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Slow Food Nation: Big Names Collide at Food For Thought

Herbst Theater: On Saturday evening, the Food For Thought lecture series reached its climax as six of the biggest luminaries behind the movement took the stage together for a three hour discussion. Corby Kummer moderated the panel of heavyhitters that included Wendell Berry, Carlo Petrini, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Vandana Shiva, and of course, the queen of the ball, Alice Waters. Much applause ensued over the hours. Some thoughts on the evening:

1) Upon taking our seat in Herbst Theater, an adamant Slow Food lover was complaining to the usher about the fact that there were too many lights on in the theater and it was a waste of energy. We shit you not.

2) Farmer-author Berry spoke first, reading a prepared statement in which he responded to a recent Chron article in his slow, elderly Southern drawl, praised the pleasures of hard work, quoted Yeats, and put together an essay that Kummer immediately dubbed poetic and very dense.

2.5) Kummer then asked Berry to re-read his entire preamble. It was at this point that we started to see how this thing would last three hours.

3) More or less, the only time any of the panelists directly addressed the critics was when Schlosser—who we think "gets it"—touched on who is not at the metaphoric table: the people who literally bring the food to the table (restaurant workers, meatpacking workers, and farm workers). His thesis: Slow Food has to get broader.

4) All the panelists rehashed their various, well-known agendas: Shiva talked about global nutrition crisis, Pollan about American food politics, Alice about a garden in the White House, and Petrini, being the good old Italian man he is, kept on referencing his beloved mama, paradise and hell. To a big ovation, of course.

5) Frankly, it was easy to see how Petrini is an international leader. Especially when juxtaposed with Waters, the man commands a presence on that stage.

6) A word about the crowd: for the first 30 minutes, people were sitting in the aisles at the sold-out event. Once the 75-minute mark hit, people started consistently leaving over the course of the second half. Our row was empty by the end. We're not sure if that says more about the way these Slow Food leaders are spreading the good word, or the ADD-riddled, fast-food culture they are trying to reach.

7) After the Slow Food Six gave their spiels, Kummer asked them to give some "marching orders" to the crowd. The first two responses: Pollan urged everyone to plant a garden and Shiva urged everyone to stop the trillion-dollar global foundations. Same thing. Six leaders, one goal, six ways to get there.

8) As the evening wound down, an amazingly poetic Berry (it's really true) stole the show, saying Slow Food is about forming a cooperative, about neighbors, about the audience extending the movement beyond the six leaders on the stage. And then Petrini closed out the lecture with another high-energy bit to a standing ovation. For those familiar with the movement, not much new came to light during the evening, but plenty of questions, complaints, ideas and awareness likely emerged, which we suppose was a main point of it all. Closing remarks, memorable scenes and hangover observations tomorrow...
· All Slow Food Coverage [~ESF~]