Slow Food revo­lu­tion needs to act fast

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

At the Sessa stand at Slow Food’s Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, I’m trans­ported from the im­per­sonal sur­round­ings of the Lin­gotto Fiere ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre in Turin by sheer gas­tro­nomic plea­sure. Sfogli­a­tine may “just” be a Neapoli­tan sweet pas­try but, as with much Ital­ian food, the devil is in the de­tail. Pa­per-thin pas­try is lay­ered with lard and but­ter, then rolled, sliced into rounds and rolled again, filled with a mix­ture of semolina, ri­cotta and, in this case, fra­grant Amalfi lemon, folded into seashell shapes and baked. The re­sult is crisp, del­i­cate and beau­ti­ful to look at – the pas­try lay­ers re­sem­bling the fanned edges of an open book.

It was one of thou­sands of items of ar­ti­san food and drink from all over Italy (and the world) at the Salone, the five-day, bi-an­nual flag­ship event of Slow Food, the or­gan­i­sa­tion founded in 1989 with a mis­sion to “pre­vent the dis­ap­pear­ance of lo­cal food cul­tures and tra­di­tions, coun­ter­act the rise of fast life and com­bat peo­ple’s dwin­dling in­ter­est in the food they eat”. Terra Madre – lit­er­ally Earth Mother – is the sis­ter group founded in 2004 to give “voice and vis­i­bil­ity to small-scale pro­duc­ers”.

I spent two days wan­der­ing around the four ex­hi­bi­tion halls that oc­cupy more than 58,000sq m/ 69,000 sq yards (for scale, the pitch at Wem­b­ley is just over 7,000sq m). What im­pressed me was not just the pro­duce, but the huge lo­gis­ti­cal ef­fort re­quired to pull the whole show to­gether.

Here you can sam­ple the finest pis­ta­chios from Bronte in Si­cily, parmi­giano-reg­giano (at a stand shaped like a huge wheel of cheese), discs of rus­tic Pugliese bread twice the size of your head, and uber­savoury bot­targa (cured grey mul­let roe from Sar­dinia). In ad­di­tion, there are more than 500 demon­stra­tions, work­shops, tu­to­ri­als, wine and spirit tast­ings, talks and sym­posia tak­ing place at Lin­gotto and venues around the city. If you want to learn about Chi­anti Clas­sico or watch Miche­lin­starred chef Peppe Guida pre­pare in­no­va­tive pasta dishes, Terra Madre is the place to come.

For any food lover, it’s un­miss­able – and yet there is an un­com­fort­able con­tra­dic­tion at the heart of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto. This be­came ap­par­ent at a press con­fer­ence given by the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of Slow Food In­ter­na­tional, in­clud­ing founder Carlo Petrini and noted Cal­i­for­nian chef Al­ice Waters. In what must have been, for those five days, the most ex­trav­a­gantly and abun­dantly catered spot on the planet, I sat in a packed meet­ing room while a mael­strom of gus­ta­tory in­dul­gence and con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion raged in the halls around us, and lis­tened to a litany of chal­lenges to world­wide food se­cu­rity that Slow Food is ad­dress­ing with its Food for Change cam­paign.

Waters talked about her pledge to “pro­vide a free and sus­tain­able school lunch to all stu­dents” and to source the in­gre­di­ents “di­rectly from the farm­ers and ranch­ers”. She de­scribed such ini­tia­tives as “sub­ver­sive” and a prod­uct of “our lessons of the Six­ties”, lan­guage that re­flects not just Slow Food’s ori­gins as Agri­cola – a protest move­ment

Food for thought at the Turin gath­er­ing

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