Sunday, October 31, 2010

Terra Madre

Terra Madre ran parallel to the Salone del Gusto. Terra Madre is a place where people from all over the world who are concerned with the future in terms of sustainable food production that works within the respect of the environment and for the people. These farmers and producers are united with the consumers and food activists who revolutionize the way the world grows, makes, sells and eats. There were workshops throughout the weekend, rooms to learn about Slow Food Presidia and Projects as well as space for people to sell and share their products. Mats were laid out in rows and all sorts of things were for sale - woven bags, oils, spices in plastic bags, educational posters, jewelry, t-shirt's, patterned clothes, shoes, scarves, a man from Japan weaving flip flops from straw next to a Kenya man not wearing any shoes selling leather bags. There were fruits too that I have no idea how they got through customs. It was really nice to see these products, handmade or not, from all over the world, from places many people will never have a chance to visit, but some of them were selling things as though it were a flea market (random pairs of high heels that could have come from any second hand store) and trying to bargain with the on-looker, offering prices while other products seemed extremely overpriced. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the unification of people here was to share ideas and experiences, trade production methods and techniques, and to meet people to understand their different cultures and preserve native traditions, not to feel pressured into buying something. I don't know... 

The first day was dedicated to critical issues concerning the planet and it's biodiversity. I attended one called Identity and Globalization of Biodiversity. It's focus was looking at how identities are connected with traditions and cultures and understanding what systems are in place for the local/regional to identify with the global community. The most interesting speech was from Logan Smith and Carissa Carmen - two Americans who have been working on Mary Mattingly's Waterpod Project. I'm not exactly sure how it fit into the subject of the workshop, but I found the analogy of their project to relate perfectly to the future of the world. The project is described as a four room village on a barge that floats around the 5 boroughs of NYC. It is not only a sustainable living space or a cultural museum, but it is an artistic vision where science and art merge to engage people towards a vision of the future. Volunteers came together to help because they believed in the same future. Logan and Carissa said that they weren't exactly sure what background experience they could offer, but it was more than just what they knew, it was about collaboration, requiring expertise and partnership to build an autonomous network. Everyone offered what they could, bringing in all sorts of disciplines, backgrounds, and experiences. It was about being an exchange of diversity that could appeal to all, using food as a common language, and to keep it public so that other people can learn and in turn, make their own projects better.  If everyone contributes what they can and can work together, the goal can be accomplished. Think big, think impossible, and make it work. It seemed to be an overall idealistic theme/metaphor for the overall weekend of Terra Madre.

African fruit for sale?
Then there were regional meetings where conviviums from certain countries or areas could get together to discuss what they've been doing for Slow Food, explain problems, share experiences, swap ideas, possible networking, and an overall feeling of togetherness. I attended one on Ireland (next post). There  were also Earth Workshops focused on various sustainable agricultural themes. We each were assigned to attend one and to write a report about for the website. Mine, about Slow Food Education Principles. I also attended one called Honey & the Bees, Less Meat, Better Meat, and tried unsuccessfully to find one called Native Wools (no link, no report. cough cough). 
Slow Food Presidiums around the world.

