Terra Madre 2008: Grist reports from Italy on the slow food scene

Turin, Italy — At Slow Food Nation in San Francisco back in August, drinking bottled water was simply not done. At several points, the event’s organizers had installed dispensers that proudly poured filtered city water. Socially, clutching a plastic water bottle was tantamount to digging into a greasy McDonald’s bag for a handful of fries.

The water situation couldn’t have been more different at Terra Madre. The event offered no free water — to quench your thirst, there were stands peddling bottles of a brand called Lurisia in points throughout.

Lurisa was in fact a major sponsor. The company had a huge display in the middle of the Salon de Gusto, featuring little shrines to bottled water and even offering classes to children to teach them the importance of (bottled) water in a healthy diet. At least the Lurisia water tasted great (Elizabeth Royte, excuse me).

The other thing that got on my nerves was the coffee situation. Levazza, a large-scale coffee roster based in Turin, was also a major sponsor. And it evidently got the exclusive right to sell espresso on the floor of the Salone de Gusto. At several stands throughout the floor, they sold espresso made not from fresh-ground beans, but rather from preground beans packed in little plastic pods.

Amid a bounty of glorious wine, cheese, cured meat, and more, Levazza was peddling an industrial and inferior product (and generating loads of plastic waste). Any bar in Turin pulls a better shot than what was on offer on the floor of the Salone.

If only the concession had gone to Rome’s great Caffe Sant’Eustachio.