Scientific Research An Academic Publisher. Long, L. Culinary Tourism Material Worlds. In , scholars who were inspired by the theme of endless food festivals and other food-related activities, put forward gastronomic tourism. It has now become an important branch of special-interest tourism.
From only one of the six elements of tourism attractions to gastronomic tourism, the relationship of local food and tourism has become increasingly close. At least one of these offers vegan versions of mountain favorites, such as beans and cornbread, collard greens, biscuits and gravy, along with more exotic items, such as Korean barbe- cued tempeh. Non-vegetarian restaurants tend to emphasize organic and environmentally-friendly foods, such as grass-fed beef, raw milk cheeses, and homegrown and homemade jams and preserves. This array of restaurants makes for wonderful eating and draws culinary tourists from throughout the nation.
It does not seem, however, to be a celebration of Appalachian food so much as a celebration of food being created in a specific and unique area of Appalachia. The emphasis on local produce does not attempt to con- nect that produce with the cultural heritage of the area. In fact, that heritage seems to be forgotten so that neither the hillbilly stereotype nor the romanticized Elizabethan ancestor image is referenced in this celebration. This opens up the public identity of Appalachia to a redefining. An example of an attempt at redefinition occurred in a con- versation I overheard at one of the newer downtown restaurants in Asheville.
Long breakfast as a side to salty country ham and eggs fried or scrambled.
Fried grits, slices of cold grits dredged in flour, fried and served with syrup, honey, or molasses, are a traditional way to use up leftovers. Polenta is Italian. Consisting of cornmeal boiled in broth or water or milk , it is served as a mush or allowed to solidify, then sliced and grilled or baked. Either form is used as a base for savory toppings and is a lunch or supper dish. It has recently been introduced into the American restaurant scene as well as experimental and exploratory recreational cooking.
It is this natural identity devoid of culture that is the basis of a new Appalachian cuisine. Observations at the annual Belle Chere festival confirm this sus- picion and suggest more insights. This free street festival began in and has grown to a three-day affair, closing off the downtown and drawing over , people. It has spread across at least eight downtown blocks, closing off streets to foot traf- fic only. Food is found throughout the festival. Much of the food is standard festival fare—snow cones, nuts, popcorn, ice cream, pretzels, and stalls selling tacos, hot dogs, and hamburgers—and vendors seem to be both commercial and non-profit community groups.
Alcohol is allowed in designated areas. Two sections are set aside specifically for food. Festival goers North Carolina Folklore Journal There was little if any referencing to the traditional Appalachian culture of the region. Even the barbecue sauces, which reflect southern heritage more than Appalachian, but at least are now a common food found in the region, were drawing upon international and other regional cuisines. Many of these restaurants had won awards in the culinary world, and highlighted their distinctiveness.
Outside of this section was a tent for The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, a farm-to-table organization in Asheville, NC that promotes locally grown foods. One of its projects is the promotion of local wineries. There are some older ones, such as Biltmore wines that are being publicized as regional producers but some of the newer ones are using native fruits, such as blackberries, elderberries, and grape varieties, Muscadines and Scuppernongs.
The Project supports a range of initiatives, but it is telling that wine was being featured at a festival that draws large numbers of tourists from outside the region. Wine historically has been associated in the US with European culi- nary sensibilities and upper classes. Moonshine, distilled corn liquor, is more traditional to the region, but is associated with the hillbilly imagery stereotyping Appalachian culture.
It is generally not available since it is illegal, although it is possible to get a license to make it for personal medicinal use. While that lack of availability could make it highly valued, it is generally not considered a drink worthy of refined culinary tourists. Developing new wines using the native natural resources then fills the niche for local beverages in the new cuisine.
Observations and Implications What can be considered a new Appalachian cuisine seems to be emerging out of this foodscape. Several themes characterize this cuisine. It draws from a variety of cultural resources—international, ethnic-American, as well as regional—mixing and blending those resources. It also focuses on natural foods—both from the wild trout, mushrooms, berries and from small farms.
It emphasizes in- novation and originality, treating cooking as an art and intentional self-expression. It also acknowledges cooking and eating as political acts and features foods representing a particular ethos valuing local- organic production. I asked at the beginning of the paper where Appalachian cultural history fits into all this. Terroir might be the key. Long system from the industrialized agribusiness it has become.