Salone del Gusto

As we walked into the great halls of Salone del Gusto, the world's largest food fair, I was beyond overwhelmed. There were hundreds of booths and stalls offering information and samples of their products. It isn't only about tasting food, it is about learning about the products, but of course, in a food fair, there are people who grab samples without looking at the name, where it's from or barely recognizing what it tastes like before they stuff another sample into their mouth. Some of the booths have abundance of samples, some require a payment or donation, some have really nice packaging and marketing campaigns that they hardly seem small scale or artisinal, some are really enthusiastic to talk about their products, some use unique techniques like half dressed women in aprons to attract patrons, while others lure you in to buy their products so that they can fund their way home. It was fantastic to taste these products from all over the world with people who wanted to share, until there was the pressure to buy. Then it lost the point of the fair.
Just one of many Italian cheeses.
Calabrian Chili Peppers. Beautiful.
Tuscan Beans. Made friends with them and their minestrone bean cart. Delicious. 
Women weaving Tomatoes.
 The largest of the rooms was occupied and sorted by different regions of Italy. Cheese, Emilia-Romagna cured meats, Tuscan olive oil, Basilicata cured meats, Piemontese cheese, Sardinian cheese, Trentino wine, balsamic vinegars, artinsal beers, Val d'Aosta cheese, grappa, Friuli wine, chocolates, preservatives, bread, Puglia olives, Lazio cured meat, Sicilian cannolis, cheese, Campagnia olive oil, bread, Tuscan wine, artisinal beer, Calabrian spices, cheese, cured meat, cheese (notice a common Italian theme?) let alone a ton of Slow Food Presidium products - red celery, turnips, onion, peppers, lentils, beans, biscuits, fish, fruits, and cheeses and cured meats of course. 
Dried Goat Jerky.
Beautiful Chocolates.
Spicy Cheese.
Red Aubergine.
Cannoli the size of his foot. and he ate it all. 
We wandered through, wide-eyed. We were unsure of the etiquette - could we just taste and sample our hearts out without having to buy anything? We couldn't walk more than 2 steps without having more overloaded plates of samples in front of us. A new pant-size amount of cheese samples and a rice-based beer later, we made it into the international hall - my favourite part. Here were booths with most, but not exclusively, international presidia products from all over the world. Honeys, Spanish cured meats, Latvian bread, Bulgarian beans, Scottish haggis, French foie gras, Norwegian dried cod, German cured meats and cheese, Polish sausages and knishes, American craft beers, Mexican mescal, French ground-cured-multi-aged cheeses, Tibetan Yak wool and cheese, Chilean peppers, Peruvian potatoes, Latvian tree sap beverages, a Korean restaurant, Swiss cheeses that were shaved like truffles, Spanish seaweed, Austrian pit cabbage, Afghanistan raisins, rums from around the world, UK beers, Welsh salt, German beers, Macedonian dried figs and pickled cabbage, Central American coffees, Dutch oysters, lobsters, and cheese, Czech beers, and of course Irish raw milk cheese and a stall from Board Bia. 
Tibetan Yak Cheese. Way Fattier Than Cow's. too cold for an internship.
Scrumptious Latvian Bread, with leaves...
The Mexican Stand.
American Craft Beer. Way to represent, America. Hello, NH!
Japanese Oysters.
Dutch Oysters.
Spicy Mexican Insects. we tried to go back for more...
I could probably go on and on and on but it would be impossible to taste everything. It wasn't just about the tasting the different products, it was about talking to the producers and asking them questions. Some of them were asleep at the stalls, some look bored, but most of them were enthusiastic to talk about their products. They had a lot of pride. They had a lot invested in their products - to most of them, this was their livelihood. They had all traveled a long way to be here, they should show off what they have to offer.
Waldo and Juan from Chile. 
The international pavilion was by far my favourite.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Terra Madre & Salone del Gusto: Opening Ceremony

I don't know if I realized how lucky I was to attend UNISG this year until we arrived in Torino for Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto. Sure, next year the students may be able to go to Slow Cheese or Slow Fish, but Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto are by far the biggest and most important for Slow Food and it only happens every two years.

We left early Thursday morning to arrive in time for the Opening Ceremony. I felt a little overwhelmed for not having any idea what to expect from the weekend. Despite our lecture on Salone del Gusto, which really just explained the outline of the event's floor plan, fascinating, there was no way for me to be prepared. I think I am still trying to process the immenseness of the events experienced throughout the weekend.

"I don't need a pass, I'm a pecorino." - J
With passes hung around UNISG lanyards, we walked into the giant arena, Palasport Olimpico, which was originally built for the Olympics. We filled the seats as we watched people from all over the world, wearing their traditional outfits - often shoes and underpants excluded - walking around with suitcases having just arrived, chatting and introducing each other. A rainbow of coloured clothes and skins trickled in as there were kimonos with high heels, headdresses that could easily block the person sitting behind, Middle Eastern robes with Nikes, and we curiously eyed the UNISG students from Pollenzo identifiable by our new school-labeled t-shirts. Whether they were farmers, producers, musicians, educators, fishermen, chefs, students, or supportive guests, everyone was there for the same reason: as Sergio Chiampanino the Mayor of Turin said, to come together to exchange goods and ideas in order to reach a resepct that doesn't only enrich a few people. If we rearrange the hierarchy of values, not material values, we can change the world through how we relate to each other and use Terra Madre as an engine to promote these relations amongst each other. 
The fourth edition of Terra Madre kicked off with 300 school children, "Pequenas Huellas" from all over the world singing with the Orchestra Internazionale Per La Pace. They sang in various languages and played while representatives from Afria, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceana walked in proudly waving colourful country flags.  From each of the five continents was a representative speaker addressing the audience in their native languages.

