In a moment when Greece finds itself in troubled economic waters, the Slow Food Patmos Convivium will this weekend hold a festival dedicated to celebrating the diverse gastronomic traditions of the island, providing an example of the promotion of traditional products as the way forward.
The event, which will unite the various convivia on the shores of the Aegean Sea, will also feature a panel discussion attended by the Greek Minister of Agriculture, focusing on how to protect Greek culinary heritage.
Event organizer Marika Zisyadis highlighted the need to make the public aware of the disappearance of local products and ancestral techniques, and to develop common objectives. She emphasized the importance of “presenting and promoting the Slow Food philosophy to the Greek public, which finds itself in a period of deep crisis.” Zisyadis is however, optimistic: “I believe this period provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the economic system that has been imposed on us.”
Zisyadis fears that Greek heritage is in danger. Speaking about the island of Patmos she explained, “Where tourism grows, even though there isn’t a huge amount here, it comes with financial reward and everything becomes standardized.” Culinary traditions are still alive in home cooking, she says, but without financial incentives, many refuse to use these to promote the local area and instead, prefer to sell pizza and continental breakfasts.
In Zisyadis’ point of view, the need to earn money is clearly paramount, but pleasure and pride should not fall by the wayside: “Many Greeks are starting to vocalize possible alternatives to aid the country in its progress, and the promotion of Greece itself is a focal point in this period of great transition.”
Many believe that Greece must escape its high-import habits and return to producing. Especially with the burden of debt looming over the country, rather than rely mainly on tourism, if the production and promotion of local, sustainable and traditional food were to increase, it could certainly help in alleviating at least some of the hardship.
The event will also be a chance to highlight the importance of the Ark of Taste in safeguarding the biodiversity in the region. So far nine Greek products have been catalogued on the Ark, including Feta made in barrels, an artisanal product in competition with its industrially produced rivals.
Due to its close proximity to Turkey and in an expression of mutual support, several Turkish convivia will also be in attendance. As an illustration of the wealth of diversity in the area, all represented regions will have their products showcased and cooking workshops will offer visitors the chance to discover traditional Turkish dishes.