Scholars e. Terroir is central to the debates. The argument goes as follows: if Americans can learn to discern taste of place in their foods, they will then demand that their food be grown locally, in humane, just, and environmentally sustainable conditions. This will also ease fears about food safety such as e-coli breakouts and food security citizens will not be dependent on large corporate producers and distributors for healthy and reasonably-priced food.
New Appalachian cuisine is presented as being connected to a place in which Americans have always lived close to the land, with a barter economy outside the influences of the capitalist complex, and in pre- or anti-industrial lifestyles. Historically, these characteristics were seen unfavorably, as evidence of the backwardness or Otherness of the region. Today, they are ideals that all Americans should be striving for—a utopia, almost, of local, place-based food communities closely tied to the natural cycles of resources and seasons.
Referring to grits as Appalachian polenta, then, is more than a marketing description. It represents the locating of an American tradition of a healthy relationship between people and their food. Appalachia, then, is no longer a fringe area, marginal, but a region held up as a model for other regions—and proof that there were people here that were living properly all along.
The development of culinary tourism in the Asheville area can be read as simply an attempt by the tourism, hospitality, and food service industries to expand their products and markets. Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes. Lexington: U P Kentucky, Compton, Stephen C. Early Tourism in Western North Carolina. Arcadia Publishing, Philadelphia: Temple U P, Hsiung, David C.
Lexington: U P of Kentucky, Ledford, Ibbie. Long, Lucy. Culinary Tourism: Eating and Otherness. U P of Kentucky, Lundy, Ronni, ed. Cornbread Nation 3: Foods of the Mountain South. Martin, C. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, Obermiller, Phillip J. Maloney, eds. Appalachia: Social Context Past and Present. Page, Linda Garland and Eliot Wigginton, eds.
The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery. Petrini, Carlo. Slow Food: The Case for Taste. Columbia U P, Pudup, Mary Beth, Dwight B. Billings, and Altina L. Waller, eds. Sohn, Mark F.
Culinary Tourism, Material Worlds by Lucy M. Long | | Booktopia
Stanosis, Anthony, ed. Athens: U Georgia P, Starnes, Richard D. Tuscaloosa: U Alabama P, Trubeck, Amy. Berkeley: U California P, Whisnant, David E. Williamson, J.
As I pulled my car up to her house, Mary1 came out on her porch and waved to me in greeting. At 92 years of age, Mary lives alone, still has no indoor plumbing, and heats her home with a wood- burning stove. With a gift of sweet rolls in hand, I walked into the cabin and we sat around the stove chatting. I took notes while Mary, uncomfortable with my video camera, told rambling stories of her family and youth.
Her laugh, long and loud, punctuated every sentence. And at the end of my visit, though I had learned little about homesewing, Mary promised that if I visited again she would show me several feed sack dresses her mother had constructed in the early s. I will refer to the women and men interviewed for this project by their first names throughout the paper as several of them share the same last name, Miller. Also, each woman introduced herself to me by her first name and asked me to continue to refer to her as such. She currently lives and works in Ashe- ville, North Carolina. Meat Camp, located in Watauga County, North Carolina, is a community that operated primarily as a subsistence economy before the s.
The Depression affected Meat Camp, though not as harshly as other areas of the United States, or even of Watauga County, which had already transitioned to a mostly cash economy. The transitions occurring in the domestic textile arts—quilting and clothing construction—illustrate larger transitions occurring in the economy and in gender roles in the Meat Camp area from the early s until the mids.
Here community members came to share a potluck lunch, enjoy music, demonstrate traditional crafts, and celebrate their history. As a hobby weaver myself, I was particularly interested in the history of traditional textile arts in the community and how and why these arts transitioned from being necessities for survival to hobbies and artistic expressions. After conducting a number of oral histories with current and former residents of Meat Camp, it became apparent that it was during the childhoods and teenage years of my interviewees who ranged in age from 71 to 91 that the domestic textile arts began to transition from necessity to hobby.
