The Slow Food Award ceremony was held on Saturday, October 13 in the austere setting of the Mosteiro de Sao Bento da Vitória, a seventeenth-century Benedictine monastery high up among the lanes and alleys of Oporto old town. The event, dedicated to everyone anywhere who contributes in some way to the conservation of biodiversity, was presented by Manuel Luis Goucha, host of the Portuguese TV breakfast show Praça da Alegria and a refined chef himself (‘Entrei para a televisão pela porta da cozinha’ – I entered television by the kitchen door – he quipped).
Slow Food president Carlo Petrini began his keynote speech by expressing his satisfaction that Portugal, the first European country to declare its gastronomy a national heritage, had agreed to host the Slow Food Award, which he dubbed as ‘a sort of Nobel Prize for Biodiversity’. He went on to describe the winners of the award as defenders of a world heritage – the concept of ‘heritage’ was very much the leitmotiv of his intervention – and defined the award itself as an ‘acid test’ for the defense of biodiversity and natural eating throughout the world.
At the end of his speech Petrini passed the microphone to Jorge Monteiro, president of the Instituto do Vinho Porto, who welcomed the packed audience of award winners, journalists, jurors and Slow Food members to his native city.
Vitor Barros, Portuguese secretary of state for rural development, then congratulated Slow Food for promoting solidarity between agriculture and nature, a theme reiterated by Luis Braga da Cruz, the Portuguese economy minister, who praised the Bra-based movement for asserting genuine regional values and defending local products. He stressed how proud Porto was to host the award ceremony and emphasized the importance of rewarding the efforts of men and women who, often unnoticed, have dedicated their lives to the defense of biodiversity. He added that the preservation of such values is part and parcel of the Portuguese government’s strategies at home and abroad. Last but not least, Maria José Ritta, the wife of the President of Portugal, praised the quality and spirit of the Slow Food movement, pointing out that the art of eating slowly and well also embodies the art of socializing. She emphasized Portugal’s role as a crossroads open to the world and argued that the culture of gastronomy goes hand in hand with the culture of safety and wellbeing.
After the speeches, the prizes were presented to the 14 winners: Thierno Maadjou Bah and Mamadou Mouctar Sow (Guinea), the Amal Cooperative (Morocco), Noel Honeyborne (South Africa), Carlos Lewis (Argentina), Pablo Jara (Chile), Doña Sebastina Juarez Broca (Mexico), Adriana Valcarcel (Perù), the Organización Chuyma Aru, represented by the Chambi brothers, Nestor and Walter(Perù), Kuang Choon Rew (South Korea), Bija Devi (India), Predrag Peca Petrovic (Serbia), Necton – Companhia Portuguesa de Culture Marinhas, represented by João Navalho (Portugal), Marie Noëlle Anderson (Switzerland) and the poppy growers of Ismailkoy, represented by Recep Koç (Turkey). The award motivations were read respectively by Deh-Ta Hsiung (China), Antonio Attore (Italy) , Margarida Nogueira (Brazil), Haim Gan (Israel), Yutaka Baba (Japan), Lise Lykke Steffensen (Denmark), Kamal Mouzawak (Lebanon), Virginia Kristensen (Portugal), Jacek Palasinski (Poland), Ja, Arend Schulp (The Netherlands), Melvyn Minnaar (South Africa), Kim Jung Duk (South Korea), Dolores Vicioso (Dominican Republic) and Nancy Harmon Jenkins (USA), each in his or her own language of origin. Each winner received a check of 3,500 euros.
Carlo Petrini then announced the names of the special Jury Award Awards, voted for by a jury of over 500 distinguished figures from the various sectors of the food and wine world. They were:
the Amal Women’s Cooperative of Morocco for their work in protection of the argan tree;
Bija Devi of India for her organization of the Navdanya project for the defense of biodiversity;
Thierno Maadjou Bah and Mamadou Mouctar Sow of Guinea, Africa for their commitment to the revival of the néré tree;
Doña Sebastiana Juarez Broca of Mexico for her pioneering role in the organic cultivation of cocoa;
Joao Navalho of Portugal for keeping alive the ancient Algarve tradition of quality salt production.
Each received an extra check of 7,500 euros.
The awards were presented respectively by Alberto Capatti, editor of Slow, Vandana Shiva, the celebrated Indian environmental activist, José Esquinas Alcazar of FAO, Maria José Ritta, the first lady of Portugal and Luis Braga da Cruz, the Portuguese economy minister.
Finally, Carlo Petrini presented Esquinas Alcazar with a special award for his work as Secretary to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
The ceremony ended in a flurry of flash bulbs as photographers jostled to immortalize the award winners. After which, the whole party moved on to the Alfàndega Nova, or customs building, for a special gala dinner. Needless to say, a great time was had by all!
John Irving is the editor of the Slow Food www.slowfood.com website
In the photo: Carlo Petrini speaks