The slow fight against fast food

I stepped into the Salone del Gusto e Terra Madre with no expectations. I had no idea what the International Slow Food Movement was and had even less of a clue who was involved in it—all I knew was that I was going to have the opportunity to eat food from all over the world, more or less for free, and to see Jamie Oliver. While stuffing myself with 20 different assortments of cheese had me smiling from ear to ear, the infinite amount of food samples wasn’t even the best part of the food fair.


The food fair itself was a sight to behold. With 1,266 exhibitors from 170 different countries, I didn’t know where to begin. I rooted myself in the Philippine booth for a good part of the fair, where I was joined by well-renowned chef Margarita Forés along with her sous-chef Mariel Bustamante and chief of staff Anthony Prudencio, New York-based chef Noel de la Rama and Italian native Carla Brigliadore of Casa Artusi who were kind enough to give their time and volunteer to serve our country, and the entire Philippine delegation ready to bring our native Filipino tastes to people across the globe. Before I knew it, I was serving a wide array of dishes to the wandering visitors lucky enough to have a free taste of the Philippines’ best dishes—from two different kinds of adobo to a hearty soup of kadios beans, our guests practically inhaled their food. A crowd began to gather around our booth, with foreigners from the most arbitrary regions itching for a bite of Filipino cuisine. But that wasn’t my favorite part, either.

The global exhibit only got better with its wide variety of conferences and workshops, not only to culture my taste buds but also my culinary knowledge. After spending three hours serving the many fans of our booth, I headed to the most sought out conference in the entire food fair and graced myself with the presence of three of the most influential people in the culinary business: Carlo Petrini, the renowned founder of the International Slow Food Movement; Alice Waters, a pioneer in the organic food movement known as the “mother of American food;” and Jamie Oliver, everybody’s favorite “naked chef” and one of the most influential advocates for better food education.

The conference began with Alice Waters telling a story about her visit to a jail. At the jail, the prisoners were gardening for therapy, and their produce was either sold to restaurants to garner support, or given to the homeless. Waters looked at this idea and said, “Why not bring it to schools?” sparking an idea that would change the world of food forever—the Edible Schoolyard program. The Edible Schoolyard program invites students to have a hand at growing, cooking, and eating more nutritious food. Waters believes that bringing nutrition into schools and buying healthier produce from local farmers, rather than falling prey to the fast food culture, will have benefits in the long run. Fighting what she calls our “imprisonment by the fast food industry,” by planting our own food and supporting other local farmers, will address issues of child hunger, issues of health, and even issues of climate change, effectively hitting three birds with one stone.

Jamie Oliver continued the trend with his impacting statement, “The way I did it was to fight hard.” It has been 10 years since Jamie Oliver started the School Dinners Campaign in the UK where he fought to improve the quality of school dinners throughout Britain, declaring it to be an “exceptional 40 years for bad health.” His two-year campaign convinced the British government to do their part and made it law for all children to learn about food and for every child under the age of seven to receive a free school lunch. Oliver firmly believes that the world is against a strategic enemy that is clever, well dug in, and most important rich—governments that are focused solely on their reign in office and businesses famished for short-term success that are working hand-in-hand to seduce consumer families with cleverly devised convenience. With an enemy like this, slow, step-by-step processes will never be enough—we need an ambush. With more and more children dying from obesity and food diseases than famine and world hunger, the situation is critical. Inspired by the works of Alice Waters, Jamie has also begun a Kitchen Garden Project in the UK. “My focus is to keep disrupting [and] finding better ways to spread better practice… One voice is not enough—you need a choir, an orchestra.”


The talk finished with the wise words of Carlo Petrini, the man who made it all happen. Petrini, like the two, is a firm believer in both feeding children more nutritious food, and empowering them with proper food education. He began the International Slow Food Movement and found the spotlight after he fought against the opening of McDonald’s food chains in Rome. He furthered his stance by convincing councils to ban fizzy drinks around schools in Italy. Petrini injected his intelligent and passionate words with humor, using an anecdote about his faithful meeting with the European head of McDonald’s as an example—the head had apparently gone up to him and called Carlo Petrini his nemesis, to which the clever Slow Food founder replied, “You are not my nemesis – you’re my friend, because if it weren’t for you, I
would never have started Slow Food.” This charismatic man urges the young people to fight for change—one large voice is the only thing powerful enough to make a real difference.

Hearing all this is what topped my list—not the endless rows of food heaven, or the 15 minutes of fame since I was the one serving delicious Philippine food. I went into the Salone del Gusto with no expectations at all and I went out with a head full of knowledge and a heart yearning for change. We live in a world ruled by fast food, and are seduced by instant gratification—even at the price of more stockpiling issues. Though obesity might not be the main problem in all countries, such as the Philippines for example, not being properly fed is still the main culprit. As Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver, and Carlo Petrini urge us all to do, we have to ready ourselves for the ambush. Sure we need an entire orchestra of people shouting for change, but we still need that one tiny voice to start it. Will it be yours?