There are many reasons for this change, some which fall only within the jurisdiction of Meat Camp, while others occur on a nationwide scale. More specific than past censuses, the and censuses record the occupations of Meat Camp residents. Though blacksmiths, shoemakers, and even stores which operated in a cash economy were present, many interviewees reported trading farm products for services from community members or for goods from the community store.
The and censuses identify dramatic changes in not only the Meat Camp community, but also in the way the census was conducted.
Culinary Tourism (Material Worlds) Hardcover by Lucy M. Long
For the rural family in western North Carolina, the domestic sphere traditionally included primary responsibility for the children and home, clothing, food purchases, storage and preparation of food, gardening, and a variety of related activities…. The male, extradomestic realm included cash crops, public work, and associations with other men that may be considered the public affairs of the community. The female, domestic realm was culturally seen as subordinate to the authority of the male, public realm. As men increasingly entered the public labor market, their families absorbed their work on the family farm.
Their wives and children took responsibility for North Carolina Folklore Journal Evelina Idol remembers that when she was a child and the crops were completed, …we would go to Tennessee to pick beans. My uncle, Dave Mains, would haul riders to the bean fields….
I enjoyed going and could pick 20 or more bushels of beans per day…. We would pick herbs in the summer, pick beans, and trap…. It seemed natural for us to get up very early and make our rounds, to check our traps for muskrats. Then, we would skin them and dry the hides. Wilcox Drug Company in Boone, North Carolina, would pay us so much for each hide, as well as the herbs, including catnip, beadwood leaves, life plant, and snake head.
After school was out, our crops were planted and cared for, until harvest time. Daddy and the five children went to work the fields and Mama would stay home to work in the garden and fix our lunch. Evelina, for instance, mentioned to me that her father quilted. She reported that her mother, Ola Mains, taught her father, Lloyd Miller, to quilt in the s.
In Meat Camp, males were not traditionally taught to quilt or sew by their mothers; though there are reports of boys learning to sew in school or helping their mothers with quilting or sewing in other parts Appalachia during this time period Irwin He just enjoyed it. During the s, unlike in past decades, more Meat Camp residents began to find work outside the home. Shifts in the economic conditions in Meat Camp also had links to changing gender roles in the Meat Camp community.
Despite the onset of the Depression in , few changes in the occupations of men and women were documented in s Meat Camp. The census North Carolina Folklore Journal What can be determined from the available census records, however, tell a story about a community that had not yet embraced industrialization or capitalism, but was on the brink of change in the s.
Meat Camp was still largely a subsistence economy during the Depression, which to an extent shielded residents from the effects of the economic downturn. The crossroads store, which has flourished many a year with a minimum of money exchanged across the counter, is the object of the mountain farmer when he wants a pair of pants, shoes or something he cannot or does not, make for himself.
He brings his hams, chickens, eggs or grain to the store and exchanges it for what he wants. During World War II, however, many men were drafted into the war, many women worked towards the war efforts, and Meat Camp began its transition into a modern cash economy.
Even as early as August of articles of barter became subject to sales tax. The Watauga Democrat reported that law makers in Raleigh had outlined a series of rules for bartering in stores. Adding sales tax to previously unregulated trade was only one of the ways that the capitalist economy slowly trickled into Meat Camp.
These changing economic conditions paralleled changing gender roles in Meat Camp in the s and s. More women entered the workforce while their husbands, brothers, or fathers were unemployed or at war. At the same time, the women in Meat Camp also continued to work in the home and were expected to produce clothing and quilts for their families until the late s. The oral histories I collected about the domestic textile arts in Meat Camp from the s to the present clearly illustrate the economic and gender role transitions over the last eight decades. The sisters grew up very near the state park and shared their memories of quilting as children with both their mother and father.
Evelina, born in , and Geneva, born in , like the other women I went on to interview, have distinct memories of being children in the s and s. They discussed with me why quilting and homemade clothing were necessities when they were children, how their family acquired materials for these domestic duties, and when and why this changed. Before the late 19th century, weaving to produce fabric was popular in Meat Camp and many interviewees recalled a relative with a loom who did weavings. When asked if she wove, Margaret Miller of Meat Camp told me, No, but they said my great aunt used to.
But they said she could shear a sheep and take the wool and spin it and make the yarn and loom it and make the fabric and then make the garment. Her name was Francis Miller. While a few women and men interviewed in Meat Camp studied weaving at Cove Creek High School in the s and s from a popular teacher, Mrs.
