‘Dedicating an edition of Slow to blood, the art of cutting meat and the fingers of butchers, carvers and carnivores is tantamount to breaking a taboo. In these years of anguish over farming methods and their consequences for the consumer, it means taking a good look at the way we organize pleasure and disguise death. Of all the rituals of taste, those related to the consumption of meat have been used to impose health and religious regulations, dictating values in all areas, including the senses. Meat-eating has cemented the cultural identity of entire peoples. Its historical dimension is undeniable. To speak out or keep silent about blood, to hide or unsheathe the knife blade, are actions whose value is not contingent. They have no news value. Such gestures are bound up with deeply buried experiences and knowledge. The BSE scandal is incomprehensible without a scenario of this kind, and inevitable because of the butchering and consumer processes that led to its explosion. If human and animal diets intermingle and come into conflict; if cows are fed with their own body products, threatening human health, if butchering itself becomes impossible and is replaced by the slaughter of a whole flock, then a new ethic is required to provide equilibrium.
‘If we take a step back to better understand the future, through analysis of errors of behavior and of judgment committed during the modernization process, we realize how the farm food system invites the consumer to remain in ignorance, and demands obedience to new rules which have no foundation in the past. The boneless Fiorentina steak, the headless calf, all the cuts motivated by abstract modeling of meat: these are the monstrous offspring of fear, and fear alone legitimizes their existence. For the sake of appearances, they accelerate the dismemberment of the animal and the denaturalization of the vegetable.’
This passage, taken from Alberto Capatti’s editorial to Slow 26, sums up why we decided to dedicate the central sections of this number to butchering, blood and cutting and carving. The idea was to address head-on aspects that are usually swept discreetly under the carpet, and to address them without hypocrisy or even the slightest hint of saccharine. In other words, we wanted to face up to reality, warts and all. Hence wandering after herds of pigs in India (Radha Kapoor Sharma), nosing around Islamic butchers’ shops (Florence Bergeaud Blackler), collecting chicken’s blood and cooking the stuff (Annie Hubert), recounting daily bloodletting in abbatoirs and farms (Eric Rolls) and investigating the art of carving (Barbara Santich and Jane Cobbi) seemed to us ‘effective antidotes to the laws that abstractly guide us and determine our perception of life and death by canceling them out’.
The new number of Slow also takes a look at the catering industry. Ursula Heinzelmann and Fabrizia Morandi guide us round two typical Berlin establishments, the Weinstein and Haus Vaterland, Helena and John Baker describe day to day eating and drinking in post-Communist Prague, and Roz Crowley describes the new trends on the Irish restaurant scene, which is currently experiencing a new fusion of European and eastern traditions.
Sylvie Guichard Anguis and Sophie Agata Ambroise speak, respectively, of Japanese herbs and herbalists, while, last but not least, Anna Meroni demonstrates how industrial design can do its bit for food products, developing attractive solutions for consumer and environment alike.
The number closes with Sloworld, a new section dedicated to the life and times of Slow Food, and featuring interviews with governors and convivium leaders, news about the latest Slow Food Editore publications and much, much more besides. In this number, for example, you’ll also find articles about Slow Food taste education projects, the tenth anniversary of Slow Food Deutschland, the upcoming Slow Food on Film festival in Bra and an interview with the SF chapter in Rome.
Elena Marino, a journalist, works for Slow Food Editore
Adapted by John Irving