From June 14-16, Istanbul hosts the Slow Food International Council, the organization’s highest guiding body. The assembly represents the main forum for dialog between local Slow Food representatives and will outline the key strategies for Slow Food international for the next year. With more than 50 councilors coming from 40 countries, representing all five continents, the Council reflects the highly international nature of the organization. In the past days, having followed the development of the events in Istanbul on the spot, especially at Gezi Park, Slow Food can but express its personal support of the young protesters’ pleas, some of which are part of our network and who thus constructed a vegetable garden because they want to defend, along with one of the few remaining green areas in Istanbul, the idea of a more sustainable development through democratic participation. The Council is coming together for the first time since its reorganization during the Slow Food International Congress in Turin, in October 2012.
Since its foundation by President Carlo Petrini in 1989, Slow Food has grown into an international organization with numerous representatives from 150 different countries, who mostly work as volunteers. Slow Food’s Vice-President and renowned American chef, restaurateur, food activist, and author Alice Waters will join the many other international delegates such as agronomist Edward Mukiibi from Uganda and Joris Lohman, chairman of the Youth Food Movement in the Netherlands.
Turkey as the host country for the Slow Food International Council meeting illustrates the organization’s global activities and particularly the intensified work Slow Food has recently started to undertake in Turkey and the Balkans. In the region, Slow Food aims to promote the culinary heritage and identify and protect local products, which have potential to contribute to the countries’ development.
Istanbul has always represented a bridge between the East and the West, the urban and the rural. The choice of this setting for the Council meeting marks Slow Food’s new focus on emerging countries. In fact, with three convivia and the largest convivium in the Balkans, Istanbul symbolizes the success Slow Food has lately had in the region in establishing a large network. Istanbul was also chosen to honor the remarkable work accomplished by the Terra Madre Balkans network to promote sustainable small-scale producers and by activists to safeguard a beloved local fish through the Don’t Let the Lüfer Go Extinct! campaign.
The International Council meeting will also serve as the occasion to globally relaunch the Ark of Taste, project catalogue of food products at risk of disappearing. The Ark of Taste travels the world collecting small-scale quality products that belong to the cultures, history and traditions of the entire planet: an extraordinary heritage of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, sweets and cured meats. It was created to point out the existence of these products, draw attention to the risk of their extinction within a few generations and invite everyone to take action to help protect them. Over the following months Slow Food will focus on the Ark of Taste with the goal of identifying more and more traditional products tied to a certain territory, especially in areas such as Turkey and the Balkans where there exists a great patrimony of biodiversity which remains largely undiscovered.