Three Ideas, One Project

18 Nov 2005

As 2005 draws to an end, it is now our job to map out our association’s future and to make the present set-up more organic, capable of embracing the new ‘souls’ keen to become part of the movement.

2004 saw the inauguration of the Agenzia di Pollenzo complex, the commencement of degree courses at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, a huge Salone del Gusto and the amazing Terra Madre event. In all our almost twenty years’ existence, never had so many and such important projects come to fruition in such a short period of time. We must congratulate ourselves, but we must also complement the satisfaction for our success in achieving these ambitious goals with new objectives, new strategies and new considerations that must be shared as much as possible by members of our association.

Although we have always striven to comprehend the complexities of the world around us — through food culture, the promotion of best practice in agriculture and a constant learning approach to the ideas running through a new gastronomy — today we can claim, to some extent, to embody this complexity. We are part of it and it is our job to manage it according to our own philosophy — or, rather, according to our own cultural project. In this respect, two elements that are changing us radically and will — if we wish — improve us by making our action more complete and more complex. These two elements are Terra Madre and the University of Gastronomic Sciences.

Last year’s Terra Madre was sensational, moving and packed with content throughout. However, to the unforgettable memory of the event as such we have to add the consideration we made during the last Slow Food plenary assembly. The consideration, which opens up whole new prospects, was that Terra Madre was effectively set into action at the very moment at which it came to an end at the Palazzo del Lavoro Turin.

The fact is that we now have a network of 5,000 people from 1,200 food communities, who have returned home in the knowledge that they now form part of one vast project — of a sort of original new, food multinational. Wethus have two objectives now: first, to strengthen this network by helping the relationships and exchanges generated in Turin to grow and to multiply and, secondly, to welcome new entities —the producer communities — into our movement.

These groups empathized with the Slow Food message immediately, creating a relationship of both affection and belonging: in short, they now feel part and parcel of our movement. For this reason, Slow Food must put into place systems that will permit the relationship to become both tangible and useful for all concerned. Remember: our association is our foundation stone, and membership is still a core value.

In 2005, therefore, we can claim that, alongside the historic, fundamental and consolidated system of the Convivia, a new system has to be built and consolidated: the network of Terra Madre producer communities. I believe this network should be brought together again at a second Terra Madre event, in 2006 again in conjunction with the Salone del Gusto.

The second important element that is changing us is the University of Gastronomic Sciences, which, though formally external to Slow Food, is, in reality, one of its many offshoots. This is the greatest embodiment of the educational and cultural efforts that we are making to create a ‘new gastronomy’, an expression of our relationship with the world and of our international character. Here is another indispensable new element to link with Slow Food as part of a broader system/movement. From this point of view, it will, arguably, be necessary to forge relationships with other universities all over the world, which can act as reference points or terminals for the association and the network of Terra Madre communities in their own countries.

This is what we are becoming: a movement that, once ‘eco-gastronomic’, might now be defined as ‘neo-gastronomic’, by which I mean a heterogeneous group of people from every nation in the world committed to the study, promotion and implementation of a new idea of gastronomy that demands attention to production, consumption, sustainability, quality and social justice.

With this in mind, the next step will necessarily be our association’s return to the kitchens and to a dialogue with people who work with food. On the one hand, the commitment of chefs and cooks all around the world to connect with the producer communities and to use their products: on the other, a University that studies both gastronomy and ‘agro-ecology’ and cooking techniques. Three elements and three different faces of one huge project: a new form of gastronomy that represents pleasure, respect for humankind and nature and, inevitably, a political activity based on the most central factor of human existence (even if many seem to have forgotten the fact!) — food.

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