A mistress of wit, Lella Costa
likes to quote writer Romain Gary to define this figure of speech that is also a way of life: "Humor is an affirmation of dignity, a declaration of man's superiority to all that befalls him”. Here she explains why humor also has a place when discussing important issues such as nutrition, waste, and world hunger.
In what sense is the female perspective important for getting us to eat heathily?
It’s not just a matter of healthy eating, but about our relationship with food. Motherhood, with the feeding of a newborn child, immediately causes us to have an intimate relationship with the management of the food, and for us women, the fight against waste is fairly innate, as well as natural. I believe that the female perspective in general, and women’s talents in particular, offer an invaluable contribution and one that not only Expo Milano 2015, but also the planet in general, can benefit from right now.
In your book Che bello essere noi (Isn’t it Wonderful Being Us), you discuss femininity and women's ability to work as a team, and be a "we". Often women feel inadequate, not least in their relationship with food. What does this mean for them, and what can they do to become a "we", also in connection to food and nutrition?
These are complex and delicate questions. I would say that, the more we talk about them, downplay them, and demystify them, and make them part of our common heritage, the more we will be able to achieve. For sure we have internalized behavioral patterns related to female stereotypes, including the idea that being thin is an ethical, a moral value. We have done this on a very deep level and have done so unquestioningly, in a way that is completely unblameworthy.
This causes us not to respect our bodies enough, and forces us to adapt to the dictates of the market economy. This seems to me to be very much in line with the themes of Expo Milano 2015: It’s about protecting something precious.
Pope Francis reminded us recently that, "You do not own the land, you are just taking care of it". I think we should apply the same principle to ourselves. We must learn to take better care of ourselves, and learn to pass this awareness on to our children. We must have this proud sense of belonging, of being women.
In your work as an actress and communicator, you have used humor to raise awareness, in both men and women, on the status of women in today’s world. You have shown on stage how women think, and you have exorcised fears and concerns through the use of humor. Would you also employ humor when talking about other issues, such as food waste and world hunger?
I think that humor is a fundamental tool, and can be used to talk about anything. The more important and the more heavyweight a topic is, the more the lightness of touch inherent in humor can provide an alternative to the standard approach. Alternatively, it can prompt us to think of something in a different way. Humor is, at the end of the day, a less weighty, and therefore easier, way to communicate important ideas.
In the book Come una specie di sorriso (Like a Kind of Smile) you include a quotation from writer Romain Gary that links humor to dignity. Could humor be a way of reaffirming the dignity of food?
Absolutely! Romain Gary wrote that: “Humor is an affirmation of dignity, a declaration of man's superiority to all that befalls him.” To choose how to produce, what to produce, how to feed ourselves is an extraordinary affirmation of dignity that affects not only humankind, but also nature, through an original, essential, and fundamental relationship to which, perhaps, we don’t pay enough attention.
You wrote Minestrine for the Slow Food organization’s literary project, which was part of the Piccola biblioteca di cucina letteraria series. What does soup represent for you?
For me, soup is like Proust's madeleine. It is the food that I link most closely with the idea of home. I find it both comforting and easy to make. It’s the first food that we normally eat after breast milk in the form of purée. Soup has a primoridial flavor. In a world in which, as Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food, says, food porn is increasingly prevalent, simple soup may be a way of getting back to appreciating the value of our common heritage.
In your work, you are often on tour. Is there a food that is etched on your memory and that you often think about?
I must say that I'm an omnivore, and I am really curious so, for me, cooking is a shared relationship. It’s not a question of one type of food, or dish but, that, through food, we tell and reveal much about ourselves. Thus it’s one of the best ways to break down inter-cultural, as well as local barriers, helping us to share both knowledge and pleasure.
Lella Costa is Ambassador
and spokesperson for WE-Women for Expo. Read her biography and interview
on the website. For Women's Weeks
of Expo Milano 2015, Lella Costa will be reading "Il pranzo di Babette" (Babette's Feast) on July 1 at 21:00 in the Auditorium of Cascina Triulza.