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Strother, these students only produced fabric as a hobby and never for any real need—personal or commercial Jarrell 1. All six women I interviewed, however, recalled quilting from ready-made fabrics and fabric scraps as a domestic necessity. That was the purpose of them. While some women created intricate patterns that are well known in present-day traditional quilting, quilts in Meat Camp were made for more practical purposes.
They would just, ever how big that square was, [Mother] would fit that into a pattern. She would not waste any material. She would have some small and some large. Though fabric was generally affordable, Meat Camp residents living in a subsistence economy during the Depression were careful to use all of the fabrics for which they had paid cash. Utilizing tobacco pouches or feed sacks for quilting or clothing fabrics was also popular so that fabrics would not have to be purchased.
When asked, all the women interviewed from the Meat Camp area reported using scraps and feed sack material for quilt construction. Before the s all farm and food products were shipped in wooden barrels Rhodes By the turn of the 20th century, cotton sacks—much lighter, stackable, and thus North Carolina Folklore Journal Women soon after began utilizing these sacks for quilt construction and other fabric needs.
Once the feed and flour sack manufacturers realized how popular these sacks were becoming with women who used them for fabric, they began to manufacture sacks with colorful prints as early as The companies also made the labels easier to remove. By the late s, creating the most desirable feed sack prints became a marketing strategy as women often bought flour, sugar, beans, rice, cornmeal, and even feed and fertilizer based on which patterns they favored Lasansky Extra feed sacks could be sold back to the store where they were purchased.
Peddlers often went town-to-town selling feed sacks to women who wished to pick from a wider variety of colors and prints. Feed sacks were even traded between women to get matching patterns for a larger project Brackman Evelina related a story to me about her childhood in the mid to late s: Now this is interesting. And this was way back. It would have been in my early childhood. Instead of buying a lot of material to make our clothes, we farmed, so we would buy, we called it chop, or corn in cloth bags, feed bags, and we would get to go to the mill in Union Grove and us girls would get to go with my dad when he would get a supply of the chop for the cattle.
These feed bags were print and we would pick maybe two or three of the same pattern because we knew that they would be washed up and then we could use that material and our mom would make us a dress out of it. So we would do that and just be thrilled. Much of this clothing was made from feed sacks and all of the women interviewed recalled owning clothing made from feed sacks. When I asked her where her family bought materials for the dresses her mother made for her and her sisters, Margaret replied, [w]e used to get feed bags some times.
They printed them in pretty designs made especially for you to use and make your North Carolina Folklore Journal Miller 3 Margaret also remembered going with her father to a store in Sands, about a mile from their house, to buy the feed sacks. The result is lower production per hectare than elsewhere in Italy, which makes it difficult for these farmers to compete in the modern economy FAO n.
The terraces prevent soil erosion and manage the rainwater, keeping what the trees need and slowly draining the rest. In a world facing a future of more torrential rains due to climate change, these lemon gardens are a critical local conservation measure. When neighbors abandon their farms it creates enormous trouble for others in the valleys trying to maintain their livelihoods, not to mention those living below.
The gardens must grow more than just lemons, which is where tourism enters the equation. The greatest economic benefit identified by the FAO is tourism Grego n. His new family business venture, called the Lemon Experience, is the most recent chapter in the story of lemons in southern Italy.
Limoncello factory tours and tastings round out the experience that Salvatore hopes tourists enjoy and will write favorable reviews about on Trip Advisor. And the reviews are fantastic. The smell of the lemon gardens, and the buzz of bees amongst the fruit is authentic lemon farming, presented by the farmers themselves, which appeals to tourists wanting to connect with food traditions in more meaningful ways.
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Wearing a uniform is a loaded symbol, and says much about the power dynamic of the Tourist Gaze. It clearly signals the relationship between the parties, one that often includes a power differential, and mediates the interactions and expectations between wearers and viewers Hertz While image management is critical in tourism, and agritourism entrepreneurs may be choosing uniforms to legitimize their enterprises and look more official, one must recognize the power of these important visual cues in shaping the overall experience.
