It’s hard to describe the beauty of the Eat-In. The shared joy, the instant connections, the wealth of flavors. A regular part of the program at Slow Food events since 2010, the Eat-In is organized by students of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in open, public spaces, where food that would otherwise have gone to waste is transformed into a delicious buffet. Perhaps no other event embodies the Slow Food philosophy so vividly, and it was the perfect way to close out Slow Fish 2017.
At the Porto Antico in Genoa, Italy we caught up with one of the organizers, Mara Petruzzelli, to get her take on what the Eat-In means.
“The objective is to feed as many people as possible all at the same time, especially people that perhaps don’t know each other, using ingredients that otherwise wouldn’t have been used, leftovers and so on. We go to the markets, take what the merchants haven’t sold and cook it all up together in teams, then serve it to the people. And it’s never the same, from one event to the next, the ingredients change, the cooks rotate, the people are always new, so every occasion is unique. Here at Slow Fish of course we’re concentrating strongly on seafood! All the students at the University take part in the organization in one way or another, and everyone is welcome to lend a hand.”
And what kind of reaction to the students hope for, from the public?
“We’re hoping to show people that you can recover a lot of food that we might otherwise think of as waste, and do it well, and when we see people open their eyes to that, it’s a success. Our ideas of quality in food are so ingrained, but they can be overturned. What once was waste can easily become a tasty, satisfying meal. We want people to appreciate the social aspect of it, too, the idea of not only eating together, but preparing food together, cooking together as a social activity that brings people together. It’s a good opportunity to spread the Slow Food message to people who might not normally come into contact with it, and show them what it means to us. This is a great way for people to come into first contact with Slow Food: not as some elitist diners club, but an open table for everyone. And of course, doing it here by the sea in Genoa under the sun creates a great atmosphere, and produces great results.”
With every plate served, every glass poured, every small conversation, Slow Food and the University of Gastronomic Sciences are actively working to spread the word of good, clean and fair food, not as some abstract concept, but a fun, physical activity that we can all recreate anywhere, anytime.
It is fitting that a Zero Waste dinner closes Slow Fish, given that this eight edition of the event has had a sharp focus on waste, specifically micro-plastics. Our seas are suffering with human pollution, and according to Italian environmental organization Legambiente 96% of the floating waste in the sea is plastic, and 89% of marine fauna risks swallowing it. We’re not just talking about turtles who mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, but the microscopic detritus that is eaten by fish and later, when we catch them, by us.
Another central theme this year has been climate change, which is already affecting fishermen in all of the 15 countries represented at Slow Fish, albeit in different ways. While in the Mediterranean, an invasion of jellyfish caused by warm waters is severely altering the balance of the ecosystem, in Finland the shorter winters are restricting the livelihoods of traditional indigenous lake fishers who depend on them freezing over.
This edition of Slow Fish has seen the participation of both the scientific community and the fishers of the Terra Madre network, both from Italy and abroad: over 500 people working together with 50 volunteers, and food communities from 15 different countries spanning every continent, from Finland to Uganda and from Ecuador to Australia, our 80 delegates are the living proof that small-scale sustainable fishing can work.
Slow Food International has grand objectives, and Slow Fish 2017 has been another important step on the path towards a better, cleaner, fairer future. Here, the ideas of conviviality and increased scientific awareness of the sea and how it sustains us have gone hand in hand. This third edition of Slow Fish in the open air, and the eighth in total, has seen an increased interest in the general public, demonstrating how the event is succeeding in its mission to change the way we think about the seas, fishers and the marine ecosystem.