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Many chefs have told me that food is less about aesthetics and exclusivity and more about nostalgia. What kinds of memories can they invoke with simple, well-sourced flavors? Food is so tied to memory and unity throughout time, and that’s why this year’s Expo Milano theme, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” should be crucial to foodies around the world.
We love good food, but we need to make it last. Expo Milano 2015, which lasts from May 1 to October 31, showcases 140 countries that are using their own technology and tradition to answer a vital need: “being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium,” according to the expo’s website. Germany, Ecuador, Kuwait, Slovakia, Turkmenistan, Poland — all of these countries and more have booths at this year’s expo, and they each provide a different historical look at that country’s creation of food now and in the future.
Spain’s exhibit has a glass-enclosed honey waterfall, which emphasizes just how important bees are to the country’s crops. It also features a plate-lined room that projects images of the country’s farmers, who are responsible for growing wheat, barley, olives, and different fruits. Outside of the exhibit, on its physical structure, is a hydroponic garden, which grows herbs and small plants. The experience isn’t just an educational one, though — visitors can interact with well-known foods and drinks from each country. Spain, for example, serves some of the best sangria I’ve ever had.
To enter the French exhibit, visitors take a zig-zag path through a small garden that exhibits France’s most important crops: wheat and corn. It also features fresh herbs that are commonly used in French cuisine, including thyme, mint, basil, and, my personal favorite, rosemary.In order to properly experience each country’s food culture, you need at least a week at the expo.
The expo is divided into four thematic areas. These include the Pavilion Zero, which “traces the history of humankind via its relationship with food”; the Future Food District, which “explains how technology will change food storage, distribution, purchase, and consumption”; and the Biodiversity Park, which is a large garden that reproduces a number of the planet’s ecosystems. The last area is featured in Milan at the Triennale museum, and it focuses on the food and the arts, with an exhibition evaluating the relationship between food and art over time.
There’s a lot to see, so don’t treat it like your average street fair, which you might be able to get through in a few hours. In order to properly experience each country’s food culture, you need at least a week at the expo.
Whether you want to sit outside of Kazakhstan and enjoy live entertainment and karaoke or travel to Morocco to learn about the importance of the Atlantic Ocean to the country’s food production, Expo Milano is a directive force for the future of food and sustainability.