By Shepherd Bliss
Sept 1, 2008
“Come to the table,” Slow Food Nation invited. And come to San Francisco over Labor Day weekend they did–around 50,000 people attending perhaps the largest food celebration in American history.
Tables and straw bales appeared in the heart of the city’s Civic Center around a victory garden on about a quarter of an acre that had replaced a lawn. It was surrounded by a huge marketplace, which was like an old-fashioned farmers’ market that gets food directly from the farm to the fork, bypassing corporate super-markets.
A couple of miles away by the Bay at Ft. Mason–inside an old military hangar stretching over the length of a couple of football field–people strolled down a long aisle to taste fresh seafood, chocolate, wine, olives, ice cream, Indian bread and other delightful options. They could also attend free film showings and rock concerts at the former military base transformed into a cultural center.
Meanwhile, inside large auditoriums and smaller meeting rooms people discussed the growing global food crisis, how to respond to it, and imagined possible futures for farming. The final panel included the following key voices in the growing world-wide sustainable agriculture movement: Italian Carlo Petri, the founder of Slow Food in l986, physicist Vandana Shiva from India, Kentucky poet and author Wendell Berry, UC Berkeley professor Michael Pollan, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse Restaurant, and “Fast Food Nation” author Eric Schloesser.