All about Slowfood

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An Overview of the Slow Food Movement

Founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986, Slow Food is an international association that promotes food and wine culture, but also defends food and agricultural biodiversity worldwide.

It opposes the standardisation of taste, defends the need for consumer information, protects cultural identities tied to food and gastronomic traditions, safeguards foods and cultivation and processing techniques inherited from tradition and defend domestic and wild animal and vegetable species. (see our Mission Section)

Slow Food boasts 83,000 members worldwide and offices (in order of creation) in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the USA, France, Japan, and Great Britain.

The network of Slow Food members is organized into local groups—Condotte in Italy and Convivia elsewhere in the world—which, coordinated by leaders, periodically organize courses, tastings, dinners and food and wine tourism, as well as promoting campaigns launched by the international association at a local level. More than 800 Convivia are active in 50 countries (including 400 Condotte in Italy).

Slow Food’s publishing company, Slow Food Editore, specializes in tourism, food and wine. Its catalogue now contains about 60 titles and it also publishes the award-winning quarterly Slow: herald of taste and culture in six languages (Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese) and the attractive, large-format color magazine Slowfood, which comes out in Italian eight times a year.

Slow Food organizes national and international events to further its cause. They include: the Salone del Gusto, the world’s largest quality food and wine fair, held very two years at the Lingotto Exhibition Center in Turin, Cheese, a biennial cheese fair held in Bra, in the province of Cuneo, and Slowfish, an annual exhibition in Genoa devoted to sustainable fishing.

In 2003 Slow Food created the
Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, an independent non-profit entity with the mission to organize and fund projects that defend our world’s heritage of agricultural biodiversity and gastronomic traditions.

The Foundation supports Slow Food’s projects that pursue this mission,
such as the Ark of Taste and the Presidia. The Foundation exists thanks
to the Slow Food movement but also through generous support from public and private donors.

The Ark of Taste, designed and launched by the International Slow Food Movement, was founded to discover, catalogue and safeguard small quality food products and defend biodiversity. The Presidia are organizational units used to promote the products, guarantee their economic and commercial future and, at the same time, protect the land from degradation and create new job opportunities.

The Slow Food Award for the Defense of Biodiversity was instituted in 2000 with the goals of publicizing and rewarding activities of research, production, marketing, popularization and documentation that benefit biodiversity in the agricultural and gastronomic field.

Slow Food’s most recent and innovative initiative was Terra Madre, World Meeting of Food Communities, held in Turin in October 2004, a forum for all those who seek to grow, raise, catch, create, distribute and promote food in ways that respect the environment, defend human dignity and protect the health of consumers.

Alongside activities for the very young, Slow Food also organizes two major adult education projects: the Master of Food, a study syllabus in the wine and food sector split into 20 theme courses, and the University of Gastromic Sciences in Pollenzo, the world’s first academy of ‘eno-gastronomy’, with campuses in Pollenzo, near Bra, and Colorno, near Parma.


About Terre Madre 2006, a unique Slow food event

November 1, 2006

Gathering to Celebrate Food Made the Old, Slow Way

TURIN, Italy

ARTISTS have Burning Man and designers have Fashion Week. For farmers, cooks and the elite troops in the fight against McFood, there is Terra Madre.

The event, first held two years ago, is produced by Slow Food, an international association that mixes food politics with culinary pleasure. The organization is strongest in Italy, where it was founded 20 years ago by Carlo Petrini after he staged a protest against McDonald’s plans to build a restaurant near the Piazza di Spagna in Rome.

A decade later, Slow Food started Salone del Gusto to showcase small producers who couldn’t compete in larger, more commercial food shows. It now draws 120,000 people and earns enough money to help fund Terra Madre, along with heavy subsidies from the Italian government.

The association, which now has 80,000 members in 100 countries, catalogs foods and techniques that are on the verge of extinction. Slow Food also takes on small economic projects called Presidia to help develop better production and economic markets for foods like villsau sheep in Norway, the gravenstein apple in Sonoma County, Calif. or the toasty argan oil of Morocco.

From last Thursday to Monday, more than 8,000 people turned the building that held the 2006 Olympic speed skating oval into a kind of culinary United Nations. Chefs and people who like to eat mixed with the people who actually farm, herd, fish or otherwise create the foods that represent what Slow Food is trying to promote.

Basque shepherds mulled over nomadic herding with Mongolian camel tenders. Indian rice growers mingled with Maine potato farmers. Fishermen traded tastes of wild Northwest smoked salmon and Sicilian Favignana bottarga. And everyone partied with the wild Louisiana shrimpers.

Here is a look from the conference floor.

