Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini gave the keynote address at the National Heirloom Exposition last Tuesday. For those of you who don’t know, the Slow Food movement began out of protests against a McDonald’s that was slated to open near the Spanish Steps in Rome in the 1980s. Slow Food has since grown into an international organization that promotes food biodiversity and traditional farming practices.
Petrini spoke eloquently and without notes through a translator. He called our food system “entropic,” adding that our agricultural system is, in fact, in a crisis of entropy. When it takes 300 calories to produce 100 calories of food, according to Petrini, we clearly have a system headed towards collapse. When it comes to the health consequences our out of control food system, he noted the ironic fact that more money is spent on weight loss and obesity than buying food.
He brought attention to the incredible waste in our food system, calling our refrigerators “home graveyards.” The greatest of all gastronomic acts, according to Patrini, is working with leftovers. He spoke of his Italian grandmother, and how she used to make ravioli stuffed with leftovers. He railed against what he called “food pornography,” — the endless TV cooking shows and glossy magazines that have nothing to do with the preparation of a simple, home cooked meal.
Petrini is optimistic and Epicurean in his outlook. He believes in the power of pleasure, saying that we are on the verge of a “joyful revolution.” “Use pleasure as the basis for change” as he put it. He noted that when he first visited the US, in terms of beer, there was only Budweiser. The micro brew revolution brought diversity, and good taste, back to beer. He believes that we as consumers need to think of ourselves as co-producers with farmers. Our choices make a difference. More and more, people want to know where their food comes from and they want it to actually taste like something.
“Pleasure and change go hand in hand,” said Petrini.