Oh, how I love Slow Food. The dinner last night with Carlo Petrini, Erika Lesser, and other North Carolina Slow Food leaders just confirmed my already warm and fuzzy feelings for this organization.

I’m not an “organization” person. I’m a loner, and usually I prefer nothing more than a cool afternoon weeding my garden, or a day alone working on some kind of creative project. The last thing on earth I would choose would be a sitdown with all strangers. Sitting down at a table with this group of people whom I had never met, I realized how much I want this experience more often. Sharing wonderful tastes, our experiences, our passions, offering simple conversation about the food we eat and enjoy. I walked in a bundle of nerves, and walked out feeling that I was blessed.

And this food, this food. Oh my God. This was one of the most incredible meals I have ever eaten. Andrea Reusing of the Lantern, a Chapel Hill Asian restaurant that takes her local food philosophy to the maximum possibilities, sent out dish after dish of delicacies for us to try. We started with a local turnip soup with pickled ramps that was divine. Then, every appetizer on the menu came out. My personal favorite: the sashimi with yellowfin tuna and sea scallops with sea urchin oil. It melted in my mouth as every taste bud cried out for joy. Then, on the recommendation of a regular customer, I ordered the black cod. Buttery delicate goodness, although at that point I was so completely stuffed that I could barely eat another bite. The desserts, unfortunately, mainly went to waste because we were all happily groaning with full bellies, but I tried little tastes of several and they were just as incredible as the rest of the meal. I didn’t get back to my sister’s house until 11:30! A typically Italian, lingering meal in the company of good people.

I sat at the end of the table, so I didn’t get much talk time with Carlo Petrini. The acoustics and the language barrier made it difficult. Much of the time he was talking with another guest in French. Occasionally he talked in Italian and Erika translated for him. He discussed the possibility of connecting the N.C. convivia with Tibetan yak cheese producers, which sounded like a wonderful idea, but in the end I think that we decided that North Carolina wasn’t the best area to do this. I love the idea of partnering with other world convivia and presidia though.

Erika Lesser from Slow Food USA was gracious and friendly. I immediately felt comfortable with her, in a way that I seldom do with people I don’t know. Talking with her and the others made me wish that I had more time to devote to the organization.

The best part of this dinner for me was the connection with leaders from Slow Food Charlotte and Slow Food Research Triangle. We swapped ideas and discussed the building of an outdoor brick oven. By the end of the dinner, we decided that we should find ways to have more events together, and I felt that I had made some friends.

That’s the other reason why I love Slow Food. It is all about our connections with each other and the earth. There’s not anything much more basic than food – we must all eat to live. What a perfect thing to bring us all together.

Oh yeah – if you’re interested in hearing Carlo Petrini speak, here’s the information for his lecture in Raleigh tomorrow night:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
‘Farm-to-Fork’ Exploration
A Carlo Petrini Lecture NCSU McKimmon Center
1101 Gorman Street, Raleigh
7:00 p.m.
Presented by: The Center for Environmental Farming Systems

Carlo Petrini will lead a discussion on the meaning and value of preserving food traditions, defending biodiversity, and protecting food that is good, clean, and fair.

The lecture is FREE and open to the public. Reserved seating is available. For reserved seating information, visit on-line at http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu or contact Lisa Forehand at 513-0954.

Now, unfortunately, I have to go back to work!