With its immense range of gastronomic cultures and rich heritage of plant and animal diversity, not to mention the global impact of the food choices of its over 4 billion inhabitants, Asia is undoubtedly a strategic continent for the challenges of Slow Food.
The association’s work is benefitting from growing enthusiasm in a number of countries and more attention being paid to environmental issues, like the sustainability of agricultural production. This increased awareness is reflected in the projects that Slow Food has been developing in Asia, including over 200 food communities, 14 Presidia, four Earth Markets and almost 300 Ark of Taste products.
There is no question that China’s role is crucial: Covering a surface area almost the size of Europe, the country is the world’s biggest agricultural producer and third-largest producer of organic food. The arrival of Slow Food Great China in January 2015 reflects a growing awareness in the country around sustainable food issues, and the new branch of the association will be running a series of events to promote local food and bring producers into contact with each other and the market.
For example, the Slow Food Beijing Festival will be held in Beijing from September 23 to 26. The four days will be an opportunity to delve further into Slow Food themes like the value of local cultures and traditions, biodiversity protection and the importance of food and taste education. The event will include a Forum and various workshops, during which food professionals will be able to share their experiences and discuss critical issues surrounding food production. The event will also dedicate plenty of space to the Ark of Taste, with a presentation of the first 100 Chinese foods to board the Ark and an exhibition explaining the importance of the international catalog. An area will also be set aside for tasting Slow Food Presidia, in order to introduce the products to the Chinese public. Organized in collaboration with Beijing airport’s Free Trade Zone (Beijing Design Week section), the event’s partners include the Shunxin Agriculture Group and Air China.
The next Indigenous Terra Madre will be held a few months later. Organized for the first time in 2011 in Jokkmokk, in Sweden’s Sápmi region, this is Slow Food’s first event dedicated entirely to indigenous peoples. The event brings together representatives of indigenous communities from around the world to celebrate their food cultures and local biodiversity. This year it will be held in Shillong, in the Meghalaya region of northeast India, from November 3 to 7, and is the result of a collaboration between the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty, Slow Food International and the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS).
The event will involve 40 Indian villages and numerous food communities, giving a voice to some of the most marginalized members of society, like women and small-scale food producers. Indigenous Terra Madre is an important opportunity for reflecting on the evolution of food and on agroecological issues relevant to indigenous peoples. Debate and discussion facilitate the sharing of skills and knowledge, promoting and supporting an environmental standard that means all people can enjoy food that is good for everyone and the planet.
During the same month, from November 18 to 22, the Slow Food Asia Pacific Festival (formerly known as AsiOGusto) will be held at the Korea International Exhibition Center (KINTEX) in South Korea. The event has been inspired by Turin’s Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, a biennial reference point for everyone in the world who shares Slow Food’s philosophy. Organized by Slow Food Korea, in collaboration with Slow Food International and Design House Inc., the event will bring together over 50 international exhibitors and over 300 from Korea, including small-scale producers, artisans, food communities, chefs and young people with an interest in food.
The program has two main themes, Memories of Taste and Five Elements at the Table, and includes workshops and thematic areas dedicated to the main Slow Food issues. In the Terra Madre area, 500 people from the association’s network will be participating in workshops dedicated to the discovery of traditional tastes through the five senses and the elements of the universe. Particular attention has been dedicated to education, with workshops for children and conferences for adults taking an in-depth look at all aspects of food.
Pack your suitcase: This autumn, Slow Food is travelling to Asia!