Natural is possible

“I think the word natural … while not perfect, is good enough… The danger lurks in the word’s being legislature resistant and therefore easily commandeered by commercial wineries looking to keep their market share.”

In her book Naked Wine Alice Feiring tries to delimit the boundaries of a word that has been the subject of numerous bizarre interpretations and mystifications. It goes to show how, on the one hand, the movement for natural food is growing, while on the other hand there’s no lack of criticism and a good dose of skepticism.

In the world of wine, defining natural is less controversial than it used to be: when we talk of natural wine, we refer to production practices which are less invasive and standardized, which are opposed to selected yeasts that flatten a wine’s quality and its link to its terroir.

NATURAL CHEESES

Other products, however, are only at the beginning of the road. Two years ago at Cheese we started to explore the world of natural cheeses by identifying them as cheeses produced with raw milk, using self-produced starters and not industrially-produced selected starters. At the same time, we’ve made it known that natural cheeses represent an extremely small part of the cheeses on the market, as not only big companies but even small-scale producers use these selected starters.

At Cheese 2019 we’re taking up the challenge again. Natural is Possible is a crucial theme for the future of food, and the next step on our journey from raw milk to natural cheese. We believe that natural cheese—i.e. cheese made without laboratory-selected, mass-produced bacteria controlled by a handful of multinationals—are richer in biodiversity and a more authentic expression of their place of origin. We want to reiterate that a return to this style of production requires time, patience and experience, but it is not impossible.

NATURAL BREAD AND CHARCUTERIE

The natural challenge requires us to widen our gaze and take other foods into consideration too.

  • Natural breads made with sourdough, whose flavors and aromas are light-years away from those loaves made with enormous amounts of brewer’s yeast and white flour, along with additives, preservatives and “improvers”;
  • Natural charcuterie, whose production implies the use of natural preservatives like salt, pepper, chili, spices and smoke. Butchers have been using these techniques for centuries, but they are being steadily supplanted by nitrites, nitrates and other chemicals. Natural charcuterie also means farming practices which are respectful of animal welfare and attentive to their diet and growth times;
  • Natural wines, free of synthetic chemicals, selected yeasts and enological manipulations.

The choice to be natural is a political choice: Slow Food believes that a return to human (agri)culture in our pastures, farms, and fields is possible. We must restore and strengthen the link between the land and the artisans who work it. It’s a choice which regards the environment, our health, and the health of society.

At Cheese 2019 Natural is Possible regards natural cheeses, charcuterie, breads and wines, to which we dedicate part of the exhibition space but also moments of reflection and debate in conferences and other activities in the program, including Taste Workshops and meetings with producers and researchers.