The quick march of the Slow Food movement

Ian Irvine on the festival that focuses on taste

The biennial Salone del Gusto, which takes place next month in Turin, has in its 10-year life become the largest and most important food festival in the world.

The biennial Salone del Gusto, which takes place next month in Turin, has in its 10-year life become the largest and most important food festival in the world.

In five days from 21 to 25 October, more than 150,000 visitors are expected at this foodie paradise and more than 500 exhibitors from across the world will be offering their products. There will also be more than 200 taste workshops on such diverse subjects as "Ferrari or Rolls-Royce? Sake for sushi", "Raw-milk cheese from Tuscany", "Cured meats along the Po", "Vertical tasting of Dom Perignon" and "The Sami people and their reindeer". (All will be delivered in simultaneous English/ Italian; tickets range from €7 to €55 (£5-£38).

There will also be 13 performances by noted chefs in the Theatre of Taste (including one by the celebrated Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California).

The Salone del Gusto is only the most visible example of the Slow Food movement's energetic commitment to raising public awareness of the economic and cultural importance of gastronomic bio-diversity through informed pleasure. Slow Food began 18 years ago as a protest against the opening of a McDonald's at the Spanish Steps in Rome; it sought to defend Italy's wealth of regional food and the valuable experience of consuming it convivially with family and friends.

As its manifesto states, "To be worthy of the name, Homo sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction. A firm defence of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life."

It has grown to be an organisation with 80,000 members in more than 100 countries and next month opens its own University of the Science of Gastronomy, on two campuses in Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, with the aim of supplementing food and agricultural science with humanistic content, the study of terroirs and artisans, and the history of the world's cuisines and foodstuffs.

Its founder, Carlo Petrini, says: "We must defend the monuments of our gastronomy. Pleasure without knowledge is merely self-indulgence. Our movement of gastronomy has become a movement of eco-gastronomy."

As part of its commitment to protecting the rare breeds of the food and wine world the movement in 2000 created its Presidia. "Presidium" is Latin for "garrison": Slow Food adopts products that are outposts of traditional farming and production under siege from modern agri-business. There are now 190 Presidia in Italy (including rare varieties of strawberries and pears, cheeses, wines, salami, hams) and another 50 around the world.

Further information on the Salone del Gusto 21-25 October in Turin can be found at www.salonedelgusto.com

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