Nearly three years ago at the University of California, Berkeley, by what TUC Radio explains mysteriously as an "amazing coincidence," five of the most prominent figures in the protest against global, industrial food gathered on a panel called "Fast Food World." Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," with whom I spoke a few weeks ago for Salon, leads off the panel by explaining the twisted logic by which Mexico, the ancestral home of corn, now buys 200 million bushels of American corn each year. Carlo Petrini, the president and founder of Slow Food International, follows Pollan with a plea, translated from Italian in real time, for a gastronomical approach to the ecological movement. "The most beautiful phrase I have ever heard in my life, I heard it from that gentleman over there who is a farmer," Petrini says, referring to the Kentucky poet and essayist Wendell Berry. "He said that eating is an agricultural event ... my statement is that cultivating is above all a gastronomic event." Berry then follows Petrini with a critique of the environmental movement and its failure to integrate agricultural reform with conservation efforts. "The present land economy of farming, forestry and so on," says Berry, "rests on a foundation of general ignorance. Most of us don't know how we live or at what cost either ecologically or humanly." Pollan, Petrini and Berry are heard in Part 1 (29:03, MP3) of the recording.
In Part 2 (28:58, MP3), Vandana Shiva, the Indian physicist, seed collector and author of "Monocultures of the Mind," argues that only the leftovers of local production should reach global markets. "If we cannot maintain farmers on the land and guarantee livelihoods through robust local economies," says Shiva, "we are not going to have virtuous trade." Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation," rounds off the panel with a dissection of the erstwhile McDonald's slogan "On taste worldwide": "All you need to do is draw a little mustache on a Ronald, and you get a sense of what that ideology ultimately means." Schlosser also argues that free trade as we know it simply means that "you are free to give large sums of money to the Republican Party and in return you will be able to trade." Part 3 (29:05, MP3) of the recording consists of selections from the discussion among the five panelists. It's a quick education in the shape of the local food movement, in both its wisdom and its occasionally arch tone.
-- Ira Boudway