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10/27/2015

EXPO 2015: "Feeding the planet" or just a Big Show?

At the end of this week, on the 31st October, the Universal Exhibition 2015 held in Milano, EXPO2015 is going to close its gates forever.

Opened last May 1st, during this six-month period, Milano has become a global showcase where more than 140 participating countries have shown the best of their technology to offer - according to the organizers - "a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium".

History
Pavilion Zero was a "must do" to understand the theme
The very first edition of the Universal Exhibition was in 1851 in London, during the Industrial Revolution, a perfect time to show "the most ambitious successes that man has achieved over time, an occasion to share technologies, innovation and discoveries. It was also a moment to bring to life architectural projects or artistic movements, like the Eiffel tower which was built in Paris when the city hosted the Exposition in 1889".

Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life
The core theme of Expo Milano 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life has the aim to provide an opportunity to reflect upon, and try to find solutions, to the contradictions of our world. There are still the hungry - approximately 870 million people were undernourished -  and, on the other, there are those who die from aliments linked to poor nutrition or too much food - approximately 2.8 million deaths from diseases related to obesity or to being overweight in the same period. Above all, about 1.3 billion tons of foods are wasted every year.

My visit
Although I've heard many rumors and read many articles and blog posts on the several contradictions of EXPO 2015 in the realization and promotion of the core theme; Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life  - basically the importance of Food in human civilization in the past, present and, above all, future- was too crucial for my work to miss it.
In addition the last time that the Universal Exhibition was held in Italy was in 1906! An opportunity that happens very rarely in our Country.
Therefore, as soon as my working season has slowed down, I jumped to Milano [13th and 14th October 2015, at the beginning of the week, trying to avoid the following problems]


The long infinite queues
One of the most important complain I've heard about EXPO 2015 was the long infinite queues anywhere. This was partially true. The most famous pavilions like the Italian, Japanese, Swiss, and several other ones, were really "off-limits". In particular the Italian one had more than 4 hours of queue at 10AM, at the opening time! Not the Italian wine pavilion, that at 11.AM was almost deserted.

Italian wine Pavilion
This was probably due to the fact that for many people tasting wine in the morning is a little bit weird. Tasting wine is very different than drinking wine: you don't need to drink all the glass, just a couple of sips can give you an idea of the quality of a wine.
I enjoyed a lot this pavilion where I could taste more than a couple of top level wines I've never had the opportunity to drink [10 Euros for 3 tastings of wine, not so bad if you are able to find what you want among around 3500 different ones from all over the Peninsula!].
Not far from the Italian pavilion, there was Franciacorta, one of the most important regions of Italy for the production of great spumante [the Champagne-style wine, produced in Italy and called Metodo Classico wines]. Here I could taste an amazing Riserva from 2006, at 12 Eur/glass. Not so bad, for the very special edition and label.

My stop at the Umbrian wines
The long queues pushed me to change the priorities in my tour: I decided to get into the pavilions that had less crowds. In this way I could visit countries which I didn't know, like Turkmenistan, Belarus, Moldova, Angola, Slovenia and many others. In particular, I enjoyed a lot the Slovenian one, which really made me think to spend a vacation in this beautiful and very close Country.
Another area that was almost empty was the Clusters where different communities where brought together, not by geographical area, but by a common theme and food group: rice, fruits and legumes, cereals and tubers etc. Among the 9 themes, I loved in particular the Coffee one where I could drink a pleasant coffee from Guatemala [free offer], and the Bio-Mediterrean one where I tasted the very first extra virgin olive oil of the new season: a "just-pressed" evoo from Sicily [pressed at EXPO 2015 thanks to a portable mini-olive press].

Food 
As the core theme was Food, with capital F, I've heard that many people were disappointed about the quality of the food itself and the price. I have to say, that, yes, in general the cost of the food was more expensive than in a kiosk or a restaurant outside the event, especially the street food, in my opinion.
Personally I've planned to eat only international and ethnic food, using also this opportunity to have something different than Umbrian or Italian. Living in a beautiful, although very little region, it is quite hard to have something that differs from a torta al testo or porchetta, here.

My favourite food experiences at EXPO2015




At EXPO 2015 I had 2 main meals and both ok for the quality/price ratio. One in particular, was really good: the national Eritrean dish zighinì [a sort of beef stew with legumes and mushrooms with a very unique mix of local spices] that for family reasons I've tasted many times in other occasions and restaurants. The cost: 10.50 Euro. For the second meal, we were more traditional, in a certain way, choosing Argentina and its famous grilled meat. For a big plate of different grilled meat plus 2 beers and 2 empanadas [an Argentinian version of the Italian calzone, thin bread stuffed with meat and cheese]: 39 Euros to share in two people.
A nice experience was at the French pavilion. The French that they always know how to do it better, have brought to Milan an authentic boulangerie, baking "on site" tons and tons of baguette breads and croissants.
In particular I had one of their pain au chocolat, still hot, very good similar to the ones tasted in a [big] pastry shop in the heart of Paris: 2.50 Euros.
Then, not bad was the apple strudel at the Austrian pavilion for Euro 5 [even if I definitely had better ones in their Country].

Feeding the planet or just a big show?
Personally I enjoyed my time at EXPO 2015 a lot. It was my very first few-days break after an intense Summer of work, I was there basically only to have fun and my professional "enrichment" from this experience was not a priority.
EXPO Milano was both for me: a way to reflect once again on the contradictions of modern word about food and, especially, food waste, and for the same reasons, a big, expensive show, where food was at the very same time "the victim and the torturer". The reflection on the huge number of people who are still very far from the basic food needs, together with the huge availability and offer of "all-you-can-eat" to the wealthy EXPO visitor.
And...no. I really don't know, I can't say how many people in the crowds and infinite queues have really caught - under the colored neon lights and the Tree of Life's las-vegas-like-show - the utmost importance of the original message : being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet.


Resources:
Official EXPO2015 website
Bureau international des Exposition










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