Slow Food’s International Governors met for three days of intense discussion this weekend in the Austrian region of Burgenland. Eisenstadt, a charming town famous as the birthplace of Haydn and for its Esterhazy castle, hosted the group of over 30 Slow Food International Governors and Vice-presidents. The Slow Food Governors are elected every four years and meet annually to discuss topical issues, to update the international offices, and to vote on proposals made by the International President’s Committee and Slow Food offices.
On Saturday June 15, Vice-President Giulio Colomba opened the discussion with a call for renewal, declaring that ‘Slow Food is increasingly concerned with issues that are not specific to a single nation, hence we have to enhance our international character more and more.’ Renato Sardo, Director of the Slow Food International Office in Bra continued with a presentation of last year’s balance-sheet and the budget for the 2002. He described ongoing trends in the international movement, such as booming membership in Japan and America, and the record number of convivia in over 80 countries.
As Sardo announced, ‘The first International Statute was written in 1998. Since the Movement has grown and changed in the past four years, the Statute too has to grow and change’. To this end, Vice-President Friederike Klatt presented a proposal from the Slow Food President’s Committee to revise the international structure with the drawing up of a new International Statute. At the closure of the meeting, the group elected a panel of eleven individuals, representing Italy, America, Germany, Switzerland, France, Australia, and the United Kingdom to draft the new International Statute. This International Statute will redefine the structure of all national Slow Food Movements, and will be voted upon at the next Slow Food International Congress in 2003.
The governors also voted to approve the constitution of the new Slow Food Foundation, which will promote food biodiversity through the Ark project, the International Presidia, and various publications and initiatives. On the second day,, each governor from around the Slow globe updated the meeting about new activities and changes in the movement in their home countries. American governor Barbara Bowman described the School Gardens project currently underway in the USA, and German governor Andrea Arcais presented products recently added to the German Ark. Slow Food governors Sandro Desii (Spain), Andrea Van Gemst (Holland), Rafael Perez and Luca Cavadini (Switzerland), Frank Marciano (Turkey), Vassilis Nikolakis (Greece), James Broadway (Australia), Bent Christensen (Denmark) each took the podium to speak about the challenges and successes of Slow Food around the world.
David Escofet, who recently opened Slow Food’s newest national office in Spain, presented a piece of particularly exciting news namely the possibility of hosting the Slow Food Award 2004 in Barcelona – while Charlotte Paressant, coordinator of Slow Food France, outlined the proposal to present the International Congress in Lyon next spring (2003).
Given that Slow Food is all about conviviality – as well as enjoying and promoting the best foods every nation has to offer – the group of International Governors were pleasurably obliged to sample, sip, and savor many of Burgenland’s finest foods and wines.
Chef Gerhard Windholz, leader of the Nordburgenland convivium, prepared the first evening’s banquet at the Esterhazy Castle with a host of fine Burgenland specialties (which guests enjoyed after a first course of Haydn trios), including deep-fried chicken, thinly sliced gherkins seasoned with fennel seeds, and a rich potato salad. The dinner tables were laid through a string of glorious high-ceilinged rooms decorated with fine 18th-century chinoiserie.
On the second day, a buffet of the typical produce of local organic farmers was served at the Leinerhaus with wines selected by the Pretterebner cellar and the Weinidylle winemakers‘ association.
The evening was dedicated to excellent Burgenlandian wines. It started with the induction of Slow Food Vice-President Giulio Colomba into the European Knights of Wine in the town of Donnerskirchen. Afterwards, the group proceeded to a tasting and dinner at the town’s Leisserhof cantina and restaurant. Specialties of the house were tiny sweet crostini topped with chopped raw lake trout and excellent stewed wild pig.
After the meetings closed at midday on Sunday, the drinking and eating began in earnest with a tasting of salty strudels at the Rusterhof restaurant in the town of Rust, followed by a fantastic series of sweet wines, botrytized wines and Eisweins from the vineyards surrounding Lake Neusiedler (an event hosted by the Kracher cantina). The long weekend ended on a high note with a Austro-Hungarian feast at Zur Dankbarkeit restaurant, featuring a paprika-laden fish soup, sausages, cooked kraut and heaps of fine local strawberries.
The three-day event was made possible thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Slow Food Governor Beatrice Jandresits (Austria), the leader of the Nordburgenland Convivium Gerhard Windholz, Slow Food member Ernst Engel and the generous collaboration of the Burgenland Regional Government, the Burgenland Tourism Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Chamber of Commerce and other public and private sponsors. Raimondo Cusmano, from the Slow Food International Office in Bra was responsible for the event coordination.
Anya Fernald, winner of a Watson Fellowship for the study of artisan cheese in Europe and Africa in 1998, has worked for the Consorzio Ricerca Filiera Lattiero-Casearia in Sicily. She currently works for Slow Food.