Better food for more people

Better food for more people

Aylin Öney Tan -
Better food for more people Denmark takes the lead in tackling with a major issue of the world: Food. Food is the essential need of mankind that shapes our world, and if we do not take action now, our future is doomed to be grim. It is interesting that Denmark, being one of the foremost welfare states in the world, is concerned about the future of the planet and takes action to have better food for more people. Organized by the Danish Environment and Food Ministry, the two-day summit aimed at discussing the challenges, sharing the best practices, setting targets, and taking action with global and local partnerships. 

The summit took place on Aug. 24-25 at the National Parliament, Christiansborg, right in the center of Copenhagen. It was supported at the highest levels, with the attendance of Her Royal Highness Princess Marie of Denmark as well as the Environment and Food Minister Esben Lunde Larsen and Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, respectively making opening and closing speeches. Among others attending were CEOs from global food companies, international experts, researchers, academics, professionals, chefs, politicians, opinion makers, along with ministers and government representatives from countries such as the U.S., China, Germany, Japan, India and South Africa. Larsen explained their goal was to initiate a global movement where we can have worldwide solid solutions for providing better food for more people by 2030. 

Food is key to our being, our culture and identity. Food is not just nutrition, but it bears endless cultural connotations, symbolized in our fears and desires, in our beliefs shaping our identities. Food can be dangerous if not handled properly; food-related illnesses rank among the highest worldwide, be it obesity or malnutrition, diseases related to foul food or toxicity. Though our life depends on food, it is one topic we know so little about, about its history, traditions, dietary habits around the world, nutritional values of food, etc. In our modern societies we also learn less about how to cook, as more ready-to-eat industrial food is conveniently available and time is getting more of a scarcity. One big issue the world faces is the problem of waste and distribution of food among people. It is not the lack of food, but the unfair distribution of food that threatens the world. With this background, the summit classified four main topics discussed in separate sessions: Better Information; Safer Food; Culinary Diversity and Prevention of Food Waste.

Turkey was represented in the summit by three participants: Maksut Aşkar, the chef/owner of Neolokal; Sitare Baras, director manager of MSA Culinary Arts Academy; and me, as an independent researcher, writer and food journalist. 

The minister was himself present throughout the summit, and actively took part in our session on food diversity where Aşkar and I were also among the speakers. Coming from a multi-faceted country, with layers upon layers of civilizations that is also home to many food items, we had plenty to tell, hard to squeeze into our two-minute inspirational talks. However, we did manage to give powerful messages through our own experiences that will hopefully lead to innovative ideas for other countries; Maksut’s suggestion of communal ovens just like in his hometown Antioch, and my suggestions on learning from recent and past practices in our own histories and finding the connection power through them were among the few words we tried to blabber through the mind-blowingly intense and rapid sessions. Actually, talks were so stimulating that I left aside the text I prepared, and upon a question Per Mandrup raised on changing food habits, locavorism and self-sustainability, I turned to my recent favorite research topic and talked about how the people of Turkey switched to a tea-drinking nation as a political decision to become a totally independent country, seeing self-sufficiency as the only means of sovereignty. To admit, the pace was so insanely intense that I hardly remember what I said, but it must be about that. Meanwhile, Baras, was passionately defending the role of education from an early age on, progressively paced with the advance of years, hers was a true challenge, to be able to utter a few words with the presence of Stephen Ritz at her side, founder of Green Bronx Machine, the most energetic talker who has a flow of speech equivalent to the speed of a machine gun. 

Posing in the stairs of Christiansborg, the delegates seemed to be content, but there is much more to tell about the countless inspirational talks they all delivered, all worth mentioning. I’ll probably recall several of them in the articles to come, several issues to refer to. I hope our presence in the summit proves to be sustainable; there is so much to contribute to from our own knowledge and experiences, and so much to learn from others. That is the connecting power of food. 

Fork of the Week: It seems that we will eventually learn to eat worms and insects or other edible creatures. One of the lunch bites at the summit was a salad adorned with a sprinkle of crunchy fried worms, it was quite an irony that under the same roof with the parliament we had to munch on once unthinkable foods, but that is how we adapt to change, for the good or worse. 

Cork of the Week: When in Copenhagen, one cannot avoid beer. My favorites are rye-based dark ones, so insanely intense, just as the talks in the summit. I tried my chances on many, hard to count and hard to remember names, but one that is in every corner is Jacobsen Dark Ale that will easily satisfy a thirsty palate longing for rich yet juicy flavors.