October marked a milestone in the history of Slow Food in Asia and Oceania, with the continent’s first international event, AsiO Gusto, enjoying success beyond expectations. Held from October 1 to 6 in Namyangju, South Korea, the event welcomed 500,000 visitors, small-scale producers and delegates from 40 countries and showcased the gastronomic diversity of Asia and Oceania, grabbing the attention of national media and sparking momentum in the growing Slow Food movement in the region.
Asia and Oceania are rich in bio- and culinary diversity, counting 100,000 still-cultivated traditional rice varieties, fermented foods, spices and thousands of types of tea, along with the rich gastronomic traditions that have evolved around them. As in other parts of the world however, many of these traditions are at risk of being lost as western influences are embraced and a faster lifestyle increasingly becomes the norm. Many Asian food traditions are important not only because they are strongly linked to the physical health of the people, but also to their spiritual life. Slow Food drew attention to this issue during the event with a wooden model of the Ark of Taste – its catalogue of at-risk products, showcasing 350 of the now-more-than 1,200 Ark products from around the world. The Ark of Taste is finding fertile ground in Asia, with South Korea launching the project with the nomination of eight products.
The Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) was active at the event, with their own booth in the pavilion, a youth conference describing SFYN’s activities in Korea and the world, and two Yori Gamu events: A “Disco Soup” where vegetables that had been rescued from nearby markets destined for the trash were cooked up and given free to visitors in an ambient of music, cocktails and positive energy. AsiO Gusto has been considered a turning point for SFYN in Korea, with the relatively small group connecting with many young farmers, chefs and a large potential network to tap into.
“The unexpected number of visitors – double than the already optimistic prediction – to this small city, the positive feedback and energy and enthusiasm felt over the last few days has given a strong indication that people here are ready to challenge the current food system,” said Kim ByungSoo, organic farmer and Slow Food International Councilor for South Korea.
“This edition of AsiO Gusto is just the beginning.”