European Food Summit - Dan Saladino: Eating to Extinction

Dan Saladino: Eating to Extinction

Ljubljana, 12. 10. 2022

»Some argue that humans are programmed to seek out the good stuff, but our tastes and choices have been so heavily edited that we’ve lost that sense now,« points out Dan Saladino,a journalist and presenter of the weekly Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 where he’s been reporting on food and agriculture for the past 15 years.

Saladino is also the author of the book Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them, where he travels through countries so diverse as Syria and Faroe Islands, from Tanzania to Scotland, from Albania to Turkey, seeking out wild and endangered foods through the people and the land they come from, and the traditions and cultural identities they represent.

The book is a voyage through the ingenious ways our ancestors learnt to farm and prepare lentils, rice, chicken, honey, oranges and cheese over thousands of years. Each food, and each community, helps explain how in the blink of an evolutionary eye we lost so much diversity in our diets – and why it matters. “Diversity matters for food security, our health, the planet’s health, for local economies, and to give us options for the future,« he ponders.

It feels like a book everyone even remotely interested in food and worried for the future of food diversity, the future of our planet, should read. It has a real sense of urgency at the same time Saladino takes us on a beautiful journey through very different cultures and traditions that are either lost or on the brink of being lost, forgotten in time, in globalized world where we as a species evolved with so much diversity but have created a system based on uniformity and we’re seeing the fragility of this, as he explains.

Saladino, whose work has been recognized by the Guild of Food Writers Awards, the Fortnam & Mason Food and Drinks Awards, and by the James Beard Foundation, has been focusing on the exploration of some of the thousands of foods around the world that are at risk of being lost forever, showing just how important – and precarious diversity is.

The important questions he poses are: Why is it that we had this huge diversity of foods? When did we start to lose diversity? How did that happen? To get the answers and the context Saladino has been doing a lot of in-depth research and fell in love with the stories of different farmers, different cultures around the world, bringing to light an ingredient he has never heard of and most definitely the broad public never heard of.

As he emphasizes, he is not a scientist, he is a story teller. And there are some pretty great, sometimes incredulous stories to be told when it comes to consumption of food through time and cultures.

Even though Saladino spends a lot of time underlying this urgent message of disappearing diversity, he also offers a lot of inspiring stories of how these forgotten foods or crops are being rediscovered and revived in places around the world. One such example he likes to give is the Kavilca wheat from eastern Turkey, one of the earliest wheats to be domesticated. It was the wheat that the people who built the pyramids were farming and eating, same as the people who built Stonehenge. What gave Saladino huge amounts of optimism was that more and more farmers were growing this wheat, and it was being celebrated and used by chefs in Istanbul. A modern contemporary story of a food being brought back from the brink.

Za Evropski simpozij hrane piše Kaja Sajovic.