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By Lisa Frank, Charity Kenyon, Ian McFaul — the Slow Food USA delegation

Terra Madre Nordic — April 27-29, 2018 Copenhagen, Denmark

Heritage. Culture. Recognition and promotion of commonalities.  Looking beyond geopolitical borders. Are they Scandinavian? Nordic? Viking?  
Different yes, but yet, not so much.  Boundaries have changed on whims and wars, but what the land and sea offers has been more constant for Åland, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Skåne, Sweden, and the indigenous Sápmi, whose territory encompasses Norway, Sweden, Finland, and into Russia.  

A group of three Slow Food California members found themselves in the historic meatpacking district of Copenhagen (previously also known for sex shops and streetwalkers) — a beautiful warren of brick warehouses, with open plazas of picnic tables, large and small conference rooms, and Terra Madre Style areas for exhibitors and demonstrations — for Terra Madre Nordic 2018. Spring had just started, the sun shown, and blossoms were bursting forth.

At this inaugural festival, the Nordic countries committed to a united front, if not always a united people. They acknowledged differences and challenges, yet embraced their desire to work together to preserve and protect traditions rooted in ancient, resilient agricultural and fishing cultures. These goals are captured in a new Terra Madre Nordic Manifesto workshopped at the event, which follows on the 2004 New Nordic Food Manifesto. Sponsored by the Nordic Council of Ministers and organized by volunteers, the festival was ten years in the making. The goal is to have the event every other year. Put it on your calendar for 2020!

The program was wide ranging and very topical: tourism, sustainability, biodiversity, climate change.  A unifying theme seemed to be how to move forward to showcase the abundance of foods and flavors without harming them.  How to sustainably maintain biodiversity?  How does the Nordic diet fit into the global fusion of food? Can/should food be a social/marketing tool?  How to develop sustainable destinations and institute food tourism?  What exactly is food tourism?  How can the Chefs’ Alliance work to influence the food systems of each country, or across countries? How to meaningfully address the challenges of ocean dumping, unsustainable industrial farm practices, and an aging cohort of farmers and fishers? 

The tasting sessions were just as unique: charcuterie, fish, cheese (Norwegian, Swedish & Icelandic Skyr), rhubarb, beer, seaweed, salt, salmon, cider, reindeer, whale, you name it. Slow Fish was prominent in talks, tastings, and demonstrations.

The contributions of the Slow Food Youth Network were striking. The youth had a large dedicated space that included talks, demonstrations, activities for children, interactive climate change discussions, a big disco soup event, and tons of energy. It would have been easy to spend the entire weekend in this corner. 

We observed that “new Nordic” has thrust interest, attention and tourism upon places and peoples that have largely been left to their own devices.  As the world looks in, these small producers grounded in sustainable, long lived cultures offer an explanation, when others or “progress” do not understand:  Because it is our way.  It is our tradition.  It is our heritage. Together the Nordic countries and cultures look back to see their way forward.

For more photos from the event check out the Terra Madre Nordic Facebook Page.