There is the potential for some types of uniform to signal servitude, formality, restriction, and external control. In a tourism context, a uniform can distinguish customer from staff and illustrate who is in charge of the construction of the experience. This overt manifestation of conforming to the Tourist Gaze is an important reminder of how easily the balance can be tipped in favor of the tourist.
Religious communities have been important repositories of food traditions for centuries Villette ; a well-known example is Trappist monks brewing beer, but equally significant is the diversity of pastries made by nuns in the monasteries on the southern Italian peninsula and Sicily.
Convents and monasteries were supported in great part by their patrons; most were peasants who brought the products of their farms to the convent gates, but wealthy patrons provided more expensive ingredients like cane sugar and almonds. This created the opportunity for nuns to produce something unique for their communities; the farmer could bring the common ingredients of wheat, olive oil and wine and get sweet pastries in exchange for special holidays.
More recently these exquisite pastries were sold to fund regular operating costs and charitable causes; all in all, this was a lucrative trade both economically and in social credit, with food maintaining important connections between the cloistered nuns and their families, and knitting convents into their broader communities Mazzoni Monastery populations have withered, and nuns today do not necessarily view pastry-making as an important contribution to their communities.
Recipes that were once preciously guarded to maintain exclusivity and the renown of particular monasteries were given away, or no longer used. These traditions are at risk of being completely forgotten in communities with increasingly good access to cheap, mass produced, store bought cookies and pastries. It is therefore interesting to watch the emergence of a new bakery, which opened in the old part of Altamura in that celebrates the monastic tradition of pastries as part of its entrepreneurial identity and brand. The bakery advertises its use of traditional recipes from the nearby monastery and in celebrating the tradition, is using it as a point of distinction from other bakeries in town.
While a nun apparently oversees the bakery operations, it is unclear how frequently nuns are actively participating in the kitchen. Although some might consider this opportunistic marketing, it brings this story into the modern fabric of Altamura, and celebrates these traditions so they are not completely forgotten. Keeping the story alive dignifies this centuries-old heritage of pastry making in Italy's religious communities, and maintains an essential connection to community and history in a way that is meaningful, and delicious, in the 21 st century.
Messors is a small company based in Altamura that aims to offer a positive experience for both participants and the region as a whole by sharing cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive experiences www. Unlike a bus tour, where visitors pass through a place rather passively, seeing disconnected parts without really understanding the relationships between them, Messors seeks to create opportunities for a visitor to appreciate firsthand the profound connections between humans, cultural traditions, and the landscape that can still be tasted in the food.
This means meeting the cheese maker, the baker, the butcher, the farmer, and the shepherd, and spending some time in their worlds to see the art, science, and magic that are part of their craft. Tonio is a local providing an intimate tour of his landscape, which is very different from other tour companies that may not have local guides and facilitators. His expertise and ability to connect with local food producers that he has known his entire life easily satisfies the tourist demands for an authentic experience. Daley calls this type of knowledge and these deep seeded relationships with people and place intangible assets , which he considers essential for tourism to be a successful and sustainable form of regional development.
Participants are introduced to a host of food artisans who graciously invite them to try shaping the dough for famous Altamura bread, make sausages and various cheeses, and blend local ingredients together for delicious meals served outside, family-style. Sometimes, after a late evening meal, Tonio will pull out his guitar and play. Often he can get a local owl to sing along with him when he whistles.
As you sip home made limoncello the rest of the world seems to melt away into the warm night. However, the intimate, learning-through-doing ethic gently redirects this gaze in a way that creates a more well-rounded expression of modern rural identity. This holds the promise of capturing the benefits of culinary tourism as sustainable development while minimizing the threat of hollow performance that can creep in when culture is commodified.
While the tendency of cultural tourism is to present the experience in a tourist-friendly format MacCannell , unstaged authenticity should add to the overall experience. Farm-based tourism allows visitors to witness agricultural work up close, which will inevitably include barnyard smells and early morning wake ups from the sound of sheep assembling to be milked. With Messors, a trip to meet and work alongside the baker starts with a am wake up call. In this way the baker is not performing, but instead is going about his daily routine and tourists are invited to fit in to this reality instead of the other way around.