the choir and orchestra.
Malebo Mancha Maze, a Gamo from a mountain area in Ethiopia spoke to us, loud and clear. He animatedly shared an anecdote about 5 bulls and a hyaena: 5 bulls went to the low land where the grass was nice and tasty, spending the whole day grazing. They joined their rears together in a circle with their horns facing out ready to attack. The hyaena came and said to get rid of the white bull and they would be safe forever. So, the white bull was sacrificed. One by one the pack got lighter and it was easier for the hyaena to wipe out the bulls. The lesson is, if all of us, brought together from 150 countries, embrace each other and work together, we can survive.
Africa represents.
Adolfo Timotio from Brazil didn't look up once during his speech. He heavily stressed the process of colonization that the Guarani went through from the Spanish, Portuguese, English and Dutch who brought borders, diseases, slavery and genocide. He implored us to recognize the indigenous people and to guarantee the application of the law to them as we all are the custodians of the world - we need to look after it and make sure that all differences are respected. He was so bitter, I wonder what it was like for him to be in Italy - the colonizer.
Americas. North, Central and South.
Albina Morilova, dressed in a traditional Kamchadal headdress, was from the extreme western part of Russia where for 7-8 months of the winter the temperatures are below 40C. Through describing her culture, she discussed the importance of conveying knowledge to new generations. Her indigenous  culture has had to adopt the Russian culture and their traditional language is in danger of extinction as teachers nor youth are interested in learning or preserving it. 

Ol-Johan Sikku is a Sami, an indigenous group from the area of Northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Penninsula of Russia. He too talked of the exploited land that divided his people but hoped for a rivival of language, culture and land through community development. As we have borrowed from Mother Nature, he said, we can no longer live in the same nature, but we have the knowledge to work together to advise the rest of the world on how to protect it. 
Europe. Yay Ireland.
Aunty Beryl Van Oploo from SW New South Wales in Australia also talked about her indigenous culture and about a college of aboriginal culture and cuisine. 
I swear the translator called this part of the world "Oceana"
 Carlo Petrini, the Slow Food International President, supported what each of these indigenous speakers had to say, agreeing that the defense of traditional knowledge gives us the tools to not only create good practices and respect nature, but we can start a dialogue to support those least considered by politics and media: natives, farmers, women, and the elderly. These humble, modest people need to show us the right way towards the future as they are the ones who preserve the earth and give the world common sense. Petrini also strongly addressed the youth in the audience who he believes have a great opportunity to match and combine modern science that we know with the traditional knowledge from our ancestors. To connect these is an extrodinary challenge, the best challenge ahead of us and the best struggle to fight for. Since we (I will consider myself part of the youth) are the subjects and creators of the transformation need, we need to grow and decrease at the same time - not only increase the development of material goods, efficiencies and profits, but to develop the love, friendship and understanding amongst people. His main three points to come away from were to enhance diversity, strengthen reciprocity, and to encourage dialogues and meetings.  For Petrini, and what he wanted us all to understand and feel, was that being here, getting together for the weekend, would prove to be more valuable than all the money in the world as we open each other up to new experiences, beliefs, and languages. It will force us to go home stronger, to not only defend and expand our networks, but to live intensely. 
Carlo Petrini: the man behind it all.
It was empowering and encouraging and Petrini's energy could be felt throughout the entire arena. I left feeling like I had every capability to make a change in the world. I also left thinking that it wasn't anything new that I hadn't already read in his book, Terra Madre. Slow Food is a powerful movement but not without its problems and I understand that Petrini's speech was reinforcing the basic foundation and principles of the movement but a slight change in approach could strengthen it - if something isn't working, something can always be altered. I left unsure if I wanted to return again in two years, but the Opening Ceremony still had not prepared me for the weekend to come.

afterwards, the Greeks started dancing and Popi joined in.

(This was all from my notes and observations from the presetation, but more information and Carlo Petrini's translated speech can be found here.)

