I promise that tomorrow we'll be back to food, but today was an eventful day. I have some major national papers calling me about all this and unfortunately, the question of Alice Waters comes up. Waters is in an uncomfortable position of being on both boards, CUESA and Slow Food. I cut her a hell of a lot of slack because her intentions are always clear and whatever you may think of her, you know she's trying to do the right thing. As a Bay Area native, being on the opposite side of a food fight with Alice Waters is not something you enjoy. Dread is a better word. So I called.
We talked for a good while, mostly about things we agree upon. She insists Carlo's intentions are good and I kept bringing it around to why would he write such things, especially if they weren't true. Waters talked about her history with the market and how defensive she is of it but the food movement was a bigger issue. The more she talked, the more I had the sinking feeling this was going to go nowhere.
Finally I said, "Would you feel it's fair to say that you support Petrini 100% and the goals of Slow Food, but in this one case, he got the market wrong?"
There was a pause, and then she said, "Absolutely."
"So even though you support him, he didn't 'get' the market."
"Absolutely. He got this one wrong. But I support his right to express himself, 100%"
As far as I'm concerned, she's my new hero. This one small acknowledgment changed everything. I would love it if Slow Food could come out and say something similar but that's for another day or someone else.
We continued talking about farmers we knew mutually, price, perception and the struggle to get real food to the table. I had the feeling a two week headache had ended.
One of the things that had upset her was my saying that she didn't shop the market. She tells me this just isn't true, so I apologize.
In related news, my fellow Terra Madre delegate and madder than hell farmer friend, Nigel Walker of Eatwell Farms told me this morning he's still madder than ever but plans to renew his membership to Slow Food and hopefully make some changes from within. Good for him! If you still have a connection to Slow Food, I'd encourage you to do the same. For me, it's not my group anymore and I think I prefer to continue with my favorite seed saving organizations but one path isn't any less valid or mighty than the next, obviously.
Whether Ferry Plazas prices are as outrageous as claimed are true or not, it doesn't matter, because there's the perception that they are. I hope this opens up a whole new dialog between the farmers and CUESA and the public. I don't find the market all that expensive for vegetables but maybe I'm nuts. We'll find out. I also hope Slow Food takes a look at themselves as well. Whether it's true or not, the perception among many is that they're arrogant and elitist. Again, if that's the perception, I hope they can address it because it might as well be true.
Now, shut up and eat!