Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Salone del Gusto 2010

I spent this weekend in Turin, Italy, attending the Salone del Gusto.  This is an event put on by Slow Food International which invites food producers from all over Italy and other parts of the world to share their "good,clean, and fair" products.  These artisans range from cheesemakers, butchers, olive oil producers etc...In other words, it was a food convention on steroids.  You are immediately overwhelmed by all the booths and the infinitesimal amount of free samples.  But before I divulge more details, I should mention that this was the first time I have truly traveled by myself.  In the past, two key things have been in place: 1. I spoke the language and 2. I would be meeting others at my destination.  This time I was going all on my own with no knowledge of Italian extending beyond chao (which is used for hello and goodbye), pasta, and pizza.  When I arrived to the airport, I was quite nervous.  The pit in my stomach persisted until I was safely on a bus in Italy heading towards the convention. Needless to say, I arrived safe and sound without a hitch.
The view of the Alps from my window

Next to the Lingotto convention center, is Slow Food's grocery store, EATALY.  As if the convention wasn't overwhelming enough, this store has any Italian product you could possibly want.  Dare I say that it is better than Whole Foods.  All the foods were fresh and of the utmost quality.  I mean what other grocery store sells swordfish with its sword still attached.  I've never seen it.
Every department has its own eatery.  For example, in the pasta section you could buy about 100 different kinds of pasta and eat it too.  I splurged and got linguine with white truffle and butter.  Utterly indulgent and delicious.  Hey, you cannot visit the Piedmont region during truffle season and not try it.  A lot of the items offered in the store were also available at the Salone del Gusto.
This is just one section, there are another 4 rows just like it

White truffle 220.00 Euros per 100 Kilos

My most memorable meal
After the shock of the amazingness of this store and the Salone del Gusto wore off, Mrs. Commonsense came to visit and first told me not to buy anything because I had no way to bring it back to Madrid.  Second, she made me think of the relationship between this store, Slow Food, and the public.  I mean is Slow Food only about promoting sustainability of foodstuffs or is it also about the accessibility of the products as well.  This is the controversy we see in the U.S. regarding Whole Foods.  Is it enough to offer quality products at a relatively high price or should we (slow fooders) be working towards food justice, availability, and affordability as well?  Because even though the sauces, cheeses, and prosciutto were excellent, would the average person "cough up the dough" and buy it on a regular basis?  I don't know and local Italians seemed to resent the enterprise because of this conflict.  It was a discourse I definitely pondered and discussed with others throughout my trip.  I haven't come to a completely satisfying conclusion however I will say that Slow Food does have good intentions and maybe as it becomes larger, it will be able to offer better pricing.  A major highlight of my trip was meeting Alice Waters again.  I was only able to speak to her for a minute but it was nice to find that needle in the haystack of people.  It is funny because I don't recognize celebrities on Hollywood Blvd. but I can spot her in a crowd. I loved every minute of my visit, and enjoyed being surrounded by people who cared about food as much as I do.  Whether it was food culture preservation, continuing a family tradition or starting one, or just being proud of your local product, it was very inspiring.  I found this quote which I think sums up my experience in Italy:  "No one who cooks, cooks alone.  Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers" (Laurie Colwin).  I think the Salone del Gusto showed me that food's history is never ending, it has a complicated past and continues to expand into the present and is a subject of interest for the future.

Me and the Slow Food snail


  1. Nice blog Leah! I enjoyed your perspective and the pics. And I love your quote. It kind of reminds me of how I feel about playing classic piano. Not only does it make me feel like I am stepping back in time, but into the mind of the composer.
    I'll be checking your blogs more often! Beijos..

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