Voices 04/10/2010

Karlo Petrini and the agricultural communism

At the beginning it was simply Slow Food, an innocent crew of gourmets who wanted to discover rare and peculiar delicacies. Later, almost inadvertently, an ideology was created, and it became a political and opinion movement, and also a millions euro holding. A very “fast” way for an association which proposes a slow food model and life style.

Thanks to a nice and very inspired volume by Luca Simonetti who had fun unmasking all the contradictions of the Slow Food ideology, it is possible to retrace the steps which transformed a gourmets association into an empire with a strong political and economical influence.

Step 1 To attract gourmets, and to transform the sense of guilt associated to the pleasure of eating into a cultural experience. “in a world where the sensorial deprivation prevents us from hearing, seeing, tasting and smelling, training our senses is an act of resistance against the destruction of knowledge...the gourmet, is a privileged individual who can discern with a sensibility which is not affected by the distractions of the industrial civilization, and can direct the future”.
Carlo Petrini, 2005.

A true revaluation of the gluttonous who has always been negatively seen in our society. The sin of gluttony transformed in an act of civilization.

Step 2
After conquering the gourmets, the farmers too were portrayed as custodians of a precious knowledge, to the point of being above science.

The producers of good, clean and right food have a knowledge which is not learnt in school, and which is not calculated through mathematical formulas, but which results from symbiotic relationship with the creation, that several of us have lost” Carlo Petrini, 2004

The marriage of interest between the primary sector and Slow Food gave birth to the Presidi Slow Food, which represented a promotion and marketing idea of sure success. The Slow Food stamp enhances sales, for a very rewarding price for the farmers who jumps in Carlo Petrini’s arms.

Step 3
In the rich and divers farming and food world, what is good and what is bad? What is traditional and natural is good, the rest is bad. Who decides what is natural and traditional? Obviously Slow Food.

The use of barriques does not alter the naturalness of wine. But a concentrator alters the biochemical values of grapes: is this natural? Is this a simple cellar technique? Some would argue that also thinning out the vineyard alters the seasonal trend of cultivations. But reasoning on the interaction between nature and man for food production purposes, we consider that pruning is natural and can give quality wines, concentrating is not.” Slow Food Dictionary

Step 4
A new social model: the Terra Madre (Mother Earth) project as a “true sustainable development, independent of the idea of economic growth at all costs, but related to human growth, and diffusion of a common good which can ensure a less grey future and quality food for all” Carlo Petrini, 2004.

the food communities are strategically important in designing a new society. They are based on feelings, on fraternity, on the rejection of egoism. They tie the destiny of women and men who are committed to defend their traditions, cultures and cultivations” Carlo Petrini.

Goal of the future Presidi Slow Food in the underdeveloped zones will allow to recover and defend the traditional knowledge so that they will become engines for the development and wellness. Be careful though: the “poor” countries are extremely rich in vegetal, animal and ancient local culture, and of never expressed human potential” Carlo Petrini 2001

To square the circle Once the marketing basis has been created through a network of gourmets with a good ability to spend money and enough time to dedicated to the pleasure of food, albeit redeemed by the Slow food ideology which elevates the gluttonous at the level of manager, the offer came, then the tie to farmers. They were lured as custodians of the knowledge and considered superior to innovation and science. But this is not enough. The relationship is more solid because Slow Food guarantees them to sell and earn, under certain conditions, which are dictated by Slow Food, which decides which agronomic or technological practice is right or wrong, without any need for a technical and scientific knowledge. It is as it is. The more daring step, with Terra Madre, is to propose the idea of collectives to remain free from innovation in the name of old traditions, true sources of richness. A huge potential if rich capitalists pay for such delicacies.

The perfect creature was born: the agricultural communism paid for and sustained by the industrial capitalism.

di Alberto Grimelli