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Philippe Daverio, back to the origin

“The fact that we eat differently from the 19th century doesn’t mean that we have to become hamburger eaters”. This is a travel with the well-known intellectual and art historian through the rural world

Philippe Daverio was born in Mulhouse in Alsace (France) on the October 17th 1949. French Baccalauréat. French and Italian citizenship. He immigrated in Italy for studying at the Bocconi University of Milan and at the moment he has two art galleries, one in Milan and the other in New York City.

He is a specialist of the XX century Italian art (Futurism, Metaphysics, Novecento and Roman school). He is the editor of his own catalogues and books. He was councilor of the City of Milan from 1993 to 1997 (with Major Formentini) delegated to Culture, Leisure, Education and International relationships.

He is a columnist for Panorama, Vogue and Liberal. In 1999 and 2000 he was special guest for the Art’è program (Raitre channel) and now he anchors the “Passpartout” program (Raitre channel).



Nowadays the trend is to come back to our tradition, to our history and to grandma’s cures, disregarding that also the technique and the technologies characterize the rural world and that agriculture has to keep pace with times, as well.
I care more the rediscovery of one’s roots than the revival of some traditions. No tradition is alive per se but the historical roots we move from (and on) are something different. Let’s think to our diet habits. The fact that we eat differently from the 19th century doesn’t mean that we have to become a hamburger culture. Even the pasta, which is a typical dish of the Italian tradition, is now eaten very differently from the past. For instance, people from Lombardy learned to cook the pasta until stewing it; in the same way, people from the south of Italy learned that the rice should not be cooked too much, avoiding to obtain a “glue”. Hence, we kept the linguistic parameters of our past but we adjusted them to our contemporaneity. The true cultural developments work like this. We have to reopen the question on every tool, object and idea from the past; we have to reanalyze all of them. The tradition, as a relic of the past, is the necessary citation to reopen such questions.

Hence tradition is a passage point, the way and not the end
Tradition is a semantic reference which is better no to face with. Breaking the tradition is something that sometimes brings to terrible consequences. Let’s take for instance when the major of Milan, during an intellectual distraction, declared a “tolleranza zero” program, translating in this way the English word “tolerance” of the “zero tolerance” expression with a word that literally means “toleration”. Then, while the first word refers to the simple behavioral rigour, the second one is also referred to the acceptance of the difference. Well, doing a declaration against toleration in Milan is a crime against the semantics since Milan was the first city in Western countries were a tolerance edict was promulgated; this was by Constantine in 313 A.D., and it generated the basis of the city of the entire Europe.

Market and consumptions crisis. The food wholesale prices follow decreasing; the tools for the preservation of typical products (Doc, Dop) don’t stop such a decrease. After interviewing economists, politics and political commentators, we ask to the historian. Is there a way to make the best of our products?
In Italy we live a sort of pathological schizophrenia; we are sure to bring an extraordinary history and tradition, but, at the same time, we suffer a strong inferiority complex. This phenomenon is clearly exemplified by what happened at the Biennale of Venice exposition. Italy called someone from New York to organize it which in turn called two Spanish women that, arriving in Venice, declared that the Italian art doesn’t exist. The reaction of another country would be, at least, to ask some proof for such a declaration, while in Italy we accepted it without saying anything. The same happened with the invasion of the Burghy fast-food (now McDonald), when Italians accepted that that was the “modern food” without saying a word. Moreover, we now have to bear with the European community bureaucracy, which probably has the aim to make us believe untrue things, in order to protect some lobby. I’m not speaking about the defense of the Lardo from Colonnata or of some other local food, but I can’t sustain that, being part of a 1500 years old culture, I have to adequate to crazy alimentary habits. I can’t sustain that they can decide where I can or cannot cut a slice of Salami or if I can bake a pizza in a wood oven or not. This is a problem we should discuss about, or the final consequence will be the complete standardization of our alimentary production. This realization is not gastronomic but cultural; we have to gain a conscious and learned vision of these problems. In some fields this battle was already won, because of in that fields a behavioral aristocracy was already present. Let’s take the case of the wine. Until thirty years ago in many regions of Italy it was produced more a food than a wine. Thanks to a strong cultural push and self-awareness, which was possible through an improvement of the products, we obtained a huge increment of the invoice, notwithstanding a 60% decrease of the wine consumption. Now I want to lay a provocation: we should elect the Minister of Culture by universal suffrage, and we should choose him among the wine producers. This provocation stands on a basis: when we were able to join the quality improvement of the product and a cultural movement we were very successful and we made a lot of money.

by Alberto Grimelli
04 january 2010, Food Notes > Miscellanea

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