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Tea and Talk Time
by Mary Nyiri

The Culinary Cinema presented three authors reading from their own works with opportunity for discussion and one offered some wine tasting. All you had to do was sign up in advance because seats were limited in the beautifully decorated Gropius Mirror Restaurant. By email I reserved a seat for Carlo Petrini, godfather of the Slow Food Movement, who was presenting his latest book entitled Terra Madre.

Carl Petrini is very passionate about food. He presented his ideas and opinions in very animated Italian which was simultaneously translated into German and then read by an interpreter who must have been the pride of his shorthand class. Alas, shorthand looks like Chinese characters to me so between understanding some Italian, speed-listening to German and then writing notes in Dinglish, I finally gave up and just enjoyed the lively presentation. In summary, Petrini said his followers comprise a living group who come together every two years to figure out how to produce food in harmony with the earth. Petrini thinks that money is like a drug and with so much emphasis on price, there is no real worth to food anymore. Poor people cannot eat well and yet fifty percent of food that is produced is wasted. There is no respect for food – profit destroys our life’s food. The destiny of our food is in our own hands.

Petrini entered public life over twenty years ago when he opposed McDonald’s opening near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Since then he speaks and writes about how industrial agriculture fuelled by price and profit has reduced food to a mere commodity. In his book, he presents a solution through the use of new alliances between people and their local food producers to promote good clean (chemical-free) and fair food.

The informal atmosphere combined with the lovely setting provided a wonderful chance to learn something new – for free. It was disappointing, however, that only the German version of his book was on sale at the event. And, people not on the list were not allowed entry although many seats remained empty. Advertised as Tea Time and held at 5 p.m., neither tea nor coffee could be served as soon as the event began because the machines were too loud. The speakers competing with the wind wafting the tent roof like sails on a tall ship coming about was distraction enough. The other two readings were Karen Duve with her book Anständig Essen and Stuart Pigott with his book Weinwunder Deutschland. An interesting event that hopefully continues to be a part of the Berlinale.