Wednesday, October 28

The afternoon that made me change my mind about the food I eat..

This is a long post.  But bear with me, please!

Recently I had the most enlightening afternoon.  It was a Sunday, and my hubby and frills dropped me down to Manly Wharf... I embarked on my ferry journey, Sushi in one hand, Sun Herald in the other and sat in silence reading the paper uninterrupted, taking in Sydneys' sights - the familiar ones I took in daily on my commute to and from work for many years.

I then walked around Circular Quay, I looked and felt like a tourist.  Although I have been there too many times to count, it was like the fist time again, I took photos I breathed in Sydney and its' beautiful harbour and made my way to the Sydney Opera House.

I was there to listen to the Slow Food Movements' "Padre", Carlo Petrini. 

Carlo the founder of the Slow Food Movement and the Non Profit organisation 'Terra Madre' (translates to Mother Earth) which is in 150 countries worldwide.  Maggie Beer is Australias' founding member.

Carlo is Italian, and speaks with an interpreter.. but there is no barrier when it comes to his passion and inspiring manner.  He told us of some experiences that confused, perplexed and drove him to start the movement.  One that will stay with me forever is this:

Carlo comes from a small town in North Italy in Piedmont - it's called 'Bra'.  Piedmonts' regional dish is Pepperonata - a dish of capsicums, tomato, garlic and tomates using Piedmonts' local Capsicums.  These square shaped capsicums grown in the area since forever.   He decided after a long overseas trip he would fly into Rome, and drive to Milan, passing through Bra, which he hadn't visited in about 6 years.

He popped into a local eatery, one he had visited since he was a boy and was a family business.  All he could think about on the trip up is how delicious the pepperonata was going to be, how it represented the produce and the culture of his hometown.  He stepped into the eatery, and was comforted by the familiarity of the decor and the local face, and ordered his Pepperonata.  He was excited.  It arrived, and took a bite, and then spat it out.  It tasted horrible.  He said it didn't taste like anything.  He called the chef over, asked how they prepared it.  Sounded about right.  Asked what was different, they said they were getting their capsicums from Holland.  He was in disbelief.. 'why'? 

Apparently, because they were cheaper and grown hydroponically, and were all the perfect size/identical so they could fit 32 in a box.

'But they don't taste like anything, can't you get the local ones instead'
'There are no local ones, they couldn't compete with the imports'
'So what are the farmers doing now?  Are they ruined?' he was concerned.
'Oh, they are growing tulip bulbs, and export them to Holland'.


The aims of Slow Food is to make food good, clean and fair.

Good: Fresh, flavoursome and seasonal, satisfying the senses and part of local culture
Clean:  Produced in harmony with the environment and in ways that respect the earth, its animals, plants and peoples' health.
Fair:  by which farmers and consumers benefit fairly from production and purpose

In other words - we should try:
Not over-producing - keeping the crops to a level that doesn't harm the soil, being seasonal etc.
Buying and supplying local - reducing carbon footprint - understand where your food comes from
Value the skills of farmers, allow that to be passed down, appreciate the difference - pay a little more to nurture local produce.

It all got me thinking.  Yes, I do buy local, we buy from farmgate and the abbatoir.  Yes, I try to eat as seasonally as possible.  But No.  I might not be doing the best I can.

I have bought fish and seafood from Asia and I have bought in my inbetween shops fruit from the other side of the country when I should really be supporting local produce from my state, no matter what the price.

So I could be doing a whole lot better.  I have no idea if fruit and vegetables from large chain supermarkets or fruit barns (i.e. not farmers markets) are being farmed in an overproductive market.  Sometimes I'm not 100% sure they are as local as they say they are.  I will go the extra (literal) miles to make sure I know in future.    Our vegetable garden will help us this summer eat seasonally, understand how much we consume.  Be mindful of how much we waste.

Carlo told us we produce enough food to feed 12 billion people on planet of 6.3 billion, yet 1 billion still starve.  

Are you willing to give up taste/culture for a few dollars?  Not me.  The most memorable quote of the day: "When I was a child, food fell on the ground, we picked it up & kissed it. It had value, but now it only has a price..."   how sadly true that is.

I got to briefly chat with Carlo whilst he signed my book Slow Food Nation - he has warm eyes and a genuine manner.  It was an enormous honour to listen to him.  I shall be forever grateful for what he taught me.. and in turn, my family.  The book is wonderful... would recommend it to any food or produce enthusiast.

A huge thank you to Lorraine who was able to secure me the ticket and the lovely Arwen and Trish for the excellent company and post-event discussion!

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1 lovely comments:

Arwen from Hoglet K on October 29, 2009 at 4:09 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Lovely meeting you Liss! It was an inspiring talk, and certainly left me thinking about how to eat better.


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