30 years of Slow Food, a nice Italian story

Together with Petrini, Gigi Padovani wrote the "biography" of the movement on the 30th anniversary of its birth. Here’s his story for Identità

14-11-2017

The Slow-food manifesto published on the 3rd November 1987 in Gambero Rosso, with a snail designed by Gianni Sassi

Photogallery

The cover of Slow Food. Storia di un’utopia possibile, by Carlo Petrini and Gigi Padovani, Giunti-Slow Food Editore, 356 pages, September 2017, 18 euros (15,30 euros when buying it here)
The Slow-food manifesto, published on the 3rd November 1987 in Gambero Rosso, with a snail designed by Gianni Sassi
Carlin Petrini at Terra Madre
Taking a step back. The beginning of Slow Food: Cantè i'euv in 1979

There was no sign of chefs and cooking on television. Corrado was hosting Il pranzo è servito on Canale 5 at 1 pm but it was a quiz show. A few years earlier Stefano Bonilli hosted Di tasca nostra, a show for consumers, but there was no trace of it. The Ristoranti d’Italia dell’Espresso guide, inspired by French Gault&Millau, was meant for professionals: it was directed by a famous “fake beard” (the term used for secret agents), Federico Umberto D’Amato, whose identity was unknown to most, as he was head of the Private Affairs Office at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Newspapers had a page dedicated to agriculture: I used to write about wine, from time to time, in the one edited by La Stampa. The only specialised magazine with a decent national distribution was historic Cucina Italiana, with many recipes and little news. When on the 16th December 1986 the eight-page insert was published with il manifesto, the response was sceptical. How long would it last?

Paris, 1989: it’s the 21st December, at Opéra-Comique the International Movement for the Defense of and the Right to Pleasure is officially born. The manifesto is signed by delegates from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary, Venezuela

Paris, 1989: it’s the 21st December, at Opéra-Comique the International Movement for the Defense of and the Right to Pleasure is officially born. The manifesto is signed by delegates from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary, Venezuela

It’s title was Gambero Rosso, like the tavern invented by Carlo Collodi in The Adventures of Pinocchio (this is where the Fox and the Cat would dine before continuing their journey to the Field of Miracles), and was directed by Rai reporter Bonilli. A young “revolutionary” who had read Sociology in Trento and then took on a political career in Bra, in the secluded Provincia Bianca of Cuneo was collaborating: Carlo Petrini, known as Carlin. These pages were a mix of irony, commitment, erudite articles and critiques by debuting “scarehost” Edoardo Raspelli. The success was unexpected. On Tuesdays, the insert contained in the “Communist newspaper” directed by Valentino Parlato made sales reach 80 thousand copies, twice the sales of a normal day.

Carlin Petrini and Dario Fo

Carlin Petrini and Dario Fo

I remember I didn’t miss a copy, and collected them scrupulously. In 1975 I was a student and an activist at university. I met Carlin in the headquarters of his Radio Bra Onde Rosse, in the days when even Dario Fo came running to defend it when it was requisitioned.

Petrini speaking from the microphone in 1989 in Paris; next to him Folco Portinari

Petrini speaking from the microphone in 1989 in Paris; next to him Folco Portinari

Valentino Parlato and Stefano Bonilli

Valentino Parlato and Stefano Bonilli

An Arcigola membership card from 1987

An Arcigola membership card from 1987

The turning point came as a surprise 30 years ago, when they published the “per vivere meglio” [in order to live better] appeal. The cover featured a word that changed food language for good: “Slow-food”, written like this, with a dash. It came as a reaction to the opening of a fast food in the centre of Rome, in Piazza di Spagna. Petrini had founded Arcigola one year before. At the time, they’d meet in a tavern called Unione in Treiso, in the Langhe region: what with tajarin and some good Barolo, Folco Portinari, who was then a director at Rai, a critic and a refined poet, got the right idea. Portinari wrote the text, Petrini collected the signatures and on the 3rd November 1987 the manifesto was published in Gambero Rosso with a snail designed by Gianni Sassi. The signatures of Portinari, Petrini, Bonilli, Parlato, were followed by those of famous intellectuals and artists such as Dario FoFrancesco GucciniGina LagorioEnrico MenduniAntonio PortaErmete RealacciSergio Staino and more.

It was a rather snob and “situationist” break against the “comrades” who had become used to sloppy, anonymous food.

Petrini at a parade in Torino for Terra Madre in 2016

Petrini at a parade in Torino for Terra Madre in 2016

Why retrace this story and recall it today, thirty years later? Because without that experience of Slow Food which was ground-breaking for gastronomy, and made it popular – says the president of Slow Food Italia from 2006 to 2014, Roberto Burdese – today there would be no MasterChef, Salone del GustoEataly, the Identità Golose congress and all this media attention to food.

Petrini with Gigi Padovani

Petrini with Gigi Padovani

Carlo Petrini and I have been friends for 40 years and I suggested we go through this history with a book: I did so with a first volume in 2005. And now, with Slow Food. Storia di un’utopia possibile, we were working together once again to retrace the journey of these past 12 years. A new book was born in which we show how an association born for well-fed people became a political movement that also fights for those who have an empty belly.

2006: a thousand chefs at Salone del Gusto-Terra Madre

2006: a thousand chefs at Salone del Gusto-Terra Madre

Università di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo

Università di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo

This happened thanks to two great intuitions Carlin had: Terra Madre, the extraordinary 2004 novelty which welcomes food communities fighting for biodiversity and environmental sustainability in 160 countries across the world, and Università di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo which has scattered two thousand graduates around the world who now have high quality food as their belief.

Petrini in the headquarters of Pdup in Bra, in the Eighties

Petrini in the headquarters of Pdup in Bra, in the Eighties

So today the movement promoting “good, clean and fair” food has become a “common good”. Everyone has seized it, including entrepreneurs like Guido Barilla, Giuseppe Lavazza, Oscar Farinetti, Alessandro Ceretto, who told me in the book how Petrini and his ideas influenced them. Perhaps this is the new challenge for Slow Food, take a new leap, as decided during the congress in Chengdu in China: gradually dissolving into Terra Madre and becoming an increasingly “liquid” movement.

Petrini in Peru in 2015

Petrini in Peru in 2015

The publisher wrote in the book’s preface: «This is the official “biography” of the Slow Food movement, the “story of a possible utopia” that started from a small town and conquered millions of people around the world», with an «editorial hand», the one of a journalist [the author of this piece] «that transcribed the words of Petrini avoiding him the understandable embarrassment of writing about himself». A nice Italian story that now belongs to everyone. (Many interviews included in the book are also available as videos, on www.claragigipadovani.it).
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Slow Food. Storia di un’utopia possibile
by Carlo Petrini and Gigi Padovani
Giunti-Slow Food Editore, 356 pages,
September 2017, 18 euros (15,30 euros if you buy it here)


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Photogallery

The cover of Slow Food. Storia di un’utopia possibile, by Carlo Petrini and Gigi Padovani, Giunti-Slow Food Editore, 356 pages, September 2017, 18 euros (15,30 euros when buying it here)
The Slow-food manifesto, published on the 3rd November 1987 in Gambero Rosso, with a snail designed by Gianni Sassi
Carlin Petrini at Terra Madre
Taking a step back. The beginning of Slow Food: Cantè i'euv in 1979
Cantè i'euv in 1979. Petrini, is the fourth from the left
The first issue of La Gola, in October 1982
The first wine guide, in 1988
The Arcigola membership card 1988
The Arcigola membership card 1989
The first Slow Food membership card, in 1990
A souvenir photo from the congress in Paris in 1989
The congress in Venice in 1990