FOODA – Salone del Gusto e Terra Madre / Article by Ravi Bellardi
“Foods that change the world.” This is the concept that guided the 2012 Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre. The event took place in Turin from October 25 to 29 in a historic moment for the Slow Food movement internationally. The Salone del Gusto had its first year in 1996, Terra Madre in 2004. This year, they come again presenting, proposing and discussing innovative alternatives regarding to those who work the land in a direct contact with environment changes and also to those who regularly transform and consume nature into culture in both traditional and most elaborated ways.
Other than following the event for this post, I was guided by my curiosity about how are people expressing, seeing, comprehending, dealing and experiencing these great food paradigm transformations. The SGTM gave me the opportunity not only to participate in international conferences about politics, international food marketing and global social discussions open to all people, but also to have very nice talks with some farmers, activists, consumers. People, part of a context that might be extremely influent in contemporary conceptions linking Food and Design.
The journey starts actually on October 24, in the Palaolimpico di Torino where the opening ceremony happened. In these occasions, you can see the synthesis of the aim of the event. Multiculturalism is present everywhere, it is brought by the Terra Madre delegates, their teams, flags, clothes, language. It is easy to feel, in every speech, the joy about the successful growth of this great food initiative. What is also evident is the deep preoccupation concerning to the world’s contemporary food and nutrition problems that was well brought by many world community leaders. What closes the night is Carlo Petrini’s speech. The Slow Food president shared his happiness about the event evolution. He called it “reflection fair”, “political initiative”. Yes it is, SGTM is an international celebration of traditional based food relations building paths to be walked by post-industrial cultural complexity where the food is “Good, Clean and Fair”.
The Salone itself offers a great diversity of activities involving little producers, but also some big brands, chefs, visitors in Taste Workshops, educational activities, Slow Food Presidia and conferences. I was pretty happy about having the opportunity of taking part in discussions with some people heading very significant initiatives like Carlo Petrini (Slow Food), Oscar Farinetti (Eataly), José Graciano (ONU), Eric Holt-Gimenz (Food First USA), Vandana Shiva (Slow Food), among many others. It is good to see people acting and talking about considering traditional knowhow and natural solutions for contemporary needs, acting global respecting cultural diversity preservation, problem solving possibilities, dealing with crisis, integrating responsible food products in the society, food distribution issues, quality production/communication/perception, responsible life style idealizations its relations between the environment, food, culture and men. Looking down to my humble notes, I can say that Design related questions are frequent in the discussions, even thought the word “Design” is not mentioned at all.
Walking in the fair, we can have a more practical vision of what is happening. Everybody is eating, even with no food in mouth! From the Italian regions pavilion to some little African community stand it is possible to notice an enormous diversity regarding to territory aspects, but they all have one thing in common. They are all trying to communicate their peculiarities in order to achieve local production/consumption wellbeing following a sustainable global logic. They are communicating with food, cultural signs, knowhow, hospitality, tradition. That is why everybody is eating in different ways. Eating food, eating culture, information. Experiencing this virtuous systems.
Like most people are aware of, our times are changing announcing big consequences. This whole world crisis asks and offers new possibilities. The Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre is, for sure, heading big transformations not only related to food. It’s worldwide wellbeing philosophy influences also many other socioeconomic aspects connecting producers to their land, bringing valorization of traditional knowledge, feeding culture, evidencing consumer’s main role in the context and contributing for the development of sustainable food systems in which (Food)Design professionals should be interested. Design is indispensable to facilitate production policies. Designing systems means to project broadly consistent solutions for resource choices, production, processes, consumption idealizations and output managing. These Design potentials are underground, are essentially the base, and not always claimed or explored. Its shape is defined by aesthetics rules of justice and dignity, not by postmodern aesthetics of superficial new differences, pure curiosity or by what is trendy.
If “Foods” may “change the world”, like the SGTM slogan says, I am sure that Food Design must be a facilitator in this process. The context is made of plenty of good alternatives in dealing with natural resources in food production, cultural diversity richness in food elaboration and promising social developing initiatives. This multidisciplinary scenario shall be connected to people in order to work like it should. The final user, the consumer, the common people are a crucial part in this system. And they will be there experiencing this world if you give them the right opportunities. These “Foods” will “change the world” and Design must be there in order to provide these changes to people in a proper way.