Los Angeles

Emily in Italy: Slow Food Summer

We’ve been remiss in sharing some of the news from Emily Ventura, the chairperson of our social action committee, as she explores Italy during her year as a Fulbright Fellow. Emily recently attended Terra Madre as a Slow Food USA delegate and will be sharing her observations with us online and in person this winter. In the meantime, we’d like to bring you up to date on her Italian journey.

27 July 2010

Since I last posted on the Slow Food LA blog, my husband Paul and I have moved to Bologna, which has turned out to be the ideal place for us to live for a number of reasons. I travel to both Colorno and Verona for my project, and Bologna is a train hub located in between the two.

But more importantly, Bologna is referred to as the food capital of Italy, which is perfect as I am studying the protective effects of gastronomy in obesity prevention. Bologna is also known as “Bologna la grassa,” or Bologna the fat, a reference that has been attributed to the relative abundance of food that was available here due to the University, which is the oldest in the Western world. Despite the saying, people in Bologna seem less overweight than people in LA. After all I am looking to Italy as a model. But the food is rich, and it could be easy to overdo it.

Can you eat classic Bolognese food regularly and not gain weight? I would argue “yes.” Don’t know if it is that we walk everywhere and have an 88-step climb to our 5th floor apartment, the smaller portion sizes of many of the rich foods, the overall lack of processed foods as compared to the US, or the abundance of excellent fruits and vegetables in the markets, but both Paul and I are holding our own and feeling great.

Another main reason we were drawn to Bologna is that the Slow Food chapter is one of the most active in Italy and has been extremely welcoming. This is important to me because as the Social Action Committee Chair of Slow Food LA, and I think that getting involved here in Bologna will help me learn more about the organization and give me more ideas for projects in the States. Here are a few photos of what I have been doing with Slow Food Bologna so far.

Each Saturday, Slow Food Bologna holds a farmer’s market, called Mercato della Terra. It is much smaller and more intimate than the Hollywood Farmers’ Market where we shop in LA, which has helped us to quickly feel at home. One of the farmers who sells eggs likes to bring a few chickens to the market for everyone to meet. He is very friendly and upon introduction immediately invited us to visit him at his farm.

The chapter also holds regular events in connection with the market. Over the last few weeks I attended two cooking classes in the kitchen of a community center adjacent to the market. The classes started in the late morning and began with a little shopping at the market to pick up the ingredients, followed by a couple hours of cooking, then a group lunch complete with wine made by market vendors. The first class was on biodynamic cooking and the second was on cooking with cherries, which are now in season and are incredible. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera for the cherry class, but here are a few photos from the biodynamic lesson. We made couscous with seasonal vegetables, seitan with fresh herbs, and a clafoutis with strawberries.

Through participating in the classes, I was able to get to know some of the members and the leader Laura, which has helped me to learn about what is going on in the area. One of the members, Lella, who is involved in setting-up community garden projects, took me to a local elementary school where a teacher established a school garden. The kids were already out of session, but it was still worthwhile to visit.

As one of their projects, the kids made a lettuce and herb garden using a potting and drainage system made from recycled water bottles. They were also growing hazelnuts–I had never seen a hazelnut tree before.

At the cooking class, I also met Simone, a young leader of a nearby chapter in Faenza who shares my passion for getting youth involved in Slow Food and making events more accessible and less elite. Last weekend we went on an incredible camping trip with him to an agriturismo that held a festival for 400 people, mostly youth. More to come about this soon.

For the complete story of Emily’s time in Italy, visit her and Paul’s personal blog at slowandspeedy.blogspot.com.