Food. It’s an integral part of our lives, our culture and our community. Food nourishes our bodies, powers our mind, and lifts our spirits. Food marks our special occasions and is part of our daily chores. We spend so much time and energy growing, sourcing, preparing and sharing food, it’s worthwhile to be engaged in how that food comes to our plates. Increasingly, we have become disconnected from food as it is turned into a commodity, shipped around the world, and contorted in laboratories. As the only species to add heat to our raw ingredients, are we losing our humanity, when we lose track of our food production?
Slow Food seeks to reconnect us with our food. To educate, empower and energize us to get involved with our local food communities. Every two years in Turin, Italy, small-scale food producers, chefs, scientists and activists from around the world gather to discuss, share, debate, taste, educate and celebrate the foods that make us human. These are ingredients, which represent culture and heritage, but also a truly sustainable future that includes biodiversity, environmental stewardship, and respect of aboriginal knowledge.
My husband Oliver and I were fortunate to attend Terra Madre this year with other delegates from Slow Food Canada and over 150 other countries. The opening ceremonies were translated into 12 languages. Many people were visibly moved to see the delegates from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Iran stand together. Fishermen from Israel and Palestine, as colleagues not enemies. Farmers from Russia and the Ukraine, in solidarity not strife. Food communities cross boarders effortlessly. Slow Food brings us together for a common goal, to create a good, clean and fair food system for everyone, and it will take everyone to accomplish this.
Much of our time was spent in the Slow Fish meeting room. There was simultaneous translation so we could follow the stories of fishermen from six continents! The threats to these fishermen are the same ones our Canadian fishermen are facing. A loss of territory to privatization, ocean grabbing, pollution from fish farms (let Chile be a stark warning to the salmon farms in B.C.), quotas and licenses soaked up by international corporations. The wild foods of our oceans, lakes and rivers are the resource of the common people and should not be sold without our consent. We would all do better to listen to the experience of our First Nations and fishing families that have multi-generational experience as stewards of these wild resources, and know how to truly make a sustainable future for our fisheries. On Vancouver Island, we enjoy the most incredible bounty and diversity of seafoods, a year-round growing season, an incredible boreal forest providing wild foods and huge amount of arable land that is being underutilised. It’s time to make the most of these natural resources.
At Terra Madre, we were reminded of the power of a simple action. Founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini, told us, “Tending a garden is a political act.” Plant a seed, shop at a farm, share a meal, join a food-centric group, learn a new recipe, visit a winery, there are so many ways to nurture the relationship to your local food community without even leaving Sooke.
The traceability of our food will be the most powerful ingredient in this recipe for a sustainable food future.
Slow Food celebrates International Terra Madre Day on December 10 at the Hudson Marketplace in Victoria. For event information, please visit: www.slowisland.ca
Brooke Fader and Oliver Kienast