THE FALL OF THE HEARTH ANGEL

Consciousness and competence: the two recurring terms in a four-way dialog, a pairing that in the hands of women can change the world, a pairing both innovative and ancient. 

One woman who symbolizes this pairing is Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan activist, one of the best-known campaigners for the rights of indigenous communities and winner of a Nobel Prize in 1992. Her name was brought up at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto because the discussion had turned once again—though it’s never often enough—to power, access to resources, the choices that each of us can make and to women who subvert the norms, who innovate, who change the rules, on their own but also as part of a community. 

In this regard, Roberta Mazzanti, editor and editorial consultant for Giunti Editore, quoted the words of actress Lella Costa: “The ways of women are infinite.” We tried to understand why at the conference “Liberated Earth: A Dialogue on Women’s Relationship to the Earth and Food” on Friday September 21, during which Roberta Mazzanti and Lella Costa were joined by journalist Maria Canabal and chef and activist Alice Waters.

Stereotypes and roles were questioned—the angel of the hearth, the career-driven woman—as was the eternal quest for balance. All the women who spoke acknowledged their inspirations. 

Maria Canabal is the founder of Parabere Forum, a movement that currently brings together 5,000 women from 50 countries. “Parabere is the pseudonym of a woman, the author of the first Spanish culinary encyclopedia, who signed herself the ‘Marquesa de Parabere.’ Parabere was launched five years ago to generate awareness about our value. It’s completely independent, and works to promote values like diversity, biodiversity and inclusion. There are 11 of us coordinating the work. To bring visibility we started to contact conferences and event organizers to ask why there were no women on their panels. They would often respond that women were not among the panelists because there were no women available to represent certain categories. Now we have forged alliances and partnerships with organizations and three weeks ago we launched the first public, online version of a database that lists all the organizations and restaurants run by women.”

The speakers did not propose the idea of women on their own, for themselves alone. Indeed, in Alice Waters’s memoir, Coming to My Senses, recently published in Italian by Slow Food Editore (to be presented at 6pm on Sunday September 23 at Nuvola Lavazza) is dedicated to Mario Savio, one of the revolutionary founders of the Free Speech Movement. “I arrived in Berkeley in 1964, when this movement started,” recounts Alice. “I liked his eloquence, and I took one of his courses, on science and poetry.” Of course women are also among the inspirations cited by Alice, including some aged 90-plus years, like the Mexican writer Diana Kennedy. “I love all the women who have lived with extreme strength, with energy and vitality.”

Lella Costa’s reflections often take the Italian language as their starting point: “Let’s think about the difference between the words ‘maestro’ and ‘maestra.’ The first is a lofty, elevated concept, the second makes one think about primary school teachers.” Then, an essential consideration: “One of women’s extraordinary qualities is an ironic way of thinking that means being able to look at things from another point of view, not always from the center of the picture.” It’s no surprise that this comment comes from Lella, known for her extraordinary sense of irony. She continues: “The female role has been recognized with the phrase, ‘behind every great man is a suffering woman,’ which then became ‘behind every great man is a woman.’ I think that the 2.0 version could become ‘behind every great man is a surprised woman who can’t understand how he’s a great man.” Irony, and profound considerations. “We women must be able to make choices. And we must manage to get across an idea: that female issues do not only concern women, but all of humanity and the world.”

 

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