Holistic Gastronomy

Mark Bittman, New York Times columnist and author of the book Food Matters: A Guide To Conscious Eating delivered the keynote speech at the Food Film Festival last weekend in Amsterdam – an event organized by members of the Slow Food Youth Network. While he was there, he had the chance to have a long chat with Slow Food president Carlo Petrini.

Bittman has been writing about food since the early 1980s, but in recent years has gone beyond cooking and recipes to explore a broader spectrum of issues concerning the global food system. We spoke with him in 2011 to find out more about how he came to be so passionate about food and what led him to write his 2009 book Food Matters – a practical analysis of some of these questions. Read the full interview here.

The following is an excerpt from his article ‘Slow Food Quickens the Pace’ based on his interview with Carlo Petrini last weekend, published on Tuesday in The New York Times.

First I asked if my original misperceptions of Slow Food as an organization of “gourmets” was wrong. He (Petrini) had two answers to this. First: “The nature of Slow Food has changed. When we began Terra Madre” — a biennial conference in Turin, Italy — “we were joined by Asians, Africans and Latin Americans, and we realized that ‘gastronomy’ was perceived by everyone in different ways, because our histories and conditions are different. But we all realized we had something in common, and that this fraternity was an important value.”

But, he reminded me, “gastronomy is holistic. It’s not only recipes and cooking but agriculture, physics, biology, genetics, chemistry, history, economy, politics and ecology. If we adapt this vision of gastronomy, our relationships with food and each other changes.”
One problem, of course, was that gastronomy became equated with “gourmet-ism,” or something of concern only to bon vivants. (He uses the word “gastronomer” as we might use “foodie” or, more kindly, one who appreciates the pleasures of food.) But now, he said: “A gastronomer who is not an environmentalist is just stupid. Whereas an environmentalist who is not a gastronomer is sad. It’s possible to change the world even while preserving the concept of the right of pleasure.”

Click here to read Mark Bittman’s full article, published in The New York Times on Tuesday March 26, 2013.

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