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Slow Food and Living Landscapes

Jordi Sargatal
President, Slow Food Empordā

A month ago, at the beginning of June 2012, my good friend, Georgina Regās, responsible for bravely keeping the Museu de la Confitura (Jam Museum) moving forward and also an avid bird-watcher and admirer, turned the Presidency of Slow Food Empordā over to me with support from the organisation's General Assembly.

I had known about Slow Food for some time, a good idea launched by Carlo Petrini in the small Italian city of Bra in 1986. From the outset, I was attracted by how it organised itself and spread but, especially, its defence of autochthonous domesticated plants and animals. This biodiversity, influenced and transformed by humans, has magnificently adapted to each climate and territory and, at the same time, helped influence and transform the different humanised landscapes.

Some time ago, another friend, Carles Ginčs, asked me to present his book of recipes and work with a series of young chefs, including Jordi Jacas (El Molí de l'Escala), Lola Puig (El Fort d'Ullastret), Marc Gascons (Els Tinars, Llagostera) and a little less young Jaume Subirķs (Motel de Figueres). This experience inspired me to detail all the plant and animal species they included in their recipes. Obviously, these recipes represented a true compendium of biodiversity.

Eating and, by extension, buying food, can become an exercise in how to protect local landscapes and species; it is also great help for farmers who apply good practices and respectfully toil the land.

When we admire a landscape and comment on the marvellous mosaic of fields and woods and the work of shepherds and their animals, the most coherent thing would be to buy meat from them to help them maintain those very same landscapes we love. Similarly, when we praise the virtues of Catalan landscapes such as its fields of grape vines and olive groves, the most coherent thing would be to buy the wines and oils produced there, products which also provide top quality.

In fact, when humans began cultivating fields and domesticating animals, we began the process of humanising the environment; we began building human landscapes, the landscapes we precisely admire today due to their beauty. However, in the last few decades, "overdevelopment" has led to a large part of these sweetly humanised landscapes becoming overly mechanised. While true that they are now more productive, they are also less attractive and less alive.

Slow Food aims to maintain landscapes' beauty and keep them alive. It aims for eating to become good, clean and fair once more. Though easier said than done, we have to urgently apply this principle if we want to have a future as humans on our planet and live with certain dignity surrounded by the other species which make up the marvellous biodiversity around us, a biodiversity with the same right to be a part of this amazing adventure of life on Earth.

By Jordi Sargatal Vicens President, Slow Food Empordā Former Director of the Natural Park, Aiguamolls de l'Empordā, 1984-1998 Former Director of the Territory and Landscape Foundation (Fundaciķ Territori i Paisatge), 1998-2009

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