Slow Food members in Ticino, the Swiss canton reaching over the southern foothills of the Alps to Lake Maggiore, are celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year. Their convivium, launched in early 1988, was one of the first outside Italy, and its birthday also marks the beginning of the growth of the international Slow Food association, which today counts members in 132 countries.
Slow Food Ticino commemorated their two decades of activity with a series of events held largely in the town of Mendrisio – which joined the Città Slow network this week. On Saturday June 14, a market featuring local Ark of Taste and Presidia products was followed by a celebratory dinner attended by local members, representatives from the Milan, Verase and Treviso convivia as well as international councilors and the president Carlo Petrini.
‘In our first twenty years, we have focused on progressing the Slow Food philosophy through holding Taste Workshops and Master of Food courses, and by working to identify and support local endangered foods for the Ark of Taste and Presidia projects,’ said convivium leader Luca Cavadini. ‘We established the first Swiss Presidium and today we have four Presidia projects in the region.’
While the region’s numerous mountain valleys are still home to distinctive food cultures and strong traditions, the number of local producers and food artisans is decreasing rapidly and many products face an uncertain future.
In Valle Onserone, the Bona Flour Presidium was established to uphold production of this traditional flour made from finely ground toasted-corn. Just one producer exists today, however interest is increasing among local millers and a handful of old water mills are currently being restored.
The convivium’s annual Scarpinata was held two weeks ago in this valley–a day of walking in the mountains to visit remote farms, local foods and learn about the problems facing traditional Alpine producers. Members hiked from the village of Spruga to Capanna Salei at 1,800 meters – a farm and refuge managed by the Ruff family–where they enjoyed a meal of goat’s milk cheeses, salami and polenta.
Among the convivium’s future projects, the Ticino group aims to create Switzerland’s first Slow Food school garden, and to develop a national project and network of school gardens. In addition, they would like to develop a taste education kit.