Nature is beautiful, and we are very lucky here in British Columbia that finding nature can be just a bike ride away. One of the most beautiful and important traits of nature is its diversity: it’s what makes her manifest in so many beautiful ways, and so many beautiful colors; and it’s also what guarantees her survival.
Where some species might suffer, some will thrive, and so life will go on despite the inevitable changes.
What if we applied this concept to food? What if we looked at food in the same way we look at nature, learning from nature what will succeed? Is there such thing as a ‘culinary biodiversity’ and is it worth to talk about it?
Well, of course there is, and some might say we are in trouble. The centralization of food production, and its consequent transformation in an industry, has grown to a disturbing level in these days, bringing along huge consequences not just in the food we eat but also in the landscape, our health, the rural communities and the workers as well as the animals.
Losing our “culinary” biodiversity in the name of easy, quick, and affordable is a dangerous game that we have been playing for a while, and if nature teaches us anything, then the time has come to do something about it.
Biodiversity in our food system, just like in nature, is not only beautiful because of the unique products it provides us with, it is also essential because it means we will be more adaptable to the inevitable changes. It means that if we are not relying on produce from California, then the changing climate conditions and the rising costs of transportation will not be factors that we are so heavily depend upon today. It means that if we are able to produce locally most of what we need to thrive, than we are strong, and together we become a community.
It becomes crucial, than, that we make a conscious effort in preserving these small scale productions that belong to our culture – it is our culinary identity.
One of the most inspiring projects connected to the issue is the one that the Slow Food Foundation embarked on in the October of 1996, on the occasion of the first Salone del Gusto in Torino.
If you’d like to learn more about this project, called The Ark of Taste, and about the Slow Food Foundation their web site is a great place to start.(http://www.slowfoodfoundation.com/)
The Story of the Ark of Taste (and of its purpose) is truly fascinating:
”The Ark of Taste travels the world collecting small-scale quality productions that belong to the cultures, history and traditions of the entire planet: an extraordinary heritage of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, sweets and cured meats…
The Ark was created to point out the existence of these products, draw attention to the risk of their extinction within a few generations, invite everyone to take action to help protect them. In some cases this might be by buying and consuming them, in some by telling their story and supporting their producers, and in others, such as the case of endangered wild species, this might mean eating less or none of them in order to preserve them and favor their reproduction”.
So this is not just an idea, but it’s a movement – a movement that counts many people from all over the world. It’s a philosophy that started in Italy that has become known as “Slow Food”; it’s a peaceful revolution that in essence, speaks of changing our menu in order to change the world.
Because food is so intrinsically connected to the history, the culture and the environment in which it was created, it has the power to shape our community.
And that simply means that we have that power.
Chef Giulio Piccoli