This is immensely satisfying to the visitor and maintains the integrity of food producers. Not only do these workshops provide opportunities for tourists to experience and learn about food heritage, but the interest from outsiders helps to dignify these traditions, with the hope that youth will take an interest in learning and perpetuating these cultural practices. Shepherding offers a good example of this. The livelihoods of farmers and shepherds have been woven together across the limestone Murgia Plateau of the southern peninsula for thousands of years.
Shepherds herd their flocks of sheep and goats across the pockets of rocky terrain that are not suitable for farming, making the most of a marginal landscape. Historically their wool and dairy products were important components of local economies, but a combination of factors have eroded the viability of shepherding as a livelihood Minori personal communication A particular challenge is the sweeping set of EU regulations meant to address food safety that are blunt instruments and not realistic or all that necessary for small producers.
It is common for shepherds to have the first level of certification required to sell their milk; animals are tagged and frequently inspected. But upgrading cheese-making facilities to meet modern production regulations can be very expensive, leaving many shepherds with limited options. It is also important to remember that while shepherds work tirelessly every day meeting the needs of the animals, the food they produce, and by extension their wage, is seasonal, since sheep and goats only produce milk from March through August.
Although shepherding traditions are woven into the cultural fabric of southern Italy, the industrial food system, which makes cheap dairy products from global producers alluring and easily accessible, changes the perceived value of shepherds in these communities. With such hard work and such tenuous compensation, it is hard to find many Italian youth who are dreaming of shepherding as a career choice.
A growing number of shepherds in Italy are immigrants from Eastern Europe or India Creanza personal communication ; as wage laborers they are vulnerable to exploitation while keeping the price of milk low. There are tourism opportunities in both regards. Historically, extensive networks of shepherds tracks, at one point legally protected by the King of Naples to ensure their continued maintenance, provided access to grazing land Sarno These tracks, called tratturi , connected grazing areas used daily, but were also instrumental for the longer distance transhumance practices of shepherds who moved their animals from the summer pastures of Abruzzo and Molise to the winter pastures of the Murgia Plateau.
A study completed in indicated that the majority of the km of tratturi in southern Italy were either no longer visible or in very poor condition Camera dei Deputati cited by Sarno , which speaks to the overall integrity of shepherding in the region. This could be important economically for the region but also in the maintenance of what is left of the pastoral infrastructure critical to shepherds. The goal in parts of southern Italy where shepherding is still practiced can be more than just the economic benefits of tourism. If integrated foodways are to be maintained or reinvigorated, tratturi are a key part of this; shepherds must move their flocks to access grazing areas, otherwise the subsistence pattern falls apart.
Tourist encounters with shepherds and their flocks using these tracks as they have done for centuries create the ultimate agritourism opportunity to walk alongside and gain a deeper, more authentic appreciation for the many contributions that pastoralists have made to food, culture and landscape. The Fornello Project, affiliated with Messors, aims to apply the philosophy of participatory agritourism to generate benefits for both local shepherds of the Murgia plateau and visiting tourists. This holistic endeavor envisions heritage as something living and contemporary rather than something frozen in time, and the long term goal is to restore the built heritage of the Fornello site located just outside of Altamura, reinstate shepherding activities in the area, and in so doing help to re-establish its relevance in a modern frame Creanza personal communication The wheels of pecorino cheese are aged in one of the many caves located in the soft tufa limestone below the building, restoring some of the historic functionality of the area.
Because EU regulations do not allow this cheese to be sold, it is gifted to supporters of the project, whose donations finance the perpetuation of the project and restoration of the many heritage elements of the site. The objective is to meet the needs of both visitors and shepherds.
Visitors want an authentic, exclusive experience, where they can connect with food producers and learn about local food traditions. The shepherds need the ability to sell their milk for a higher price, and benefit from being re-inscribed on the landscape. The hope is to demonstrate interest that can lead to a local revival in shepherding traditions; if shepherding can be dignified by the Tourist Gaze, it may become a more desirable profession for local youth.
This explicit recognition by outsiders of the economic and social value of integrated elements of culture can be profoundly meaningful. According to one local in Altamura, whose family has been shepherding for generations, the genuine interest of visitors in shepherding and other foodways dignifies these traditions. The pride that is demonstrated, that shines when others appreciate and are interested, is critical to the ongoing success of these cultural traditions. As guests they are not consumers, or passive viewers, but travelers invited to observe, listen, smell, and taste a place on the terms of the local host.
