On Earth Day this year, I had the pleasure of traveling to New York City. The trip, a last minute decision, was to serve two purposes: to visit my daughter and to attend a Slow Food benefit dinner “Plating the Planet” at the United Nations Building. I thought “Why is Slow Food hosting a dinner at the United Nations building?” My curiosity got the best of me, so I left my generous husband home to care for our bit of earth, with plenty of transplants to water and numerous mouths to feed. Destinations Brooklyn and Manhattan.
My curiosity and excitement were enhanced by the opportunity to meet one of the three evening’s speakers, our Slow Food founder Carlos Petrini.
Earth Day in Brooklyn started out warm, with forsythias and cherry blossoms creating whimsy in the parks. Young mothers with babies and strollers were abundant, enjoying the warm sunshine. As evening arrived, a front moved in that brought rain and cold air.
Dressed in a small-town girl’s version of cocktail attire, I arrived at the United Nations Building, where friendly Slow Food USA team members greeted me and checked me in, then directed me to a succession of security clearances. Finally I was on the elevator and arriving at the latter half of cocktail hour. I felt a bit out of place, like a deer in Bloomingdale’s, but after partaking of a fantastic cocktail creation by Allen Katz of NY Distilling, with Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin, I felt my tension ease. I enjoyed a friendly conversation with a UN official about Slow Food and the economic challenges for small farms. My daughter Amber, soon arrived to join me, and we were greeted by our inspirational Director of Slow Food USA, Richard McCarthy.
Dinner began with warm welcome by Director McCarthy, followed by our first course and an introduction by Allen Katz to craft cocktail history in the USA. A light intermezzo of gelato was accompanied by a speech from Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary General. He shared his goals for clean water throughout the world, and the empowerment of women.
The presenters during our second course were two speakers from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Marie Haga, Crop Trust Executive Director, and Cary Fowler. (I was surprised to realize I had met Cary at The Monticello Heritage Festival in 2013. He and Marie are certainly making their way around the local food movement scene.) The vault was created to ensure seed biodiversity is preserved against crop failures, shifts in market demands, and climate challenges.
Then, even before dessert, the sweetest part of the evening arrived.
That was in the form of Carlos Petrini, who delivered a passionate, unapologetic, and fearless reprimand of our current food system. He called it a crime. “Everyone is talking about SUSTAINABILITY,” he said, “Who is talking about BIODIVERSITY?” He covered it all, left no stone unturned. He stood up for our farmers first and foremost, demanding fair wages, profitability, respect, inclusion, and their needs in the sustainability platform.
“Everyone is talking about SUSTAINABILITY,” he said,
“Who is talking about BIODIVERSITY?” – Carlos Petrini
He explained how “Free Trade” has crippled the financial sustainability of family farms worldwide. Advocated the importance of quality, flavor, culture, and the biodiversity of our food. Presented the challenges we’re up against with uniformity, perfection, and quantity. Explained how they are all synergistic to our health, environment, and quality of life. As they hurried us out, hardly allowing time for our late arriving desert, I felt reassured. Slow Food is an organization under strong leadership that cares deeply about our planet and what goes on our plates.
Of course, the food was amazing. I applaud the Northeast farmers who provided fresh young cultivated blessings that were coddled through late spring temperature swings, the chefs who artfully presented courses of memorable flavor, and the speakers who shared their passions for preserving our water, seeds, biodiversity, and food culture. What nourished me the most was the bravado of our Slow Food leadership.
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