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Harmony Through Food - Terra Madre Balkans

Posted 4 years, 10 months ago

SFYN Sofia members are on the bus right now with the rest of the Bulgarian Slow Food delegation, traveling to Dubrovnik for Terra Madre Balkans. They, as well as the rest of the Balkan delegations representing the 12 countries in our small peninsula are crossing both borders and prejudice to all flock to the once great trade capital on the Adriatic.

We Balkans have been coping with wars, socio-economic changes, frustrations with corrupt governance, all discussed around a plate of fresh salad and a variety of alcoholic drinks. This is what we all have in common. Well, not the affection for alcohol (or do we?), but we share our food. We share it with friends, with family, with neighbors. We share the names of most of our very basic meals – musaka, dolma/sarmi, banitsa/burek, kachamak, tarator/tzatziki/cacik… while they are all made according to regional variations. We all love our meze, we all love our rakia/raki or ouzo/mastika (ok, we do share that affection). We also love to argue who invented that recipe, whose is this song, or even more volatile arguments – who invented the Cyrillic alphabet, where is Macedonia… Tell you what – Macedonia turns out to be also a great fruit salad, and it just so happens yesterday a Disco Macedonia took place in Bra, and I’m travelling tomorrow to the less edible Macedonia.

I truly believe food can be the answer of all those arguments, really. Slow Food, the ESSEDRA project and Terra Madre Balkans truly believe that. The Balkans can be a model for other troubled regions across the globe if we learn to embrace our colorful diversity, to cherish our delicious food, to respect our humble farmers, to preserve our beautiful nature. This is why Terra Madre Balkans is assembled every 2 years (now in its third edition), and is this year moving to Croatia, the youngest EU member. What is the most significant for SFYN, however, is that it’s the first big event members of SFYN in Sofia, Istanbul, Macedonia, Thrace and Belgrade are all present. A year ago half of our groups didn’t exist. We didn’t know each-other, but through SFYN we can now get in the car, drive a couple of hours and meet a cool person in the next country, who is doing something wonderful for their community. We exchange ideas, we try to push forward and develop projects together, we try to find solutions to the issues we all share. We use similar spices for different, yet related meals, so to speak.

We are used to saying “the youth is our hope” around here, probably because older people have been struggling in hardship. We need to prove this saying right. I believe we, the young people of the Balkans, have to use this political fragmentation to induce the cultural change we all need to achieve in order to create a world where good food is available for everyone. Starting from the Balkans!

Dafar Shaban is the coordinator of SFYN Sofia in Bulgaria. The group started in late 2013 and since has been tackling issues like food waste, improve urban environment through gardening, lack of young people in agriculture, the consumption of unhealthy/precooked food by young people, through participation and organization of various events – informative, educational and practical. They recently organized the first Disco Soup in Bulgaria along TEDxBG2014 with Tristam Stuart from Feeding the 5000.  SFYN Sofia is a part of a coalition of local organizations that is trying to develop a sustainable food center in Sofia with a communal composter, urban gardening & food preservation workshop/greenhouse interconnected with the local farmers’ market and culinary academies.