A Look at Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto, October 2012, in Turin, Italy

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by Diana Zahuranec

Salone del Gusto ended on Monday 29, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

Salone del Gusto, held in Turin, Italy, is a Slow Food biannual food fair and conference. To sum it up in these few words undermines everything else it is, too, and its importance as an event that brings together producers from all over the world. These are producers that grow ancient varieties of grain to save genetic biodiversity, that make Slow Food Presidia cheeses or salumi, that pipe their cannoli full of the freshest organic ricotta you’ve ever tasted, and whose principles and values align with your own and, it goes without saying, Slow Food’s – good, clean, and fair food for all.

The Slow Food mascot

For all things Slow Food, here are some links courtesy of Scoop.it and Slow Food. To understand a few of those words in the paragraph above, just look at the end of the article.

This year, Salone del Gusto was a marriage of the original Salone del Gusto, first held in 2006, and Terra Madre, first held in 2004. While both events had food artisans and producers from all over the world, different activities were held at each and were not all accessible to the public. Salone del Gusto focused more on the exposition and sale of high quality foods and products, while Terra Madre was a gathering of a network of food producers from around the world. Having never been to either of these before, I can’t offer judgment on the differences of before and after. What I would love to do is share my first-time impressions of this year’s.

To say Salone is a food fair means that, like your down-home county fair, the place is jumping with activity – with a few notable differences. The funnel cakes are replaced with French butter cookies in 20 different flavors, the groundhog whacking game is replaced with the foodie’s (divisive word, I know) form of fun, that is vertical Barolo wine tastings, and that feeling of riding the Zipper right after you eat your funnel cake is replaced by the feeling of pressing up against crowds right after you drink your Barolo wines.

I would rather you drink Barolo.

 

I’ll admit, the similarities to a regular state fair are scarce and, frankly, a bit offensive when comparing the absolute highest quality food experience with a, er, lesser quality form of entertainment.

But if we stick with generalities, like any fair, Salone del Gusto was packed with people and bursting with things to do and eat. There were tasting sessions, like the one the company d’UVA held with their 100% organic, non-alcoholic, sommelier-tested grape and infusion beverages, carefully paired with twists of puffed pastry and a hint of ginger, anise crostata with a slather of d’UVA jam (using the same grapes that go into the drink: Merlot and Barbera), and incredible, fresh Presidia cheeses of the creamiest texture.

There was a list of bookable workshops with tastings every day, ranging from “Great Reserve Barolos for Aging,” to “Classic Pairings: British Beer and Cheese,” and from “Spices from India,” to “A Rich Niche of Fermentation.”

Carlo Petrini

There were conferences, held in Italian with simultaneous translation, presided over by international figures, experts, and activities in the world of food. Alice Waters, Vandana Shiva, and of course, Slow Food’s founder Carlo Petrini made appearances, if I’m permitted to name drop. Subjects ranged from “Creating a Green Economy” to “No Bees, No Future” and an examination on Colony Collapse Disorder; from “Ancient Grains for the Modern Diet: A Biodynamic Approach” to “How Much ‘Non-Food’ Do We Eat?”

Crystalline structures of a water droplet evaporated on ancient, biodynamically-grown grains, forming a beautiful snowflake, versus conventional grains, which break into pieces.

There were children’s programs and events and tastings, because taste education is the foundation for understanding the values that these producers and the entire Salone del Gusto represent.

And, in four huge arenas that gathered all of these events and people, there were spontaneous tastings by the courtesy of passionate producers prodded by curious epicures who wanted to know the differences between each craft beer on tap (ahem, Yours Truly); there were meetings planned, connections made, and ideas born; and there were reunions among old friends, like alumni from the University of Gastronomic Sciences; and among those who had never seen each other outside of a virtual reality, like the Slow Food LinkedIn de-virtualization meeting, or like my meet-up with The Rambling Epicure’s very editor, Jonell Galloway.

Wine at the Enoteca with the handy wine-glass bags they gave us

 

To help with Slow Food-related jargon:

Slow Food – a movement founded in 1989 in Italy in response to the modern culture’s ever-growing fascination with fast food and seemingly willful ignorance or readiness to forget its own rich food heritage and all the goodness associated with it. Its principles are good, clean, and fair food for everyone: good to eat and good quality, clean for the environment, and fair wages for the workers as well as fair prices for consumers.

Slow Food Presidia – a label that identifies a food product to be not only artisanally made and of the highest quality (or, often, as a simple raw product like the Monreale White Plums of Sicily), but that also represents the territory and culture from which it originates. A Presidia is in danger of fading away from the practices and memories of modern times, carrying the threat of losing an integral part of history with its disappearance and another part of the world’s genetic biodiversity.

University of Gastronomic Sciences – a Slow Food-founded University in 2004 with undergraduate and Master’s programs in all fields relating to gastronomy and a sustainable food future.

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