02 Aug 2002

Slow 31 heralds a return to the stove and to the kitchen, the place where food is actually prepared: from the trendiest fusion restaurant in Amsterdam to a house in the village of Antonito, South Colorado, where we see men’s hands stirring chile, to the galleys on the fishing boats in the Italian region of the Marche. Speaking of fusion cooking and men at the stove and workplace meals – including schiticchi , the feasts of boiled mutton so beloved of Mafiosi (I. De Francisci, Eating with Cosa Nostra) – we inevitably end up in the kitchen. In the first case, we explore the audacious but not always successful fusion assemblages, first devised theoretically and only subsequently tried out and actually cooked. This is the latest fad in the wake of nouvelle cuisine and world cuisine. But what will we be left with in a few years’ time? Memories of sushi with foie gras maybe? It’s worth a bet that the most artificial combinations of all will soon disappear anyway since there’s no one around capable of consigning them to posterity, argues Philip Sinsheimer (It depends what you mean). One reason for this is that the agribusiness sector hasn’t taken too many risks in this respect – which is something of an omen in itself! The phenomenon continues to expand, though, and here we take a look at what could turn out to be a form of Italian fusion (P. Gho, Presidium Inflation), and what was, arguably, fusion cooking ahead of its time (the first ever matching of local foods with condiments and ingredients which crossed the seven seas to offer immigrants a memory of their homeland (S. Cinotto, America’s Italiano). Obviously our analysis doesn’t here. What about crossovers between food and beverages born at different ends of the globe? And what about art when it turns industrial plastic waste into fake blue and green spaghetti? Read all about it in the fall.

Of all the kitchens visited, glanced at and imagined, where the ‘dilettante’ chef Drouard and others who either think they’re designers or are on designers’ payrolls cook with variable degrees of success (L. Vercelloni, Searching for lost tastes), one is conspicuous by its absence. I refer to the school or factory canteen kitchen – or rather the maternal figure of the canteen cook. Hers is a breed that’s now extinct, replaced by heated trolleys loaded with waiting trays of nutritionally perfect food – with just the right calorie count, true, but also a disaster from the taste point of view – most of whose contents are invariably bound for the trash can. Carla Barzanò ‘s Milan-Berlin comparison pauses to reflect on Italian school catering, which spends on logistics (dietologists, nutritionists, hygienic safety, self-control systems, personnel refresher courses etc) twice what it invests in food itself. The upshot is that dissatisfied young diners are increasingly attracted by snacks and the like. This is another topic we intend to follow up in the future.
In this number, finally, Slow returns to the subject of markets. Here, in fact, Sasha Cooklin takes us on a tour of the Carmel in bomb-shocked Tel Aviv, where people go out to eat and sit at bars as a way of feeling alive and coming to terms ‘with silly sagacity … [and] upbeat, street cred’ with the things that on 99 levels have changed in the city lately.

Simona Luparia is an editorial secretary at Slow Food Editore

Adapted by John Irving

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