I am quite surprised that still so many people wonder what Slow Food is. Some guess that it must be a way of cooking. Others think it must be a new food trend. Actually Slow Food as a movement has been around for 25 years already. There are chapters in the USA, the Philippines, Japan, Korea and in many other countries like Iran and Afghanistan. It started of course in Italy because the founder, Carlo Petrini, is Italian.
I first got wind of it from my Cordillera friends Mayet Paragas of Cordillera Network and Sister Celerina of the Tugdaans. My ECHOstore foodie partner Reena Francisco and I soon joined the Slow Food meeting in October 2012 in Turin, Italy with farmers from Kalinga, entrepreneurs and NGO advocates and chefs like Margarita Fores, health practitioners like Dr. Albert Jo and other slow food believers.
Slow Food believes in good, clean and fair food. At the Turin biennial event, you will see the Ark of Taste—a display of about 1,150 food varieties that have been nominated to the list. These are confirmed to be rare, almost extinct or is at the danger of disappearing from our food systems. Most of these original heirloom varieties have been replaced by GMO or new seeds, new hybrids and slowly, the original strains are getting lost or disappearing.
You may be surprised that seeds of our very own siling labuyo (red pepper) is very hard to come by. Only the birds now scatter the seeds.
New pepper varieties have been introduced in the market, and theπ siling labuyo may soon be gone. It is the same for Kapeng Barako or Caffea Liberica, which is slowly disappearing because in the 1990s, many farmers replaced their big barako trees with the more popular and marketable Robusta. I am happy that today, there is renewed interest in the rare barako, and many farmers are starting to plant them again.
These rare species are nominated to be part of The Ark Of Taste, a feature of the Slow Food events. In AsiO Gusto 2013, recently held in Namyangju, South Korea, the Ark of Taste already includes our Muscovado Sugar, our Igorot heirloom rice like Jekot and Unoy or Tinawon, and hopefully soon, our Barako coffee species.
“The purpose of the Ark is to point out the existence of these products,to warn of their risk of disappearing, and to invite everyone to take action to save them,” the organizers said.
“The most important is the link of these products to the memory of a community, a culture and a territory.” the poster on the wall said.
Director Leandro “Dax” Gazmin of the Dept of Agriculture-Agri Marketing and Services(AMAS) discussed with us his take on Geographical Indication or GI of our special products like Batanes Garlic, Pummelo of Davao and maybe even Siling Labuyo. Director Gazmin supported the Philippine Slow Food delegation who felt right at home among other Slow Food advocates, and he told us of DA’s other initiatives to help small producers and artisans, so very, very slow food-like.
It was a pleasant surprise to see an official like Director Gazmin stay for a few days in a food show so specific and so pointed towards preservation of heirloom varieties. He and his assistant Joseph Baldelomar and the DA regional director from Davao listened to the speakers at the International Conference who shared best practices on protecting small farmers in countries like India, Indonesia and Korea.
We were also happy to know that the DA-AMAS now supports Organic Certification for small producers, a happy development for those wishing to sell to major international markets like Korea and Japan. Truly, sometimes this is all a small farmer needs to be on equal footing with big agricultural companies.
AsiO Gusto featured countries from Asia and Oceania and is the first Slow Food event to be held outside Europe. It featured the Taste Workshops; the Street food alley composed of street food from Vietnam, Russia, Brasil, Thailand and more; the Ark of Taste and of course the slow food restaurants featuring Italian, French, Korean and Japanese cuisine.
We look forward to the October 2014 Slow Food- Salone del Gusto joint event in Turin, Italy where we hope to have more Philippine entries to the Ark of Taste and we hope to get more small Filipino farmers featured in the taste workshops.
There is a common thread in the Slow Food advocates’ minds. That diversity in food and culture is a global phenomenon and that food production and environment are so intertwined. And that culture, geography and people are all linked to produce food that is good, clean and fair. Fair to the consumer and the producer.
We must support small producers by buying directly from farmers whenever we can. We must understand that organic or natural is not expensive. And we must change our mindset about getting food as cheap as possible because it is not fair for the farmer. Often we pay more for gadgets than we are willing to pay for good food.
Slow food. It is the way we used to do it. And the way we should be doing it, all over the world.
Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. 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.