Slow Food

The Academic World Meets the Food Communities

Italy - 27 Oct 06

As part of the Terra Madre meeting of food communities, 400 professors and researchers gathered this morning at 10.30 in the main lecture hall of the University of Turin for the Assembly of the Universities of Terra Madre 2006. They are specialists in range of fields, representing almost 250 academic institutions in 50 countries around the world. The speakers were Andrea Bairati, Councillor for Research and Universities for the Piedmont Regional Authority; Ezio Pellizzetti, Rector of the University of Turin; Alberto Capatti, Dean of the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo and Colorno; the French economist Serge Latouche from the University of Paris-Sud; Jiefar Emerio Diaz Navarro, Chancellor of the University Guillermo Urrelo in Peru; the American anthropologist Carole Counihan from Millersville University in Pennsylvania; and Carlo Petrini, President of the Terra Madre Foundation. The moderator was Cinzia Scaffidi, head of the Slow Food Research Center, and she opened the proceedings saying that Terra Madre was an unusual, complicated and disordered phenomenon, but that complexity and confusion were an indispensable part of existence. Carlo Petrini, while admitting that 250 university professors were just a small fraction of the academic world, said he was confident of success. Since this is the first time a meeting of food producers, cooks and universities has been held, he said, it breaks all the unspoken rules and will hopefully help to change the academic world’s superior attitude. Farmers and food producers are looked down on because they are uneducated and don’t have political support, and the religion of economics scorns them as society’s losers. But, said Petrini, there’s everything to learn from the innately holistic vision of traditional food producers. There are three things which the academics must do with the rural world, he concluded: listen, archive and work together to build a new kind of knowledge. Ezio Pellizzetti focused on problems relating to the environment, while Alberto Capatti described how the University of Gastronomic Sciences was born out of the necessity to elevate the concept of gastronomy and recognize its complexity. He also welcomed the delegates, and said that they were all here to ‘give our present a future’. Serge Latouche said he did not speak as a professor but as a representative of the philosophical movement of Décroissance (degrowth) which has for some time been confronting Slow Food issues like conviviality combined with sustainability. Jiefar Emerio Diaz Navarro, recalling how the Incas worshipped Mother Earth, made a forceful case for the protection of biodiversity, particularly in an area he knows well, the Cordillera of the Andes. It’s so varied in terms of geography, he said, that it would be impossible to adopt the monoculture system just to satisfy the demands of the market. The collaboration between cooks and food producers was important, he continued, and cooks must use more local foods. However the interaction with the academic world is also fundamental, he concluded. Carole Counihan told the audience of how when she was a child she thought Cortez was a hero, but as an adult she discovered that he was the man responsible for the destruction of the great culture of the native Americans, for example bringing in intensive cultivation which destroyed the existing biodiversity and brought disease. Since academics have access to a greater public than the food producers, they must take it on themselves to attract the attention of politicians and make them realize the importance of defending good, clean and fair values which Slow Food advocates.