Speech from our September 30 Vegetarian Dinner – Some Inspiration from Terra Madre 2018

I would like to begin by acknowledging that this event is taking place on Treaty 6 Territory and the homeland of the Métis. I pay my respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and reaffirm our relationship with one another.

My name is Noelle Chorney for those of you who don’t know me—although I do see many friends in the audience—thank you so much for coming. I am the leader of Slow Food Saskatoon. My steering committee, made up of people whom I have come to love dearly, nominated me to attend Terra Madre, Slow Food International’s biannual conference in Turin, Italy. We also sponsored Jessica Kormos, food services coordinator at Station 20 West to attend.

I had been told that the experience would be transformative. In my case, I feel as if I am continually transforming, and Terra Madre was the most recent of many transformative experiences for me in the last few years. But it does something to you, spending a week with people who are as committed to a cause as you are. I feel closer to my Canadian and North American counterparts and have had many important conversations about what this grassroots movement means and how it is evolving on Turtle Island.

What I would like to share with you tonight is the gift that I believe the Slow Food movement brings to the world. Thanks to my recent travels, I now fully understand it and feel more committed to Slow Food as a result.

For those of us who care about the welfare of our planet and the survival of humanity, and I believe I’m in good company tonight, it is a daunting time. There is so much change that needs to happen, and so much work to do. I see the struggle of the social activists I know—the frustration bordering on despair.

When I think of one word that makes Slow Food stand out from other similar movements, that word is enjoyment.

It isn’t surprising that Slow Food was founded in Italy. Visiting there for the first time, the richness and level of integration of the food culture assumes enjoyment first. That appears to be what the culture is founded on. And when I think about North America in contrast, enjoyment rarely comes first, and is almost always separated from ‘real life’ or the work that needs to get done. I see the preponderance of guilt from the puritanical overlays that many colonizers brought with them.

We have so much to feel bad about. Feeling good, in fact, seems frivolous. We may believe we don’t deserve to feel good. And we definitely shouldn’t feel good while fighting to end suffering. We feel as if we deserve to suffer as long as there is suffering.

The work to right all the wrongs is never ending and overwhelming. That is true.

What is also true is that joy is a far more life-giving and affirming fuel source than anger or despair. And for myself, I was never able to commit to anything that didn’t also feel good. And while I always knew that everything about Slow Food appealed to me, it wasn’t until I heard this statement from Slow Food USA leader Richard McCarthy that I realized why:

“We live in the magical space between the joy and the justice.”

For the longest time I have been describing Slow Food as an organization that promotes good, clean and fair food for all. That’s the elevator speech, but it lacks the joy that we are speaking of.

What Slow Food really is, is a social change movement that is thoughtful and complex. None of the issues are black and white. And those who are committed to Slow Food are working for many different causes:

  • If you care about animal welfare, you have a place in Slow Food.
  • If you care about biodiversity, you have a place in Slow Food.
  • If you care about Indigenous rights and sovereignty, you have a place in Slow Food.
  • If you care about women’s rights, you have a place in Slow Food.
  • If you care about climate change, you have a place in Slow Food.
  • If you care about food access and food insecurity, you have a place in Slow Food.
  • If you have ever felt the sense of nourishment—the joy—that follows a meal, grown, harvested, prepared and served with love, and you wish for that feeling for the entire world, and see the healing potential of that joy, you have a place in Slow Food.

If you care about any combination or all of the above, come talk to me or my kick-ass team about how to get involved. We are living proof of what you can accomplish when you’re fuelled by joy—such as hosting the Slow Food in Canada National Summit last April, the meal you have just enjoyed on Black Fox’s beautiful property, or our next big project, Camp Snail, in partnership with Camp Tamarack—we are planning a Slow Food weekend of foraging workshops, cooking lessons and gathering around tables and campfires in celebration of local food. Mark your calendars for the weekend of June 7 & 8, 2019.

We are energized by the experience of living in that magical space between joy and justice, and whatever your cause, we acknowledge that the revolution will look different from where each of us stands. And we need every single one of those perspectives to reach the tipping point. We also acknowledge your part in the revolution, and on behalf of Slow Food Saskatoon, from the bottom of our hearts, we wish you joy in your own quest for justice.

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