The message of this book is simple: try to eat good, clean, fair food. By good, Petrini means food that tastes like it should, and not the washed-out, bland doppelgangers that get transported around the globe to end up on our plates. Clean food is the kind of food that has minimal environmental impact. Fair food entails respectable working conditions for the farmers producing it and wages that match their efforts.
In this vision there is little place for monocultures and agricultural giants that bully small enterprises and cause environmental damage. Petrini stands up for the farmers and the consumers, and wants food to be more than nutrition. He wants it to be a culinary experience and he wants to preserve the cultural baggage it carries with it. Through the pages of his book he presents his vision, a global network of gastronomers (that is, farmers, cooks and consumers that share his ideals of good, clean, fair food) whose goal is to push for a new way of trading edible goods.
It is important for Petrini to point out that these gastronomers, himself included, are neither elitist nor want to revert to the previous state of things. He means rather to protect the cultural heritage associated with farmers, and to present a way of producing and consuming food that’s more sustainable for our planet, a planet that is already on the brink of environmental disaster.
I am however not sure that he succeeds in convincing the reader of his intentions. His -at least initial- focus on the importance of taste in food brings to mind overweight Romans shoving all that is edible into their mouths, alternatively privileged older gentlemen that have little contact with the real world. I am definitely not convinced, as he claims, that a hungry, poor person cares so much about taste as they are about, you know, avoiding dying. As for the language he uses, it is stiff. The content, important message aside, is repetitive and tiresome. The book is plain boring.
Other authors with similar messages, for example Michael Pollan, have succeeded in capturing the reader’s interest much better than Petrini. The anecdotes Petrini uses (presented to us as ”diaries”) are the most interesting parts of the book, without which it would just have been even drier and dull. And it is a shame, really; such an important message should be made available for all to read, and not just the most determined foodies, who -like me- probably don’t need convincing to begin with.
More of my ramblings here.