Slow Food Central Europe: united to promote local gastronomic heritage and connect rural and urban areas

At Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Poland are launching a series of activities for Slow Food CE, a European project led by Slow Food.

How can cities and rural areas learn to coexist and maintain fruitful relationships? It is not so simple, in fact, to find an adequate balance between them, zones that are so opposed to each other but also so complementary. Finding that elusive balance is, however, an urgent task. In 1950, only 30% of the world's population was urban. In the following decades, urbanization has led to great imbalances and it is expected that by 2050, 66% of the human population will be urban. 
The SLOW FOOD-CE: Culture, Heritage, Identity, Environment and Food project is an initiative of the European Union, together with Slow Food and other international partners, trying to create and diffuse a common methodology for the identification of intangible gastronomic heritage resources, to develop a model capable of safeguarding and enhancing traditional foods and their production, and to connect rural and urban areas in a sustainable way.
Funded by the EU Interreg Central Europe programme, which supports cooperation between the regions of Central Europe for three years, the project focuses on the role of food in each society and seeks to involve public and private secto players from Krakow (Poland), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Kecskemét (Hungary), Venice (Italy), and Brno (Czech Republic) to share problems, knowledge and ideas, and to create innovative solutions, with the active participation of the community, for the promotion of heritage with the launch of five pilot actions.
In other words, these are concrete actions, in line with the Slow Food philosophy, aimed at enhancing the specific characteristics of local gastronomy, its roots, and the cultural heritage they express.
"Time in the city and the time in rural areas are very different - explained Piercarlo Grimaldi, professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, speaker at the City and Forum conference - The former is linear, chronometric, instrumental, dedicated to the standardization of profits, while the second is circular, strongly characterized by the knowledge and participation of individuals in the community. It is fundamental and urgent to intertwine these two opposing worlds without reducing their diversity, and to make food a keystone, an aspect that is not only instrumental, but also symbolic, instrumental in organizing and transforming our lives in the metropolitan city.
Donald Hyslop, head of the Borough Market London, also takes the same view: "The real challenge is to connect citizens and producers to face the challenges of tomorrow. It is not only a question of uniting these two worlds, but also of fighting climate change, social justice and creating a sustainable economy. With the Borough Market, which attracts 15 million visitors every year, we try to educate consumers and producers to share and open up to others, to network and create a change in the trends of progressive closure that are characterizing the world. Only together can we make a difference.
Chefs also have a central role to play. Samuel Nahon, co-founder of Terroirs d'Avenir, says: "Cooks are the main ambassadors of taste. In Paris, when we started 10 years ago, many chefs knew nothing about traditional or local varieties. Over the years we have created a real network and today the same chefs go to producers and have direct relationships with them, creating markets that everyone can access. It's really important to make people understand that we can't break the link between the countryside and the city.

Obviously, there needs to be support from institutions. "The time taken by the institutions is slightly longer and they have precise rules” explained Paola Mar, Councillor for Tourism of the city of Venice, partner of the project “but likewise they are aware of the need to implement concrete actions to connect rural and urban areas, and to enhance the heritage of knowledge and local traditions. Venice is a perfect example, a historic multi-ethnic laboratory, where wine and food heritage can become fundamental resources for experiential tourism of the future and to educate citizens, producers and tourists to respect local traditions.

"The change must also start in schools, with the education of children, and collaboration," explained Kenneth Højgaard, Deputy Director of Copenhagen House of Food, who oversaw the introduction of organic raw materials througout the city of Copenhagen.