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From Theory to Practice: The Reality of the UniSG Convivium

Posted 5 years, 1 month ago

“The destiny of nations depends upon the manner in which they feed themselves”, observed the French gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, already in 1825. What does it mean? How can food shape your life and the life of the entire world? To understand this and all the meanings that food has, you need time, study and passion. These are the reasons that brought Carlin Petrini to create the University of Gastronomic Sciences (Unisg) in 2004 ... my current University. Food is in the center, food is the center, and you study it from all the perspectives.  Students from all over the world come here to finally learn about something you always get in contact with, although you don’t know a lot about it. You get to understand the wide, complex world behind food and its social, environmental, economic, cultural and ethical impact.

Meet Giulia Lombardo Pijola, from Italy - student of the University of Gastronomic Sciences. 

We are in Pollenzo, a tiny little village next to Bra, the city in which the Slow Food Movement was born in 1989.  Some years ago a group of students of the Unisg, fascinated by the idea that this red snail association bring around the world, came up with the idea to create their own UniSG Slow Food Convivium. At that time, it was the youngest convivium ever, the only convivium belonging to a University, the only group of young international people close to the Slow Food association. It was a great opportunity, that’s for sure. It is still our great opportunity.

The aim of this convivium is getting the students in contact with the Slow Food philosophy, to sensibilize them to the importance of a holistic vision of food, and to discover projects that the association organizes, becoming a part of them. Being a member of the UniSG convivium is a big chance as a student to put into practice what we study in theory at the University and to shape our figure as gastronome.

You might ask: what is a gastronome? What does he do? We think there is only one way to make people understand it: stop speaking and start acting.  Showing and doing something has always a much stronger impact than just describing it. Our convivium does all the experiences, the activities and the events with this aim: to embody the values we have about food and make them true, real, “touchable”.  According to this, the collaboration with Slow Food became stronger and stronger, and the big events like Salone del Gusto, Slow Fish, Cheese, etc. became the theatre in which our convivium had the possibility to be heard and to be seen. We believe that our “action” has a huge positive impact: it’s fundamental to make the consumers understand that the Slow Food events are not only simply eco-gastronomic fairs.

For example, activities like the Personal Shopper (trained UniSG students that organize food tours during Slow Food’s events with a true gastronomic base) has been created exactly for this reason: in a situation as Salone del Gusto a normal consumer looses himself through thousands of stands with producers and the uncountable different products offered. He needs a guide who gives a sense to his tour, that follows a topic, explains characteristics and differences of the products, getting him to know the producers, the hands thanks to that wonder exists. Only knowledge can make the consumer aware and conscious that the way we eat changes the entire world food system dramatically.

Events like Eat-in`s, instead, bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together to a table: in that way we communicate the power of conviviality, the sharing of food, ideas, thoughts, projects, points of view... good vibes and positive energy. Because of this, it is a gastro-political event that makes you understand how you can approach important issues in an informal way that might be even more productive.

The reality of the convivium creates magical and productive synergies that combine effort, passion, curiosity and enthusiasm of a lot of people: between the University and Slow Food, students themselves, students and producers, consumers or other young people from all over the world, as all the SFYN guys. The goal is to build an international network, and the experience of being part of our Convivium can be the starting point. You experience, you know the protagonists of the food system and you understand how the things work. Being part of this reality makes you feel an active member of a team that creates good (clean and fair) things ex novo, from nothing, and makes you look to the future with different eyes. You became part of the change of the (food) system that you want to see. You see it in action and realize that is really possible. You fight for it, enjoying life.

I’m a student from the third year of the UniSG Bachelor Course. I have been working three years for our Convivium, and I can warmly say that for me it has been a real life changing experience: it made me grow from a professional point of view and, most important, as a person.