Former slaugther house area which has been transformed in a residential area in 1998
This article is also available on IL CAMBIAMENTO

‘ Do you know where your food comes from? What ingredients and additives are used for that product? Where has it been made?’ These questions - about the origin of your food - are posed often these days. It is hard these days to encounter someone processing food while almost all the food we eat has gone through one. But how to check this?

Let’s start with some history. A long, long time ago people where living like nomads, putting up their campsites on strategic spots where soil was fertile and animals could survive. Then some groups decided to stop moving and settled themselves. The first city was created. For centuries food was brought in on their own feet (cattle, goats and sheep) or by horse wagons. Boats enabled to trade over longer distances, like was done between Italy and northern African countries and in Dutch VOC period (East Indian Company). City inhabitants did their shopping on daily or weekly markets. From the industrial revolution onwards it became possible to transport food over longer distances and - thanks to the fridge and freezer - kept longer. This is where I where I will focus on this week.

Moving the production of food out of the cities has many reasons. Maybe the most important reason is hygiene. Before an animal is ready to eat one has to coop with the noise it makes, its smell and its faces. Also the slaughtering has some side effects which are not appreciated by most of us. There are the leftovers of the slaughtered animal like its skin, bones and blood and there is smell coming of the slaughter houses. Besides the advantages for the neighborhood this new strategy enabled the authorities to strengthen the regulations on food production which should make our food safer than it has ever been.

After hygiene rental prices might be an important reason to move the production out of the city. Already before WWII the urbanists started a movement in which there was a clear division between places to life and places to work (Modernism). Cities started to grow and all the industries were moved to the outer skirts of the city. We now thankfully use these leftover factories to transform whole areas into lively neighborhoods (like New York’s Meat Packing District).

Now food productions all happens in faraway places so that we do not have to deal with the smells and sounds anymore we also lost control over it. Control is taken over by the authorities now but it is shown that this is not always sufficient. Thereby we have no idea how our food is made, we cannot encounter the smell of fresh bread when waking up early, we do not know who made our food, and so on. Jobs in the city are lost and thereby people who make food a social thing in our daily life. Food became anonymous. We cannot communicate to those who made it and give him or her a compliment. We can only complain by choosing products of another producer without telling the former one what he should improve in the process.

Therefore we should try to get them closer to us again. Go to the bakery and make a compliment about his fresh bread. Visit your greengrocer and ask him his advice about how to keep best the vegetables you just bought. Meet the butcher who explains you how to prepare a perfect autumn stew. Don’t be afraid of them. They won’t bite you.