I am sitting at a small farm restaurant in the countryside of South Korea. Kwanghan and Namdo, the two farmers are in the kitchen cooking with vegetables from their farm. They are kindly welcoming me into their lives for three days sharing meals, stories and time with me. I am learning about the farming industry in Korea and about life itself from their point of view.
I feel humbled – how come a young woman from Denmark is suddenly living life of Korean farmers?
It all started last year when I went to Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, Slow Food’s biannual festival in Torino – a gathering of farmers, chefs, eaters, researchers and activists from 145 different countries with workshops, debates, talks and tastings every day to share experiences and dreams regarding our food system.
I arrived alone to the hostel in Torino. Festival participants were chatting, tired after travels from all around the world. The conversations already started right there in the hostel reception, conversations that would carry out through the next days. I went to sleep, curious about diving into this ocean of knowledgeable minds.
The first day had begun – I tasted 50 different kinds of honey, went to a talk about sustainable fishing and my favorite moments of all, were those moments in between the official program where I met fascinating strangers. The volunteer lunch was one of those moments – 500 people gathered around long tables to share a meal. People were dressed in their traditional clothing conversing as well as communicating beyond verbal language.
I was tired after lunch and found a secluded sofa occupied by and old couple from Albania. They welcomed me to lie down with the kindest gestures. I made myself comfortable, closed my eyes and embraced the surrounding sounds. Suddenly I felt something touching my hair and looked up. The Albanian woman was massaging my head, looking at me with the kindest eyes. I smiled to her and thought to myself – here i am in Italy getting a head massage from an old Albanian woman, what a wonderful life. I fell asleep and when I woke up, they were gone.
The first day had come to an end and I was back at the hostel. Outside the toilet I bumped into Chacha a South Korean young chef who invited me to his room where Slow Food Youth Network Seoul were laughing and having dinner, immediately making me feel at home.
Chacha is a good friend of Kwanghan and Namdo the Korean farmers I am living with these days. Back to Nonsan-si I am surrounded by local families coming by for a hearty meal at Flowerrain Farm Restaurant. I think back at the Slow Food Festival with gratitude for being part of this community of people who are passionate about sharing a good life with each other and nature. What is the power of community? I think I am feeling it right in this moment.
Wendell Berry’s Essay “The Pleasure of Eating” lately inspired my thinking around the current reality of our food system