Thursday’s opening day ceremony featured a parade of flags from 150 nations. Iraq and Iran, two countries President Bush defined as part of the “axis of evil,” received some of the warmest applause, as did the delegation from Lebanon. The crowd also went crazy for the Peruvian flag bearer, but it might have been for the pink hat.

Later in the ceremony, Kamal Mouzawak, founder of the farmers’ market in Beirut — billed as Lebanon’s first — provided one of the most crystallizing moments. Beirut has lost almost all of its public gathering places, which makes the farmers’ market so vital, he said. Without a place to sell local products, farmers lose hope. And without local food traditions, people lose hope, he said.

“If you don’t dream, you don’t exist,” he told the crowd. “So let’s dream together.”

The American delegation included Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, the high priestess and priest of American Slow Food, and a long list of other notable cooks and farmers. Dan Barber from Blue Hill had a high profile, as did Poppy Tooker, a cook from New Orleans who helped save local food icons like Creole cream cheese and wild shrimp after the hurricanes.

For many of the 600 official delegates from the United States, Terra Madre provided a chance to meet people from countries they might not otherwise visit and to buy souvenirs like lip balm from Mali and excellent wool hats from Tajikistan.

Between debates comparing Italian and American agricultural policies and samples of products like Herzegovinian cheese aged in sheepskin sacks, the Americans also had ample opportunity to play at culinary one-upmanship.

People jousted over who had the larger white truffle shaved over their pasta in Alba and who tasted the best vintages of Angelo Gaja’s Barbarescos.

And then there was the Obscure Italian Travel competition. One public relations executive gushed about her trip to the “undiscovered” town of Ancona in Le Marche on the coast. “Nobody goes there yet,” she said.

For trend watchers, here’s a list of what was hot at Terra Madre this year: honey, yak cheese and seeds.

At the informal marketplace that sprang up around the conference rooms, there was probably more honey for sale than anything else. It’s portable, for one thing, making it easy for Terra Madre participants in developing nations to transport it to people willing to pay $6 for a small jar.

At a honey workshop, beekeepers delivered a “honey manifesto” calling for the protection of honey gathered in traditional ways. There was also a lot of discussion about the bee shortage. Climate change, disease and pesticide use are taking out bee populations, leaving farmers with poorly pollinated fields.

As for the yak cheese, look for it at a Slow Food event near you soon. Made on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau from boiled curds, Ragya yak cheese smells a lot like aged pecorino and has twice the fat of cow’s milk cheese. The yak cheese enterprise is one of 200 Slow Food projects designed to safeguard artisan foods, and much of the money from the cheese goes to support a small school founded by a Tibetan monk.

It was the one food Erika Lesser, the executive director of Slow Food in the United States, specifically mentioned on stage, sending out a call to arms to eat more yak cheese.

Seed diversity was another a rallying cry. “Every seed saved is a seed of freedom for the farmer,” said Vandana Shiva, a physicist and author from New Delhi and a leader of the anti-globalization movement. Her seed manifesto was in the hands of many people at Terra Madre.

Workshops explored the disappearing stock of seed varieties and the growth of seeds engineered to produce only one crop, which sends the farmer back to the large corporations to buy more each year.

Alice Waters might have been the biggest American name at the event, but the real American star was Rick Knoll, a scientist-turned-farmer who works a small patch of land in Brentwood, Calif. He and his wife, Kristie, built the farm’s reputation on figs and green garlic.

Along with a handful of other farmers from around the world, Mr. Knoll’s image was on promotional banners hung all over Turin on structures left over from the Olympics.

With his long, white Edgar Winter hair and Converse sneakers, Mr. Knoll was easily recognized, and conference-goers stopped him for photos.

He acted the part, too. After a morning of trying to wade through seminars shakily translated into eight languages, he’d had enough.

“We’re going over to the Salone to drink our body weight in wine,” he said.

The story of Terra Madre didn’t play out at the cured meats seminars or the biodiversity lectures, but rather in little corners and small kitchens.

One afternoon, a Jewish chef and a Muslim chef got together to cook for peace. Moshe Basson of the Eucalyptus restaurant in Jerusalem and Nabil Aho of the Restaurant Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center made a menu from traditional Biblical food, including green wheat soup and musakhan chicken with hummus (and let’s just say it was the best hummus I ever tasted).

Mr. Aho said the dishes they made in Turin were designed to appeal to rich and poor, Christian, Muslim or Jew. “We can all gather around this food,” he said.

The men, part of a small group called Chefs for Peace, believe food is a common language that can help solve the Middle East conflict.

“In most kitchens all over Jerusalem or Tel Aviv there are Palestinian and Israelis cooking together, shoulder to shoulder, with long knives,” said Mr. Basson. “They are not killing each other. They are just trying to make a life.”