This form of dynamic tourism acknowledges participation and co-production in an experience that is meaningful for everyone. This becomes a very different type of experience for everyone involved. For less flexible travelers, this is challenging, particularly when things do not conform to expectations and timetables. There can be a sense of disappointment and not getting what one was expecting from a trip itinerary if the baker is ahead of schedule and has shaped most of the loaves by the time visitors arrive, or the shepherd anticipated to join the group for lunch comes late, or cannot stop because the animals are on the move.
This is challenging for the tour operator, who is balancing the expectations of paying guests while honoring the natural rhythms of food producers. It can feel less organized than many travelers expect, leading to frustrations. A reoccurring comment from Messors participants was that they had enjoyed an experience like no other, so much more than a vacation, and very clearly transformative.
But being sustainable must also include being economically successful, and even Messors feels the pressure to be profitable and attract more participants.
It is easy to start making decisions based on how participants will perceive things, or how a dinner location will photograph for Facebook and Instagram promotion. Creating fantastic, memorable experiences is a huge amount of work, and sometimes pulling off the magic can be at the expense of health and inter-personal relationships.
As a small business, Messors feels key vulnerabilities of the tourism industry. World events like the turbulent global economy since and sharp changes in the value of currencies, and safety concerns associated with terrorist activity in Europe and the unrest tied to the ongoing refugee crisis can make tourists re-evaluate their travel plans. Taken together, they impart a special tourist experience that is both enjoyable and valuable to everyone involved. It is impossible to make your own food without becoming aware of the human connections that link the land to the food and the people.
In the context of the industrial food system it is unusual to be able to connect so closely with food producers. Reconnecting consumers and producers creates an appreciation for the effort and knowledge that is required to make food that is good, clean, and fair, the watchwords of the Slow Food Movement Petrini Many in the south are keenly aware of this difficult balance. A colleague in Altamura, whose credentials are in tourism, told me that he no longer visits Florence or Venice because these cities are shells of their former selves, designed to fit and meet the expectations of tourists.
He passionately argued that despite having a vested interest in tourism being successful in Puglia, he would rather it not attract visitors than destroy the region that he holds so dear. Increasingly, consumers do not grow their own food, or know people who do, and families are scattered across a broad geography to better access personal opportunities like school and work. The trend is to invest personal effort in personal success rather than communal effort for a shared benefit.
When communities are fractured by family members moving away to cities or even other countries looking for work, it is difficult to find people with the moral obligation to participate in food production work in a reciprocal way. So workers must be hired to harvest the olives and the grapes that are made into olive oil and wine, which can make maintaining small family groves and vineyards prohibitively expensive. This then accelerates the trend of small farmers selling out, and larger corporate producers moving in or farms being abandoned all together.
A tourist in rural Italy can contribute to sustainable economic development, but can also appreciate the modern challenges of maintaining the cultural traditions that are considered so novel and appealing to the outsider. What a great opportunity to look at these processes and critically evaluate our own realities at home, to not only dignify and support the perpetuation of these key cultural elements in Italy, but to think about how to do the same after the vacation comes to an end.
The knock-on effect is significant. In a landscape where water has always been scarce, the burden of tourists expecting fresh towels and bed linens every day will be borne by locals. Providing air conditioning and central heating for year round comfort will be incredibly expensive given the price of electricity.
Tourists may want the farm atmosphere but not the farm reality. Reshuffling priorities to suit the tourist consumer can lead to a carefully curated version of a pastoral landscape, yet remove the sounds and smells of animals to appease guests, and these landscapes cease to be working farms. This style of luxury accommodation, and the associated food and wine based activities offered to guests, can end up looking the same, a standardized, homogenized set of products based on the supposed needs and expectations of the paying customer. The effect is that these farms shift to growing tourist experiences, and nothing else.
Successful sustainable tourism, both economically and culturally, will meet the expectations of tourists while maintaining meaningful local identities and cultural practices, which can be a tall order. Neither of these are very positive outcomes, particularly if the dictates of outsiders stagnate tradition into dusty relics from an imagined past.