Topic: The Principles of Alternative Food Movements and the New Gastronomy Manifesto. Evidence from Eastern Europe
Keywords: alternative food movements, local food products, family farming, social gastronomy, short food supply chain
For a long time, gastronomy embedded the knowledge involved in preparing and eating fine food and positioned itself as an art. As such, it has often been considered a product of the elites, intended for elites, enjoyed by gourmets. Contemporary gastronomy retained the idea of using sophisticated techniques and high-quality ingredients to preserve its status, but at the same time embraced the principles that militate for an alternative to the doctrine of neoliberalism. Concepts such as organic farming, local food, fair trade, civic agriculture, sustainable food systems, food justice, food sovereignty, short food supply chains, quality foods represent the creed of alternative food movements that challenge the negative consequences of the industrial food system. The presence of these principles is fundamental in countries where agriculture has an important role in the socio-economic context and especially in rural areas where family farms are predominant. Among the countries of the European Union, Romania has the largest number of family farms. Given that their production is small and that almost all forms of association are absent, one of the biggest problems Romanian rural small producers are facing is the impossibility of penetrating the market. Consequently, the presence of local food products in the conventional food supply system is reduced. European and national agricultural policies provide tools to support rural small farmers, especially to support production, but fail to connect the producer with the urban consumer. We observed that in the case of Romania, grassroot movements and NGOs play a determinant role in making this connection, involving various actors of the agri-food sector. The objective of this study was to determine the factors that contribute to the valorization of Romanian local food products and the role played by the actors of the food system in this approach. To accomplish this, the broadest and most coherent initiatives at national level were selected and analyzed. The first case study was centered on an international food movement’s project (the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance) that aims to create and to strengthen the direct relationships between chefs and food producers and to promote good, clean and fair products made locally on a small scale. The second case study focuses on Romania’s participation in The European Region of Gastronomy project that aims to support local economies by developing awareness of wider food issues. The third case is focused on a regional approach to village discovery and the promotion of local products through the organization of gastronomic culinary events, supported by the Association My Transylvania.