Resilience in these frozen days

02 April 2020

In these frozen days, we hear the word “resilience” being used a lot. It’s normally used in the fields of ecology and biology, where it indicates the capacity of a material to repair itself after being damaged, or of a community or ecosystem to return to its initial state after being disturbed.

After inflicting so much damage on ecosystems – often against its own interest – humanity must now try to adopt a strategy of resilience, and test its capacity to recover and return to how things were before the damage was done. But given that how things were was in many ways unjust, we shouldn’t simply think of returning to the status quo, but a true refoundation, one which seeks a wise and natural equilibrium.

As Slow Food and Terra Madre, we have lots of examples of resilience at hand: the communities of farmers, fishers, artisans, cooks and activists who fight for the regeneration of an alternative system, one which is better, cleaner and fairer.

These are examples which we’ve shared for a long time, and which we’ll continue to uphold and fight for.

The first story doesn’t strictly regard the current emergency, but one of the Slow Food Earth Markets, which strengthens the resilience of the rural population of Sile, Turkey, in the face of migration to the cities.

A farmer of the Sile Earth Market. Photo: Ivo Danchev.

TURKEY: FROM SEED TO MARKET

Everything started with a seed. Rather, everything started with a seed-swapping event in Sile, a small town on the Black Sea, an hour away from the Blue Mosque, and part of the Istanbul Greater Metropolitan Area. The farmers have begun to attend the market in higher numbers and bring some of their food products, welcoming the chance to sell them directly to local people.

Fatma Denizci soon understood the potential of a local farmers’ market, which can be an extra source of income for the inhabitants of these rural areas. She and the entire convivium of Slow Food Sile Palamut Birliği formed an alliance with local authorities and started what has since become one of the most successful farmers’ markets in all of Turkey, the Sile Earth Market.

Its success isn’t simply a result of its position in the center of Sile, but the approach of the local community, which conceived of the market as a holistic project, not just a place to buy and sell. An example? All of the participating farmers have the opportunity to take part in training courses on food security, food hygiene, labelling and marketing.

Sile Earth Market. Photo: Ivo Danchev

HOLISTIC DEVELOPMENT

With the support of local authorities, in the last five years over 200 farmers have left the black market and become solid family-run companies, selling their fresh products as well as condiments, pasta, bread and other delicacies made in their small workshops.

Fatma’s dreams, however, went even further. She thought about starting a community center in an old school in the village of Ovacik – one of many such school buildings that have been abandoned in rural areas because of depopulation and urban migration. They restructured the building and installed a kitchen; it’s now home to a women’s center, where classes are regularly held both for local people and curious visitors. In the summer, when the coast of Sile is one of the favorite destinations of Istanbulites, the women’s center is constantly bus, providing additional revenue for dozens of women and their families.

When the famous Turkish chef Maksut Askar heard about the initiative, she became one of its main supporters, offering regular classes and contributing further to the fame of the Ovacik women’s center.

Fatma Denizci, the farmers of the Sile Earth Market and Maksut Aksar will participate at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2020.

Sile Earth Market. Photo: Ivo Danchev

URBAN RESILIENCE

Resilience isn’t just for rural areas: it’s a necessity for urban ecosystems too, as the current period is so clearly demonstrating. Cities, perhaps more than other places, have shown how fragile they are.

The empty streets, the long lines outside supermarkets, the suspension of simple and fundamental freedoms like leaving one’s home (which in a city often means not having any green space at all) have made our urban centers lonely cities, like those described by Olivia Laing.

“Imagine standing by a window at night, on the sixth or seventeenth or forty-third floor of a building. The city reveals itself as a set of cells, a hundred thousand windows, some darkened and some flooded with green or white or golden light. Inside, strangers swim to and fro, attending to the business of their private hours. You can see them, but you can’t reach them, and so this commonplace urban phenomenon, available in any city of the world on any night, conveys to even the most social a tremor of loneliness, its uneasy combination of separation and exposure. You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people.”

Today more so than ever, cities must ask themselves what their strategies of resilience are. As just another example, we’ll tell you about the actions of a Parisian restaurant which is part of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance.

FRANCE: LES RESISTANTS, ON THE SIDE OF FARMERS

The premise of Les Resistants is a righteous one, down to the name. It aims to strengthening links with rural areas and local farmers who respect the environment, as well as to preserve traditional know-how.

Slow Food Cook’s Alliance: The vegetables of Les Resistants

Among the pillars of Les Resistants is the promotion of producers who represent this kind of agriculture, and local biodiversity, made up of the the most resilient animal breeds, and of the thousands of varieties of fruits and vegetables which are threatened by the standardization of taste and culture.

The restaurant industry (and the productive sector which supplies) has been among the most – or at least most immediately – hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. From the beginning of the emergency, Les Resistants have been in constant contact with the hundred or so farmers most affected by the crisis, following their situation daily and preparing themselves to help where necessary.

Fortunately, the vast majority of these farmers is able to keep their activity going in a relatively normal fashion, thanks to the diversity of distribution channels and the collective initiatives they’re involved in. But some are more affected than others, especially those whose products are perishable or not able to be stored. This is the case for producers of fruits and vegetables, as well as fishers. The situation is complicated by a mild spring, which impacts on a large volume of fresh products. Add to that the temporary closure of open markets, which has drastically reduced selling opportunities.

A SUPPORT PLAN

There are many solid actions restaurants can take, and their customers too. These are the steps taken by Les Resistants:

  • pay suppliers. It seems obvious, but it’s important to remember that this is one of the main problems for the cash flow for small companies. We need to think about this cash flow collectively and not individually;
  • visit – if possible –the farms close to us, to support local agriculture instead of supermarkets and the agro-industry;
  • learn which farmers are doing direct sales and who are in particular need of support;
  • give precedence to the perishable products to avoid waste; at the same time pay close attention to the conditions of distribution. Respect for sanitary measures and the fight against the spread of the virus are fundamental;
  • give financial support to farmers in case of cash flow problems.

CLOSE TO THOSE AT HOME!

Les Resistants is also close to those at home, providing exquisite recipes to try for yourself in these days of quarantine. We offer you their Sturon onion in savory dough.

Slow Food Cook’s Alliance: Sturon onion in savory dough. Photo: Les Resistants

Ingredients

  • 6-8 yellow onions
  • 75 g coarse salt
  • 400 g of flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 175ml water
  • Butter
  • Honey
  • Thyme

Procedure

Mix the coarse salt and flour in a bowl. Add the egg white and gradually add the water while mixing. Prepare the dough: if it sticks to your finger, add a little more flour. Cut off the stem of the onion, but don’t peel it. Take some of the salty dough and roll the onions in it, taking care not to leave any holes, making sure the dough completely covers each onion. Put in the oven at 180°C for 30-40 minutes then leave to cool. Once cooled, cut each onion in two, cover the exposed onion with butter, honey and thyme (or any other herb you have at hand) and put back in the oven for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool once again, and enjoy!

by Silvia Ceriani, info.eventi@slowfood.it