Slow Food is a global organization founded in Italy in 1986. Its purpose is to support small-scale producers who use traditional and ecological methods of production. The original Slow Food Manifesto was signed by 15 delegates in Paris in 1989. It read:
Let us defend ourselves against the universal madness of 'the fast life' with tranquil material pleasure...let us rediscover the rich varieties and aromas of local cuisines. Real culture is here to be found. First of all, we can begin by cultivating taste ... Slow Food assures us of a better quality lifestyle."
By 2012 the manifesto was more specific, defining the organization as democratic, international, and community-based, "taking the food production and consumption system as a starting point for promoting ways of life that respect people and the social, cultural and environmental context in which they live and work". The 16 points which operationalize this definition assert: the entitlement of everyone to sustainable, delicious, healthy, high-quality, and socially just food; food sovereignty as safeguarding of natural and cultural biodiversity; protection of animals; reduction of waste; respect for indigenous people and local and traditional knowledge; and "a different quality of life, based upon respect for natural rhythms, the environment and consumers’ health, encouraging the consumption and enjoyment of food of the highest possible quality."
In 1996 Slow Food created the “Ark of Taste”, "an international catalogue of rare heritage foods at risk of extinction within a few generations. The Ark is designed to preserve at-risk foods that are sustainably produced, unique in taste, and part of a distinct ecoregion." In 2017 the Ark included nearly 4000 products from more than 50 countries, including livestock breeds, fruit and vegetable cultivars, as well as prepared foods (such as cheese and salami). In conjunction with the Ark, since 2000 Slow Food helps to organize 500 local Presidia:
small-scale projects to help artisan food producers preserve their traditional processing methods and end-products... Presidia projects are based in specific local geographic contexts around the globe. Strategies vary according to project and product, but whether they involve a single small-scale producer or a group of thousands, the goals are always the same: • to promote artisan products • to stabilize production techniques • to establish stringent production standards • to guarantee a viable future for the food in question.
This post begins with the Setting, a description and gallery. Then I discuss the Marketplace, with a second gallery of the Producers, and then a list of the most interesting products I found. Finally I end with the Experience, a third gallery of food porn, and a final gallery of the people who were there.
The Salon del Gusto and Terra Madre 2018
Every two years, in Turin Italy, Slow Food hosts the Salon del Gusto and the Terra Madre meeting of Slow Food Communities. In 2018, the Salon and the Terra Madre were combined into a single 5-day event from 20-24, September, open to the public, intended to educate and celebrate ecological and ethical perspectives on food, as well as to discover and enjoy small producers’ fine products.
The location was the Lingotto Fiere, a large convention center with 4 Pavilions and two outdoor areas. Inside the 4 Pavilions were 14 educational arenas, of three different types:
- 6 Conference settings for Youth, Indigenous People and Migrants, topics sponsored by the University of Gastronomic Sciences, and 3 general conference rooms some of which were for internal meetings, such as the Asia-Pacific communities workshop and others for public fora on topics like how chefs can contribute to the slow food movement.
- 6 Education Centers on topical food issues: Seeds&Soil, Fish, Meat, Health, Bees, and SlowCities. (The Slow Food concept has also been articulated as CittaSlow, so communities which are enacting these concepts on a larger scale had a space to share their accomplishments and encouragement.) Each of these Centers had three dimensions:  an interactive infographic exhibit area,  a taste education area with workshops running throughout the day about the gastronomic dimensions of the topic, and  a conference area with workshops running throughout the day with speakers sharing their experiences with agronomic, economic, political, and institutional work on this topic.
- 2 Gastronomic demonstration classrooms, one on gelato and the other on pizza/bread, with chefs giving demonstrations throughout the day about their techniques.
There were also events at other locations, in public spaces of the city, and agronomic and gastronomic education tours of the city and region. In total there were 600 educational events in 5 days, translated into 7 languages. Here are just a few examples of topics:
- Emmental is not Emmentaler: The story of a fight against cultural dumping
- Palestine: All the Colors of Tahini
- Mangroves and the Problem of Shrimp Farming
- Recipes of Change: How Chefs can Ensure Sustainability
- Feeding the Planet with Agroecology
- Resistant Shepherds
- The white fig tree of Cilento. When the products of the territory are transformed into gelato we speak, in fact, of geogelatography. To illustrate the concept Enzo Crivella, of the homonymous gelateria in Torraca, “the greatest gastronomic animator that Cilento has ever had"
- "In the middle of Spain, students transformed Extremadura, one of the EU region most subjected to youth depopulation, into a rich gastronomical area! They are giving importance to their homeland, via a local biodiversity map that explains the typical plants and agricultural products connected to their land. Together with Francesco Sottile, professor and agronomist, they will explain you their experiences and provide you with the tools to find and map your region’s agricultural and biodiversity treasures!"
