Featured Reviews, VOLUME 3

Review: TERRA MADRE by Carlo Petrini [Vol. 3, #14]

A Review of

Terra Madre:
Forging a New Global Network of Sustainable Food Communities
Carlo Petrini.
Hardback: Chelsea Green, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Thomas Turner.

Terra Madre by Carlo PetriniCarlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, the international organization dedicated to the renewal of food culture throughout the world and the peaceful destruction of the fast food industry, has written a slim tome that ventures into the global solutions to our paradoxical crises of food: 1 billion starving people while much of the developed world reaches staggering heights of obesity.

Petrini begins his book with an introduction to the Terra Madre organization, which has grown out of the Slow Food organization to include all the people who touch food in some way, from farmers, to chefs, to consumers.  Blind and ignorant consumption is Petrini’s arch enemy — he calls industrialized  man Homo consumens — so he instates a categorical change by calling consmers “co-produceers.”  This new moniker captures the image Petrini has of the next Industrial Revolution, a deindustrialized economy that focuses on the local and sustainable.

The fingerprints of Wendell Berry are all over Petrini’s work, but what makes his book so valuable is that it is both elementary and global.  Petrini has toned down the jargon and specifics without toning down the message while at the same time applying the agrarian view on a global scale.  This makes Petrini’s book very accessible and relevant to the types of conversations Slow Food and Terra Madre are trying to achieve, the global insurrection of producers and co-producers, from the single mom in the Whole Foods line to the farmers of the Global South.

Petrini does label this an insurrection.  He states that “Industrial agriculture is de facto a declaration of war on the earth,” and it is the job of the rising alternative global network, the web of producers and co-producers, to fight the war with their stoves and their stomachs.

Combining economics with common sense, politics with planting, and agriculture with the human culture, Petrini has written a book that provokes the reader with a healthy optimism and exuberance for the world to come, a world Petrini truly believes we are on the brink of, a world of local economies, global sustainability, and good food.


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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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