Before coming to Milan to take over the pastorship, Giuseppe Platone held the same role in the Valli Valdesi, the three valleys in the west Piedmont, the traditional home of the Waldensians, as well as holding posts in New York State, and Riesi, near Caltanisetta, in Sicily. Platone was the editor of Riforma, the weekly newspaper for the Waldensian, Methodist, and Baptist community in Italy for seven years.
How is happiness defined in your faith, and what kind of diet serves to enhance it?
In the bible, happiness is related to the life that awaits us, and the road along which we are moving towards that happiness, through joy and sorrow. The pursuit of happiness is also our right, as enshrined in the American Constitution, written in 1776.
I believe that happiness is discovering that the Lord has a plan for each of us. The diet that nourishes this faith is to eat, constantly, of the bread of the Word, the bible. I believe that, in this life, we experience joy, but have only brief glimpses of happiness, that we will know in its fullness only in the Kingdom of God where there'll be “no tears or sorrow”, and where our communion with the Lord will be complete.
What is the relevance of fasting in your faith?
In the Waldensian faith, there are no rules regarding fasting. Sometimes we fast as a form of solidarity, and/or as a form of protest. I myself have participated in collective fasts in support of immigrants, against war, as well as against those who would do damage to the environment. The money saved as a result of not eating was then donated to a good cause.
On the subject of leading a Christian life, in a confession of Waldensian faith dated 1655, I found an affirmation related to fasting. Having stated that salvation is based solely on the grace of God and not as a result of one’s actions, the writer adds that as believers, we must eschew vices and apply ourselves to Christian virtues, using fasting and any other means at our disposal to ensure we lead a Christian life.
How is food represented in your faith? What are its key features and what values to they refer to?
Before we eat, we normally say a short prayer of thanks, or sing a brief hymn. This helps us establish a non-idolatrous relationship with what we are about to eat. Saying a prayer before eating helps to remind us that, even if what is in front of us is the fruit of someone’s labor, its prime ingredients are a gift from God for which we need to express gratitude. More, while we are at the table, we need to avoid wasting food, or over-eating, as this is an insult to those who do not have enough, or do not have any at all.
Can you tell us any specific anecdotes regarding a specific Waldensian tradition connected to food?
Until 1848, the Italian Waldensians were forced to live in a kind of alpine ghetto, in what came to be known as the Valli Valdesi, or Waldensian valleys, and are none other than the valleys of the Cottian Alps, in the area to the west of Pinerolo, in Piedmont, bordering on France.
During their centuries-long seclusion, the Waldensians developed their own traditional recipes. Indeed, there are dozens of these, the best-known being the “Supa Barbetta”, a soup that takes its name from the “barba”, the title to the Waldensian preachers who went house to house in medieval times.
Originally, this soup included dry bread that had been cooked in a hen or pork broth. This ancient “poor” dish has since been enhanced with the addition of spices, including cinnamon, while the bread has been replaced by the traditional rounded grissini, known as “rubatà”, and generous quantities of the soft cheese known as toma, have been added.
A traditional dish that bespeaks eight centuries of Waldensian history, the “Supa barbetta” takes 90 minutes to cook, and is a dish for special occasions, such as the annual commemoration of the granting of civil rights to the Waldensians, which occurred on February 17, 1848.
Today’s agricultural practices are ruining the planet. How important is it for your faith that food be produced in an ethical fashion, or that food waste be avoided?
Better than ever before, as Christians, we can work together to change the current food-production processes that cause suffering and provoke malnutrition in many parts of the world. This is a scandal that must end, not least because we owe it to future generations. We cannot continue to stand by idly while people die of hunger or thirst. Moving towards food justice starts at our dinner-tables, in our homes, and in our churches. One example is the Waldensian church’s Green Rooster (“Gallo verde”
in Italian), an ISO 14001 standard specifically designed for places of worship that wish to manage their environmental footprint.
Let us, therefore, start by looking in our own plate before we start judging other peoples’. This new approach to life is just a taste, the best is yet to come.