Surrounding the education arenas was the Salon del Gusto marketplace, organized mostly by the regions of Italy, and then in one building, areas for Africa, the rest of Europe, Asia & Oceania, and the Americas. The heart of Slow Food are what it originally called 'convivia', now called 'communities' (2400 globally). These are local or regional associations which gather regularly to enjoy local products and develop slow food concepts. As part of the area for each region's Marketplace, were spaces for each community to meet, celebrate, discuss, and share the culture of their region or locality. Not every region of Italy did this but I estimate there were at least ten Community Education centers in addition to the 14 Education Centers listed above. Every workshop I saw throughout the 5 days was full and overflowing with interested participants.
The whole event was designed with maximum attention to ecology and social justice. The most apparent enactment of this was the commitment to recycling. The tidy and attractive waste/recycling stations were each staffed by a guardian who intercepted every deposit to make sure it was sorted correctly. Due to the use of bio-plastics, much of what appeared destined for the ‘plastic’ bin gets rerouted to the organic bin.
Other aspects of the eco-social integrity were less obvious, but were presented in an exhibit viewable along the walkway from the Italian Pavilians to the International Pavilion. Here it was explained that as part of the Salon 5000 "barrachin" meals were being given to hungry people (served in re-useable glass canning jars) as well as additional meals for homeless people. LED lighting throughout and low-energy cooling and coffee machines in the larger cafés. Used cooking oil, coffee grounds, and wine corks would be collected for re-use projects. Nose-to-tail use of agricultural products was encouraged and many systems were in place to reduce food waste. The delegante lanyards were made from recycled PET and the staff tshirts from organic cotton, and timber was from sustainable sources. 7 Research labs studied the event itself, to understand the social, economic, and cultural impact and future possibilities. 20 events were focused on migrant issues and 200 events touched the city outside of the convention center. The price of the event was €20 for 5-days admission. Disabled people were given free entry. The walkway also encouraged civic and personal innovation for ecology and society, such as urban biogas and home frugality in using energy for cooking, food-sharing systems, and urban community purchasing programs.
The Salon Marketplace
The Salon del Gusto provides space to a total of 1050 exhibitors, including 17 sponsors (Fiat, Lavazza, a local Bank, etc.). 240 producers representing Presidium foods (150 of those are Italian), and something on the order of 900 additional producers and exhibitors (roughly 200 of which were non-Italian producers).
Exhibitors must meet criteria, including:
- They must be producers, not retailers.
- The product criteria include the absence of GMOs (in foods and in the feed of animal-based products).
- The use of minimal and easily-recyclable packaging. Products must be served on biodegradable or reusable plates and cups.
- Animal welfare (force-fed animal products such as foie gras are forbidden, as are products involving slaughter of certain animals less than 12 months old).
- Fish sales are highly specified and regulated. Certain species are forbidden, others only if sustainable methods are demonstrated, aquaculture only if it meets the Slow Food scientific assessment, and in general "Fish and seafood products must be made primarily using species characteristic of the local production zone" by "companies that process multiple species, and particularly to companies that process species with a short life cycle" with "the type of fishing used must be highly selective in order to reduce by-catch".
- The use of natural fermentation starters, the absence of chemical additives (synthetic flavorings/colorings, liquid smoke, nitrates, antimicrobials, corn syrup, supplements and processing aids, artificial sweeteners, thickeners, gelling agents, emulsifiers, stabilizers, antioxidants, colorings, sulfites, zeolites, examples: truffle-flavored oil, corn syrup (HFCS) and pectin).
- Only raw-milk cheeses are allowed.
- Bread and pastries cannot contain GMOs, artificial leavening, oil substitutes, or par-baking methods, and priority is given to breads made with local or ancient grains. Pastry must be made from fresh free-range eggs, and regional products.
- There are specific criteria for cocoa, honey, coffee, rice, vinegar, and wine.
Here are some of the Producers who I met and interviewed.
Many of the products presented are part of the DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, for food) and DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, for wine) systems, established respectively in 1951 and 1964 and updated through the EU in 1996. Each specific food item protected by the DOP, such as Parmiggiano Reggiano, must meet a set of rules of quality and authenticity. (For wine, only authenticity of the vine DNA and the terror is asses, not flavor. For food the taste is part of the regular inspections of DOP products.)
The Italian Presidium foods include some DOP foods in cases in which there are issues of authenticity and quality which are not addressed by the DOP. For example:
- The cheese called "Storico" from Lombardy has been made since the 10th century. There is a DOP, but the DOP cheeses are produced in a climate controlled setting. The Presidium Storico has only 10 producers who produce the cheese in a stone cave with the bacteria of the open air. This method requires more labor cleaning the cheese every week as well as a greater loss of water, giving the Presidium cheese less weight per wheel than the DOP cheese. The Presidium Storico was represented at the Salon byRibelle.
