IN these days of the fast, quick, frenetic pace everyone is in, how nice to look forward to something slow. Like Slow Food. I am often asked why it is called such. But that is how we all used to do it—slow and good. Slow but sure. Remember the saying—“slowly but surely?”
And that is what I am looking forward to when I join Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre (www.slowfood.it) next week in Turin, Italy. Where food does not come to a standstill, but everything “fast food” does. So, all the thousands of people trooping for this biennial event in Italy are looking forward to go slow.
Where does one start? About 60 delegates from the Philippines are going to the five-day event. It is the best way to encourage our farmers, fisherfolk and other agriculture-inclined citizens to embrace the real meaning of sustainability. Not just some big word that everyone mouths to be current or sound relevant.
This exposure in the Slow Food movement is what consumers and producers need to be aligned on, so we all go towards real growth in consumption but with responsible growth in production.
First, we need to align on what we should preserve from our culture. Heirloom rice. Not hybrids. Organic corn. Not GMO. Old varieties, albeit low-yielding sometimes, of coffee and cacao. They have a place in our future. And the farmers will get to talk to other farmers from across the world so everyone is on the same page.
Sounds simple? It actually is. The Slow Food movement created the Ark of Taste (www.arkoftaste.org) for this reason—to preserve all heirloom varieties of thousands of flora and fauna from around the world.
Second, we need to care for artisans who may never scale up. They have their place in this world, too. Not every consumer wants to eat quickly produced food. So artisans provide the home-cooked products we all look for when we travel.
Small producers and small farmers have a role to play. That of being the provider of food in their own community. Not supplying supermarkets and big box stores. The end goal is to provide food for the family table and their neighbors’.
Third, we need to promote Slow Food chefs and cooks. The kind who buys small, heirloom varieties. We neaed more farm-to-table restaurants like Grace Park, Antonio’s and Green Pastures. It is not about just eating local. It is about knowing your farmer. Knowing who grows your food. Local alone does not count much. But it is a good start. For everyone to look around their farms and communities and check what can be brought to the table. That is sustainable.
As they say, hold the hand that feeds you. Whenever you eat, imagine who grew the rice, who cared for the chicken or the pig. Or the cow. Who caught the fish? If you can answer those questions, you are on the right track. We want to eat plants, not what is made in plants. Get it? That’s from Michael Pollan.
In our provinces, ask the farmer where the best rice is—it’s in his pantry grown from his farm, for family consumption. Ask him where the best batch of coffee is—it’s in his stockroom but the best from his lot, his supply for the year. And where does he get his vegetables? From his backyard. Don’t you think he is the richest man alive?
But we have changed our ways for the last 30 years. Convenience and canned food. Imported ingredients that are cheaper and bigger in size. Everything sweeter, richer, bigger, and everything nature did not want to do. So, here we are bringing everyone back to where we used to be.
Now we have to pay a premium to promote healthy eating. Such is man. Smart yet sometimes, penny-wise but pounds foolish. Because of technology we acquire new diseases like Celiac or gluten intolerance, glucose intolerance, cancer. So now everyone wants to go back to the times when the body could tolerate anything.
I am not against imported food. In fact I look forward to eating food from different countries. But nearer or closer to the source is best. Eat your truffles in Italy. Eat your Foie in France. Eat your Miyazaki or Kitayama in Japan.
But while you are here in the country, eat your camote, your sayote and your malunggay. Eat your tabang talangka, your tawilis and your bangus. Eat local so our local farmers and fisherfolk can continue to feed you. Eat your arugula and romaine from Tagaytay, not Australia. If you stop eating, they stop growing them, too. So, you are in effect, a co-producer. That is sustainable.
Will you not look forward to slow food, too?
The Slow Food festival called Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre happens on October 23 to 27 in Lingotto Fiere, Turin, Italy, It happens only every other year, or even years. Log on to www.slowfood.org. Our forward-looking Agriculture Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat heads the Philippine delegation.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall and Davao City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org