when there isn’t enough, or we don’t have funds or means, as in a concentration camp, as we explored in Primo Levi’s work (an author from the Piedmont).
One of the tenets of the Slow Food movement, it seems to me, is to buy and eat foods that are produced locally. There are farmers’ markets everywhere so this is not very difficult.
Hi Christine – my friend was raving about the event 🙂 wow, 24,000 people in one day! I’d love to visit some time.