Amidst the increasing overlap of world food traditions, Sarah Martin says enough is enough in an article for Vice. The graduate student in food studies asks, “Can you really call it mofongo if you bought your plantains from a Thai woman who operates a tiny corner of the discount grocer in Bra [a town in Italy], supplying students with their beloved Sriracha and cilantro?” She thinks we’re too quick to gloss over the terroir of food—the idea that “the environment of a region imparts a flavor and character to a product made there.”
Martin is abroad getting her master’s in Food Culture and Communication at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. She chose the program in Bra to get the full “immersion experience” in “a town that globalization forgot.” Instead, she found, through the university, “[she is] a part of a more internationally oriented, melting pot of a culture than [she] was in 23 years as an American.”
While she feels she is able to get to know fellow foreign students through their respective country’s gastronomy, she is paradoxically cut off from the indigenous culture that surrounds her (not least because she finds people hesitant to speak to her in Italian). Nonetheless, she has decided to gain fluency through the town’s food.
The University of Gastronomic Sciences is a private non-profit institution, established in 2004 by a non-profit organization Slow Food along with the regions of Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, according to their website. Their mission is to groom the ‘gastronome,’ “a new professional figure skilled in production, distribution, promotion, and communication of high-quality foods.”