Read Part 1 of “The Relationship between Food & Community-based Tourism: South America” here.
1. More than just a product
Of course, in the context of CBT – i.e. where the community is the protagonist – food is never a touristic product. It is pure identity, rather than an object created to please the tastes of occasional visitors. It is a succulent bridge to something deeper and more important, which reaches beyond the roots of the plants it is extracted from.
In some cases it is sacred, and cannot be experienced by non-locals. In other cases, like in Ecuador, ‘tourism is the result’, as Wendy Narváez of Discovery Americas tells me with satisfaction. When a community like Chimborazo realises that its quinoa and maize are valuable assets for culture and biodiversity, tourism becomes a natural way to share and affirm their ancestral knowledge. So finally, today, sharing the traditional coladas with visitors has become something to be proud of.
In the CBT there are cultural boundaries, and some meals and drinks are not included in the touristic experience. In the Guaraní communities of Misiones (Argentina), for example, some forms of preparation of the maize (Avachí ete i) are reserved only for spiritual use, but the mbojape can be happily prepared and cooked with the tourists.
In Bolivia, the Aphtapi, a casual convivial moment that is part of the tradition of these Andean communities, is available to visitors today. The Asiturso community – part of Bolivia’s only national CBT network, Red Tusoco – whose activities are included in a project guided by ICEI and a consortium of Italian organisations, including AITR – offers this experience to the tourists on the north bank of Lake Titikaka. Even with some small adjustments and additions to the spontaneous gathering furnished with tubers, sauces and vegetables, guests will never find chicken here. It might be one of the tourists’ preferences, but it is not one of the locals’. Unfortunately, this has not been the story for the paradisiac Ilha Grande (Paraty, RJ – Brazil), and in 2016, the ‘Guia da Culinária Badjeca’ – more than just a recipe book – tried to respond to the disappearance of the local oral culinary tradition, which had been almost erased due to the priority given to the international visitors’ tastes in local restaurants.
3. Seeds of conservation
If gastronomy tourism wants to be used to guarantee local sustainable development, it is essential to start thinking of safety and food sovereignty, which is linked to the conservation of biodiversity. We recognise how in Brazil, as well as in Ecuador and in other countries, the exchange of native seeds between traditional communities is a practice that has been gaining momentum, and how the importance of seeds has been increasingly included in CBT projects, like in the Red Colombiana de Posadas Agrosolidarias network.
Food is a political choice, or, better said, in Cláudia Mattos’ s words, ‘food is a tasty way of doing politics’. Mattos is chef and owner of Espaço Zym restaurant in São Paulo, Brazil, where the book ‘Quilombo na Cozinha’ was launched in 2017. She is a therapist and teacher of ecogastronomy at the Schumacher Brasil school, leader of Slow Food São Paulo and a member of Transition Towns.
4. Time for the circle
Having just grasped the depth of the matter, to fully understand the role and the importance of food for a community you should now get involved in the curanto celebration on the Chiloé island (Chile). It is a laborious preparation – but certainly one that is well entertained with music – and after two hours of slow cooking, spent chatting and drinking, you will find yourself standing in a large and trepidant circle with the other guests and locals, waiting to lift the lid made of soil and grass that covers the layers of food separated by the large leaves of pangue o nalca.
It is time to enjoy the celebration of food!