- The cheese called "Monte Veronese di Malga" from Veneto is a DOP cheese, but the DOP does not require that the animals are grass-fed. Only 4 producers still produce the cheese with grass-fed animals. The Presidium cheese was represented at the Salon by La Casera Roncolato.
- The cheese "Parmigiano Reggiano" is perhaps one of the most famous and powerful DOP (a sponsor of the Salon del Gusto), but the DOP requirements allow for the use of high-producing imported cattle breeds. The Presidium recognizes the Vacca Bianca Modenese (white cow of Modena). The Vacca Bianca was represented at the Salon by Caseificio Rosola. They offered 24 and 30 month Parmigiano Reggiano and also two younger versions, Maggengo and Furmai, both of which I thought were quite spectacular.
The Presidium foods also include foods not protected by DOP, such as:
- The Alife Onion from the municipalities Piedimonte Matese and San Potito Sannitico in the Caserta Province of the Campania Region, presented at the Salon by Azienda Agricola Antonietta Melillo.
- The Cureggio and Fontaneto Blond Onion from the municipalities Cureggio and Fontaneto d'Agogna in the Novara province of the Piemonte Region, presented at the Salon by the Associazione Turistica Proloco Fontaneto.
- The fungal-resistant and nutritious Giant Vercelli Rice from the Vercelli municipality/province of the Piemonte Region, presented at the Salon by Azienda Risicola Varalda.
- The long-storage fresh tomatoes, Pomodoro Regina di Torre Canne and Crispiano Yellow-Red (from the region Puglia/Apulia). These products were presented at the Salon by the Presidium itself, which coordinates producers.
- Salsiccia Rossa di Castelpoto (from the comune of Castelpoto in the province of Benefento in the region of Campania), presented by the producer Azienda Agr. Masseria Maio di Maio Pierpaolo.
- Pezzente della Montagna Materana made from a now-rare Black Lucania pig in the forests of the province of Matera in the region of Basilicata. When the presidium first started there was only one active producer, now others have joined. The Pezzente was presented at the Salon by Sapori Mediterranei.
- Ventricina del Vastese is a tangy vermillion 10cm wide salami from Scerni in the province of Chieti in the region of Abruzzo. It is made with the "best parts" (rump) of the pig using only salt, fennel, and sweet chili. It was presented at the Salon by the Fattorie del Tratturo/Academia della Ventricina.
- At the next stall was a salami described in exactly the same way, coming from the Comune of Frentana in the same province and region (Chieti/Abruzzo), in an entirely different form. Salsicciotto Frentano, lean meat conserved in lard. It comes It was presented at the Salon by Azienda Agricola Fratelli Teti.
- Mariola is a common cured meat from the region of Emilia-Romagna. The Presidium recognizes the rarity of production with high quality meat in a traditional way (raw meat), requiring a very complex aging process. Mariola was presented at the Salon by Salumicio Salini,
- Mazzafegato dell'alta vale del Tevere is a salami so soft that it seems to be raw. It is produced in the municipalities Castello and Umbertide, province of Perugia, region of Umbria. It was presented at the Salon by the producer, Azienda Agricola Chiodi.
- Sale Dolce di Cervia is a historical salt from Cervia, in the province of Ravenna, region Emilia-Romagna. "Salt is sweet for geographical, historical and naturally also chemical reasons. The position of the saline, the most northerly of Italy, the characteristics of the basins and the Adriatic Sea, make sure that the salt obtained from it is made of pure sodium chloride, with a low, almost non-existent presence of other chlorides more bitter, such as magnesium sulfate, calcium, potassium and magnesium chloride....its typical color, which is not very white, but rather has in itself all the shades of pink and gray that derive from the production path and also historical... rich in trace elements present in the mother water (and used in the wellness line) such as iodine, zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium." Since 2002 the salt has been used as the base for community economic development. It is collected and sold by volunteers who have built a museum about the salt, and it is packaged and exported by the company Salina di Cervia.
- Scillato Apricot from Region of Sicily, a specific local variety of apricot whose trees are now 30-40 years old, growing in the town of Scillato, province of Palermo, region of Sicily. In 2017, "five young people decided to work on promoting the products of their territory, transforming this passion into a reason not to abandon Scillato. They have thus created an association (called I Carusi, which is the Sicilian dialect means “the guys”) and begun recovering old, abandoned apricot installations. They are currently working on setting up new installations, so as to increase the area and yield of Scillato apricots. Furthermore, they have recovered the traditional recipe for the town’s apricot jam, with the help of local mothers and grandmothers, and have planted gardens next to each fruit orchard, thus enriching local diets and those of some of the neighboring towns. In this village with so few people, their activity has rekindled both dynamism and a sense of hope for the future." The apricots were presented at the Salon by the Terre di Caruso.
