With the United Nations declaring 2008 the ‘International Year of the Potato’, Slow Food convivia around the world are taking up the theme. The UN has dedicated the year to the potato to raise awareness of the importance of this tuber – and of agriculture in general – in addressing global concerns such as hunger, poverty and environmental degradation.
The forth staple in the world after corn, wheat and rice, the potato originates from South America, where it has always been very important in local diets. The Andean Sweet Potatoes Presidium is assisting producers in the potato’s birthplace, where they have been farmed across the mountains for 8000 years. Mariana Herrera Bellido’s short film Sawasiray-Pitusiray recounts the life of the Andean Potato Producers food community who are growing hundreds of potato varieties on this rocky terrain.
Slow Food Brazil is encouraging cooks to highlight the importance of the potato by participating in the Chefs Against Hunger project, developed by the Hunger-Free Latin America and Caribbean Initiative. This project invites chefs and cooks to help eliminate hunger in the region by sharing recipes based on the potato, helping those living in poverty to enrich their food preparations with healthier and more interesting dishes and to contribute to maintaining the gastronomic diversity in the region.
In potato country in southeastern Australia, Slow Food Central Victoria has joined forces with Slow Food Ballarat to celebrate the potato in numerous ways. Local Terra Madre chef Gary Thomas has developed an educational activity ‘Spudhunters’ to teach the young about the cultivation and preparation of various potato varieties, a ‘potato’ dinner hosted by Terra Madre chef Peter Ford and was held at the Ballarat Farm Expo last Wednesday and the Big School Potato Cook-Off is happening in April. All these activities and more are being tracked on a blog where you can also follow the growth of a potato crop planted by school children on a local farm.
In France, the national association dedicated their first National Slow Food Day to the potato. Convivia were invited to arrange activities with a focus on potatoes that demonstrated how the Slow Food philosophy of ‘good, clean and fair’ can be applied and accessible in everyday life – bringing together awareness, pleasure, and health. Tastings and presentations of traditional varieties, conferences and thematic dinners were held around the country.