Sunday, August 31, 2008

Slow Food Nation, Day Three - Total Sensory Overload

The Bread Snail
It's been quite a trip, this three day event. The stated goal was to inspire people to go back to the communities where we live, to do good and make changes that will improve lives. Projects, careers, passions, politics, food production, celebration and inspiration. All of those buzzwords have been bandied about, and all of them were involved, at least for me. I'm inspired to do more with my school garden program - to be more ambitious, to be more involved. In fact, I've been hit by so many lightning bolts over the past few days, that I really need to sit down and think about which ideas are practical and which may just be pipe dreams. Right now I'm thinking if I divide it into small bites, I just might be able to do all of it. At least I can try.
Wine glasses and espresso cups
At the same time though, I've been hugely conflicted about the grand displays of luxury foods and the amount of "conspicuous consumption" that has gone on here. Yes, these events are fundraisers - but I'm still not exactly clear on where the money goes? Does Slow Food give out community grants? If so, where do I apply for one? If not, then what exactly is the point?
The Honey and Preserves Pavilion
I've also been impressed - even blown away - by the amazing design and architecture on display - it's all so fantastically clever. At the same time though, I can't help but be reminded of that line from Fight Club, "How's that working out for you, being clever?" What does that really do for us all? I guess the short answer is, it does for others what it did for me. It makes us think, it stimulates us and gets us talking. And it reminds us how lucky we are to be able to enjoy something like this - a fantastical sensory overload experience with $65.00 tickets.
The Taste Pavilion
I think by most any measure, the event was a smashing success. The tickets sold out, everything went off as planned, and people seemed to have a great time. I'm thrilled to think that the "message" of a need for change has gone out to more people this weekend - and I hope it has a practical effect. I hope that it turns out to be more than just entertainment for a whole bunch of people who've already bought into the movement - I really, really do.
Meeting the milking goats at Harley Farms
For me - though my nerves are shot and my emotions are raw - it was a great inspiration and a stimulating and encouraging experience. On an individual level, I'm really glad I came. I still have a lot of questions though, and a lot of throughts swirling around in my head about where it all goes from here. How does this movement really effect change? On a grassroots level? Or is there a need for a broader effort - with more political clout? How does Slow Food overcome the dilletante reputation, and ensure that it's activities are actually furthering the greater purpose of clean, fair and afforadable food for all? How exactly does Slow Food propose to make that happen, anyway? In order to give the organization more credibility, is it a good idea to separate the politics from the celebratory aspect, to avoid hypocrisy while still collecting a steady stream of revenue from the fancy-food loving public? Is there merit in and of itself to an outrageously sumptuous "celebration" of food - or is that just grotesquely out of touch with the real world - where people are literally starving for lack of any food to eat, much less food that is fair, clean and delicious?
After being bludgeoned by the excesses at the Taste Pavilion - that is the one I'm actually having the most trouble with.
*sharp eyed readers may notice that I skipped day two, which was the Half Moon Bay "Slow Journey" - it was amazing (especially the goats) and I will be back with a dedicated post soon - as well as more details about the other events once I've calmed down a little bit. If you just want to see some eye-candy/food porn in the meantime - the full photo set can be viewed here.


  1. Soo wish I could have been there!! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  2. thanks for sharing Alice. Since my own participation was on the outermost fringes of this event, I don't feel I have earned the right to surmise what was wrong with the event. But I do have some ideas about what I would have liked to have seen happening. For me a tasting hall is an unsatisfying experience at even the best of times so I am not so surprised that wasn't high on your list of things that went well. You can come to Alemany farm with me on another visit! Journey back safely...

  3. Great post, Alice. I had some wonderful conversations with producers at the Taste Pavilion and got to try a variety of products, some local, some not, that I had never had before. I will buy some of those products in the future and help to promote them, and for me that is a part of the solution.

    Something that resonates with me is what Michael Pollan said at a panel discussion on Friday, that on a weekly basis, spending $5-10 of our food on local and organic food, we can all make a difference.

  4. Wow. Thank you so much for posting about the Slow Food event in SF. I just couldn't make it that weekend and your write up and pictures , plus your side trip down the coast are just what I needed.
    I think I found your blog via another foody blog from San Diego and have been a reader ever since. Keep up the good work. :)