On October 6, Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, visited the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy on the first day of his U.S. university tour. Mr. Petrini spoke in Italian with consecutive translation, which added to the romantic and captivating ideas of the Slow Food movement: good, clean, and fair food for all, as well as the preservation of food culture and traditions that make the pleasure of good food possible. Mr. Petrini was unapologetically honest, and urges all of humanity to change our ways of life to avoid a ecological and cultural disaster. “Slowness is a homeopathic medicine; just take a little every day,” Mr. Petrini advised.
Mr. Petrini gave an animated and thought-provoking lecture on the current food system. He explains his agenda for change through a project conceived by Slow Food, known as Terra Madre, which has become a powerful global network linking together, cooks, academics, and consumers (although Mr. Petrini urges us to think of ourselves as citizens, not merely consumers). He commended the Slow Food Tufts chapter, and other chapters across the U.S., for our commitment to the philosophies of the organization.
The Slow Food founder began his speech by addressing soil fertility and water quality issues. He also highlighted the tragedy of losing Mother Nature’s biodiversity. Mr. Petrini declared that we have lost 70% of the earth’s biodiversity. He addresses why this matters with an example from Italy: “In Italy we only have 5 breeds of milk cows now, and they are the ones that produce the most liters of milk. There once existed a variety that produced less milk, but that milk made the most delicious provolone in the world!" That breed no longer exists and neither does the best provolone, according to Mr. Petrini.
He also called attention to waste issues, explaining that we produce food for approximately 12 billion people, but we waste nearly half of this. “Respect the tradition of using leftovers,” he proposed. He also points out a phenomenon: at the same time nearly 1 billion people suffer from malnutrition and another 1.7 billion suffer from obesity. “The current food system is crazy: it is unfair, it destroys everything, and it is completely against nature,” said Mr. Petrini.
The speaker received a standing ovation and a long line of members of the Tufts community, eager to get a signed copy of his new book, Terra Madre. Mr. Petrini is putting forth his ideas to a variety of academic audiences on his U.S. visit as he attempts to overturn, step by step, a very stubborn and powerful food system.