We are changing the world, one picnic at a time. Yesterday in Paris, during what has been an unusually warm Indian summer, in the gorgeous Les Arenes du Lutece park, a group of thirty or so adults and fifteen or so children all met for the first TASTE picnic. This grew from a group of already concerned citizens who had great picnics anyway and who were always talking about food and wine and how to make sure we could be part of a more sustainable future both for ourselves, but also for food producers.
My favorite, made with love product was Ute Schenk's Pineapple, Apple Ginger juice. I also loved the walnut sherry and a traditional sesame and thyme spice mix prepared by a Palestinian woman who sprinkled some on bread with olive oil for me.
Each of us brought something from an organic market, biodynamic vineyard, garden, bakery or our own kitchens. We each tasted the various produce, quiches, juices, desserts, wines and informally rated them. All of us are concerned about not only the taste of what we eat and drink, but whether or not the way the food and wine is produced is sustainable, healthy to both the consumer and producer, and, as the movement grows, affordable.
We each have our own stories of why this subject has become so important to us. I had pollution related health problems in big cities in Latin America and my young daughter had endocrine problems related to pesticides and hormones in the food when we lived in Los Angeles. Some of us simply grew up in an organic household or as we had children became more concerned about what we were feeding them as more stories of contaminated products surfaced in the news.
Others of us live in neighborhoods in Paris which support local farmers through the AMAP distribution coops and all of us enjoy a great meal and sharing the beauty of Paris. Most of us have given up our cars and ride out own bicycles or the free Velibs in Paris (total cost 29 euros per year not bad). We also walk a lot and visit the various markets in Paris which sell organic produce such as the market at Boulevard Raspail or, my favorite, the organic food stands at the Marche d'Aligre near the Bastille.
The real plates, cloth napkins, beautiful baskets and glass wine glasses have all been brought or donated to TASTE and the aesthetic element of what is simply beautifully presented food in a free gorgeous setting helps. Someone needs to explain to me why many parks in the US do not allow for this, it is ridiculous. Grownups should be allowed to enjoy a glass of wine in their neighborhood park!
But best of all, we support one another in our choice of thorough good quality and healthy eating and drinking. And others can join even if they do not live in Paris and attend the picnics, wine tastings and TASTE markets throughout the year if they happen to come through town.
The founder of TASTE, Geoffroy Finch, grew up on Vancouver Island and has worked for years helping people meet biodynamic wine makers. I ended up ordering a large amount of wine and biodynamic champagnes at very reasonable prices through his TASTE tastings events for my wedding this past summer and they were a hit. It takes dedicated, passionate people such as the picnic group, who not only work professionally in the organic movement, but whose hobbies include spending large amounts of time educating, spreading the word and setting up events, making documentaries such as the wonderful "Spirit of Wine."
Some of us have gardens on terraces or small allotments or plots of land which we are converting to organic status which takes about 2-5 years depending on what one is producing. Finch leads small groups on foraging tours, as well as visiting great restaurants and vineyards in Europe and Canada. One couple has chosen to spend the summers is a remote cabin on an island off the West Coast of Canada, adding outdoor bread ovens, fishing, and nature immersion to their three childrens' experiences.
There were several expats in addition to the French attending the TASTE picnic: a strong Italian contingent, the Canadians, the Brits, a German, and my fellow Americans included a visit from some very welcome out-of -owners, including the grand dame of organic food restaurants, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. She managed to find and contribute the best smelling rosemary and most radishy tasting radishes I have had this year.
The conversations turned to the growing #occupywallstreet movements and we Americans were especially excited and supportive of this demonstration by those who want a better future for themselves and their children and their country. I know that what we are doing in Paris through TASTE and its blossoming activism through living and eating and drinking well has its counterparts around the world via the Slow Food movement and the folks who are turning their yards into kitchen gardens, using heirloom seeds and fighting back against the destructive monsters like Monsanto.
We are all part of the same movement, to live better quality lives with respect for ourselves and one another and our health and the health of this planet. We are not radical extremists, we like a great glass of wine and a smiling child who had just discovered what a real fig tastes like. We come from all socio-economic classes and are aware of the rising cost of living and of food, especially good quality organic produce.
The way to bring the prices down and to be able to feed your family well if you cannot grow your own is to join a local coop, support local organic farmers. The more we buy organic the more demand there will be and the prices will come down and more will be produced.
Fight back with your pocketbooks and on your plates and in your wine glasses. And have a hell of a great time enjoying the TASTE of it all while you do! The world may be going through a rough financial time, but if we all pull together, we can still find ways to cooperate and enjoy the most basic of human joys, the joy of TASTE!