- Lupine Gigante di Vairano. Vairano is an area of volcanic origin, lying at the border between Campania and Lazio. This bean was not profitable to produce. It is still eaten regionally, but is imported. Only two local producers remain. The Lupine was presented at the Salon by Masseria del Sesto.
- Cicerale Chickpea from the province of Salerno in the region of Campania. "Traditionally, when the seeds are ripe, the plants are pulled up, laid on jute sacks, covered and beaten with large wooden sticks. However, very few producers still follow this laborious process. The ones who do have joined together in the Ciceralit association. The Presidium wants to support their activity and promote this tradition, which has been passed down through the generations." The Cicerale were presented at the Salon by Maida.
- Orange Flower Water from the Distillatori di Fiori D'Arancio Amaro del 1856 from Vallebona in the province of Imperia in region Liguria.
- Pecorino a Latte Crudo (Presidium) and other Fresh cheeses and panna cotta from Azienda Agricola Lenzini (no email, no website), Tuscany.
Among the non-Presidium foods, of special note were:
- Latterie Gargiulo. This is a third generation cheesemaker in Gragnano, in the province of Naples in Campania. Francesco was the first of the dynasty to go out of the business. He was a lawyer until 2 years ago, then he came back. "I had the attitude to stay in the cheese factory." His grandmother started it. In his father's generation, the concern was price, not quality. He bought milk. Now Francesco is restoring quality. To buy again his own cows is a modernization that is a comeback. "I have to know what I am selling. I have to know the milk and the animals." It remains a family business. "everyone in factory has my name, ages 21 to 57." He makes three types of hard cheese in the family of caciocavallo as well as mozzarella and smoked mozzarella. Like his grandmother and the tradition the smoking is done with hay or straw, not with wood. This imparts a softer flavor.
- Oliveri 1882 makes one of the best Panettone I've had the privilege to try.
- Sallemi Nero d'Avola. This Sicilain wine is fermented in cement troughs rather than metal so that the bacteria do not have to be artificially introduced but continue to live in the cement, changing the wine from year to year. City of Caltagirone, province of Catania, region of Sicily.
- I Segreti di Carla, fresh cheeses and butter from a family tradition in the city of Bossalasco, province of Cuneo, region of Piemone. She sells butter preserved in water, according to the old tradition of keeping butter in the well.
- Antica Trochlea is a farm established in honor of their grandfather's dream by two young men, supported by their families. They produce walnuts, walnut liquer and distillate, and Vesuvius Piennolo, a DOP tomato which grows without water, and can be stored and eaten as a fresh tomato for months.
- Forno Sammaarco, Puglia. Huge and amazing bread.
- Lorca from Azienda Agricola Vano Iren. Locality of Arpino, province of Frosinone, region of Lazio.
- Porchetta from La Bottega del Futuro in Pozzuolo, province of Perugia, region of Umbria.
- Casiatica (red white green pastry) from Fratelli Taibi, Via Nazionale N. 100, city of Castrofilippo, province of Agrigento, region of Sicily. The green part is usually just marzipan but this marzipan had the pistachios in it which would be the original source of the green?
The Salon happens only once every two years, and it's huge. I couldn't rely on being able to "come back later" for anything. Every moment was potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I would think "I really need to sit down and have a coffee". Before I had taken a few steps, someone would hand me a glass of wine. While I stood drinking it, the next vendor would ply me with a sardine. I finish the wine and take a few steps, to be offered a taste of mascarpone (sheepsmilk ricotta with sugar, the filling for cannoli), a few steps more and there would be a special cheese to try, then onion jam, then panettone, then salami... It was an impossibly disconcerting menu. Eventually I surrendered to a chaotic rhythm of sweet and salty, alcohol in the morning, coffee whenever I could get one...
At home at night, my stomach would growl as I hadn't eaten much, but I couldn't face any flavor, so I let it be.
At the Salon del Gusto, the most overwhelming experience is pleasure and warmth. The producers want you to try their products and they want to explain their stories.
In addition to the marketplace and education there's a street food and craft beer area, and a barbecue area. There's also a "kitchen" where chefs from all over the world serve four international meals at the same time, one from non-Italy Europe, one from Asia-Pacific, one from Africa, and one from Americas.
All kinds of people are enjoying and learning. It's also serious business. The guys in the red ties are here. Everybody is here.
Next time, you want to be here. In the meantime, read the Slow Food Companion and join the international organization and/or your local Convivia.