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Opinion

Slow by slow… celebrating sustainable food

Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

People ask why we do what we do. Because it can make a difference.

Here’s an account of a gathering of Slow Food advocates who got together without fanfare and without much preparation but met up anyway…all for saving our food culture.

Many years ago, I was the hard-nosed entrepreneur wanting to put up a small business on a new concept in any mall, or a streetside store. The other day I was listening to the travails of restaurant entrepreneurs and how they are trying to survive the pandemic. And I wistfully recalled my younger days. I was aggressive, determined and competitive. Today’s young entrepreneurs are even more determined. You would have to be so driven to put up or continue a business during these hard times. I SALUTE ALL OF YOU.

Another storyteller at the same lunch talked about his consultancy job with pharma companies and shares how this virus may mutate over six more years. I could only swallow hard as I listened to his predictions on how we need to live with this virus and its mutations for a much longer time. So, what does he do? He farms and he is focused on raising baby pigs as a hobby and business. He does not need that much money. He just does what he likes to do. He is a semi-retired businessman and business consultant.

Another guest is a book author and designer who now complains of long drives into the country but does it anyway for the sake of promotion of food culture. We humor him by doing an instant book launch of his latest book. The guests gather around him and ask for his autograph. He is a happy, semi-retired artist and historian who breaks into annotations of our food taken from his history books.

And then we have the younger ones who do their own business concepts while teaching the youth of today. These two are young professors who impart the ideals of Slow Food to their students while also running the Slow Food Youth Network.

Then there is our host who is hyperactively running a restaurant, a living museum, an events place and bed and breakfast. She’s like a spinning top who’s on her toes 24/7 and getting so much done in the process. She is somewhat retired, doing what she likes to do but not for the money. Nor for the fame. She just keeps 20 people employed while she fixes her art collection, runs a kitchen and entertains. I salute people like her with that kind of energy and works for the sheer joy of it.

Listening to their experiences makes you wonder why people do what they do. Where do they get the energy to do it? We came together to talk about an advocacy: Slow Food. Right away you know that this is something in common among the ten of us present at this luncheon. We like good food, clean food and fair food. Now, how to spread the word to the younger generation, to legislators and even to farmers?

Well, guess what? There are younger congressmen and congresswomen who are interested in what we are doing and have asked for more information to protect our food security and food sovereignty. What can they do? They can legislate or make laws so the small units of society can get in on the act of saving our food culture. And that’s a good thing to start with. These legislators will join our advocacy.

The younger Slow Food Youth members will educate the youth. The older ones like us will write books, mentor the young and otherwise preserve what we already know or have known as local food culture. The institutional memory belongs to the slightly older ones. What we remember from our younger days will be the cornerstone of today’s education for the young and the very young. The legislators can influence our schools to start school gardens, and LGUs to start community gardens. Then every Filipino will get the chance to know his food culture and history again.

And maybe, just maybe, we will learn about who we are and what we stand for once again. Who is the Filipino? What does he or she grow and eat? What is Filipino food after all?

So why do we do what we do? Because it can make a difference.

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Slow Food marks its anniversary on Dec. 10 with Terra Madre Day, celebrated in over 160 countries to promote local eating, agriculture biodiversity and sustainable food production. Chit Juan is Slow Food councilor for Southeast Asia.

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