Slow Food Los Angeles is highlighting the Terra Madre experiences, ideas and perspectives from our L.A.-based delegates in the coming weeks. This week’s post is by Food Forward Founder and talented photographer Rick Nahmias. Rick’s passion for food parity and gleaning for good has grown Food Forward from a local garage charity into a multi-county volunteer organization that has picked and donated over one million pounds of fruit. And that’s just in two years. Below is a set of selections from a much larger post that he wrote, which you can find on Food Forward’s blog.
Last May, I received word I had been selected to be a US delegate for Terra Madre and the Salon del Gusto, a.k.a. The Slow Food Conference, which just wrapped up in Torino, Italy a couple of weeks ago. These two events – held for the first time together under one roof – are a massive international food justice/food policy conference and the largest international food and wine exposition in the world. For those not familiar with Slow Food, one of its best and often repeated mantras at Torino which also helps describe their ethos was: buy food without a bar code. Slow Food’s grown to an international movement, with hundreds of chapters found on every continent, all trying to push back at the McDonalds-Monsanto-Walmart-ification of our world’s food system through grassroots engagement.
Slow Food participant from Calabria
Though I came back with plenty to mull over from the experience, the biggest ah-ha moment was simple: the realization that with out a doubt, food today is having its “moment.” I don’t mean the seemingly endless waves of “celebrity” chefs, or the billions being made satisfying the palettes of “foodies” (a patronizing term that should go away for good.) But F-O-O-D, including a deeper more visceral understanding of it and its vast impact on our lives through abundance and scarcity, has in the last few years arguably made it one of the most unifying and urgent topics being assessed on the planet no matter what culture you come from. Food is now getting a deeper understanding, appreciation, ritualization, and most importantly, coming together around its universal power, than it ever has in history.
It’s a time of change, sharing, reassessment, learning, preservation and new thought – all around this wonderfully democratizing activity we as humans all must do to survive. Simply put, it’s an incredibly exciting and important time to be involved working with food, and with questions coming from any direction about how we eat – as individuals, a community, a country, as a world. With an advertised 250,000 attendees this year, Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto became the launch pad for a million conversations around all these topics.
I am happy to report that Slow Food, an organization that just a few years ago, myself and many others had serious doubts about being more dedicated to elite palettes and well-stuffed pocketbooks, has matured into a vital and inspiring movement where many voices can be heard, including an impressive number of indigenous communities which are now at the table.
Carlo Petrini, the group’s charismatic founder, is at age 63 still the movement’s rock star (followed everywhere he went by a phalanx of paparazzi.) I had the good fortune of hearing him speak twice during the 5 day event, and he is deeply inspirational. As passionate as ever, he seems genuinely thrilled at the prospect of growing world food movement he helped father, as well as the place youth, biodiversity and human diversity have to play in its future. He is committed to the idea that four marginalized groups will lead the way to solving the world’s current food crises: women, the elderly, farmers and indigenous people. And as someone who has spent much of the last decade documenting many in these categories, I couldn’t agree more.
Slow Food Delegate from Ecuador
I was honored to speak on the opening US delegate panel about documentary work around food and shared how The Migrant Project came about and ultimately inspired Food Forward. I was flanked by colleagues speaking about how they are preserving the stories of everything from seeds and historic early-American gardeners, to contemporary individuals dedicated to changing our food systems. Quite impressive.
Though there was frustratingly minimal conversation on the topic of food waste – with only one dedicated panel – there was a strong undercurrent overall honoring food and its place in our lives in its myriad forms, including a great only-in-Italy proverb take away: “When crumbs fall off the table, sweep them into your hands and kiss them.”
The take away, beyond jars of pistachio creme, honeyed grappa and citron-infused chocolate, was a feeling the world can come together – and must come together – to address the topics of food in our lives – both those of crisis and celebration. It allows us to not just share the countless solutions and inspiration that can be drawn from from every corner of the globe, but to an incredible way to learn about ourselves as human beings.
Me with Chef Ernest Miller of Master Food Preserver program at Terra Madre