Any animals boarding Carlo Petrini’s Ark are likely to be braised, cured, or roasted and served alongside plates of fresh, locally cultivated vegetables: perhaps a Fine Monquelin Onion from Spain or Italy’s Sant’Erasmo Purple Artichokes. This “Ark of Taste” – essentially a gastronome’s endangered species list – is Slow Food International’s most ambitious and creative project to date.
Since 1996, Slow Food has meticulously catalogued over 800 foods from 50 countries that are in danger of being lost or forgotten. The technical difference between traditional initiatives to preserve biodiversity and the Ark of Taste project is that the former attempt to preserve wildlife and wild-animal species, while the latter seeks to protect domesticated plant and animal species (namely from the takeover of bioengineered and genetically modified species). Consider it one last, delicious stand against Monsanto.
But The Ark of Taste takes the mission of most seed saving groups a step further, and puts a decidedly Slow Food spin on the project, by understanding the inextricable link that exists between food and culture. As agri-intellectual celebrity Michael Pollan observed, “The movement understands that every set of genes on its Ark of Taste encodes not only a set of biological traits but a set of cultural practices as well, and in some cases even a way of life.”
Despite the Ark’s recognition of food culture, Bostonians should know that Fenway Franks and Sam Adams Summer Ale won’t be making the list any time soon. The Scientific Ark Commission has a strict list of criteria that a product must meet, including: taste quality; cultural impact; environmental, socio-economic and historical relevance; a small production source and rarity; and the threat of endangerment.
So, Slow Foodies, take a look at the Ark here. Are there any products from your home state or country that you recognize and love? Conversely, is there something that you wish was included? Let us know!
Written by Slow Food NU member Gabriella Paiella