When 6000 people come to enjoy a free meal (as happened during Damn Food Waste) you won't them all run at you at once

I am angry. And I have kept it to myself for too long so now it’s time to shout it all out. And yes. You are the one who has to listen to it.

I came to Italy thinking that people here know how to appreciate food and know how to behave towards it. Mostly they do. They know as no other nation in the world that their food (usually) is made of local products from a good quality, that it is appreciated all over the world and that they must be lucky to have so many good cooks around them. But sometimes I wonder if the Italians are really that aware as we all think.

Many events here are centred around food. Not only festivities like Christmas and Assumption day, but also business or informative events like a book presentation or the break of a conference. It was at the latter one that my anger almost came to an outburst. 

I already hinted about it a few weeks ago.  There was the launch of a new magazine which will inform people about food. The organization was so kind to celebrate this with a tasting of all kinds of local products like beer, strawberry ketchup (!) and ancient apple varieties. After the short presentation, they opened the buffet meant to give people the opportunity to talk to producers and try their products. Although I tought my position was strategic (as in ‘close to the buffet’) there were people who were much more trained (as in ‘rude’) and managed to arrive sooner than I did. With the result that me and my bag pack where kicked around the mass of people like being a dirty sock in an empty wash machine

It was a tasting, so I hoped to really try something, discuss with the producer and then go on to the next product that made me curious. But non of it all was possible as the trays were almost empty before I could move to the second table. Some people – mostly the ones who were over sixty – where able to eat and fill-up their supply all in once.

Last Wednesday it was World Food Day, an event organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The aim of this event is to ‘help increase the understanding of problems and solutions in the drive to end hunger’. They event is always a good reason to organise a wide variety of activities all centred around food. Like the one I visited, but also activities with a higher ‘fun’ rate.

After a four hour sit-still in a beautiful but cold space, listening to all kinds of interesting and influential speakers talking about food safety and security, we could all leave the room and head for the buffet. The buffet was full of products that were, so I hope, Made in Italy. That would at least make the choice of ingredients (mainly animal-based products) understandable.  

I was fast so had a good location in the line (I start to learn…) but there were still people quicker than me. Before even finishing there plate, and before giving others the chance to get something to eat, they already where hunting for the second round. Is this what we’ve talked about all morning. Do mainly work for our own food security?

In the end I managed to fill up a moderate plate with salami, a quiche Lorraine (that’s not Italian), a small pizza bread and a rice ‘biscuit’ as well. Even had the chance to ask one of the students behind the buffet what kind of cheese they were serving. I sat down and tried to forget about my anger.  But then I realised what I was eating. I had a dish full of meat, cheese, eggs, bread and only one small tomato compensated for by the a similar sixed piece of mozzarella.  Didn’t we just get to know that part of food security is obtained by better distributing the available food and by avoiding eating a lot of meat? I almost started to feel that all those people didn’t listen at all. Or listened but they didn’t get it. Or worse. They listened, but applied the ‘not in my backyard’ method: ‘Indeed, people need to eat less animal based products. But this doesn’t go for me and myself’. I am even more sorry to say that it was again people which have twice my age. Is it the generation? Did they experience something in their life that made them act like this?

I don’t get angry easily but this was really the straw that broke the camels’ back. People offer you something for free and what do you do? You take it all, attacking it like a beast and then eating it like an animal does, without any enjoyment. How can we ever change this?