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around." - Hugh Grant as Prime Minister in Love Actually.
“Non posso cambiare la direzione del vento, ma posso sempre modificare le vele per raggiungere la mia destinazione … I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can always adjust the sails in order to reach my destination." - Elif Shafak.

"You tasted it. Isn’t that enough? Of what do you ever get more than a taste? That’s all we’re given in life, that’s all we’re given of life. A taste. There is no more." The Dying Animal, Philip Roth

On the last day of my trip around NW Italy with John & Sheelagh in September, we had lunch in Lecco. After a week of my parents insisting that I translate and communicate in Italian for them, knowing fully aware that I can speak as much Italian as they can and most, if not all of the Italians we interacted with spoke perfectly comprehensible levels of English, my dad asked me one last time to help with the bill. Luckily enough for me though, sitting on the counter by the register were bottles of Ferran Adria's new beer. Luckily enough for me, my dad was standing right next to me paying the bill. 

The famous chef of Spain's El Bulli and Barcelona's Estrella Damm collaborated to create Estrella Damm Inedit. I had heard about it but had never seen it for sale so I guarded the 12euro bottle until it was the right time to enjoy it. It has been sitting in the fridge since September as I had promised to share it with beer-loving Jules. Perfectly chilled, he poured it into wine glasses, obliviously obliging to the instructions. It could easily have been an subconscious act as the bottle itself looks like a wine bottle: sleek, black glass with a long neck topped with a beer bottle cap. Typical for artisinal beers. 

It wasn't bitter at all, but danced to melodic fruity tones. The amber colour matched the orange notes just as the frothy foam matched Ferran Adria's legendary technique. Easily drinkable, it made me long for hot summer nights, rather than the hint of winter that fall was harvesting upon us. 

This is what 10 Euro worth of Cheese looks like.

ok, it's half eaten. it was irresistible.
minus the minor heart attack, it was totally worth it. 

This is what Two and a Half Year Old Cheese looks like.

old. stinky. animal sensation. crumbly. dirty. spicy. humid. distinctively delightful.
it should be required to be sold in a sealed container. 

Alba Truffle Festival.

After a weekend of eating, drinking, dancing, sleeping, freezing, walking and eating in Turino, we drove to Alba for the 80th anniversary of the White Truffle Festival. Saturday was the first day of celebrations surrounding the aphrodisiac tuber and we were there on Sunday. It was a rainy day, a very appropriate start to autumn as we bundled up and huddled under umbrellas. Even as the sky cleared and the umbrellas were put away as the mass of people in the narrow cobblestone streets made walking impossible, the skies maintained their cloudy grey overcast. But that didn't stop the spirit of the festival.  
Medieval Games - 1 Euro to win a
bottle of local wine.
busy town of Alba
Sunday, the 17th of October, was The Village Recalls its Origins Day where the medieval history, traditions, and jobs of Alba were reinacted and retold through games and culinary tastings. People crowded into the town and local residents dressed up in traditional medieval costumes enthusiastically rallied guests to play games to win prizes - mostly bottles of wine - and offered specialty foods like polenta with gorgonzola or topped with stewed meat, grilled ribs and sausages on fire-smoked grills, bottles of local Dolcettas, Barberas and Barbaresco's to share, chocolate and sugar covered wine-grapes, Piedmontese cheeses galore, pork of all sorts of pieces including the entire head,  and of course truffles - alone, on cheese, on eggs, on pasta, in honey, in jars, on anything you could possibly want. The medieval atmosphere of the town was at first a bit cheesey, surprising almost, but it created a unique conviviality that everyone could partake in and enjoy. It only served to reinforce the history and cultural pride the town has with this sought-after, lustful food of the gods.

simple buttered spaghetti with shaved truffles.
appropriate with plastic forks.
filette di tartuf. truffles in any and all sorts of shapes and sizes.
shaved truffles on eggs and cheese. basic & indulgent.
Making polenta. Adorable.
I love Cheese. I bought a (stinky) 2.5 years old cheese.
two and a half years!! definite animal sensation.

pig heads and costumes and weirdness = totally normal.

What makes the white truffle so unique to Alba is that it demands certain environmental conditions for growing which Alba so generously offers. The makeup of the soil determines the humidity, the porosity, the organic matter, relative pH levels, and texture for rooting; the climate condition determines the sun exposure, the amount of summer rains, the shelter of winds, the surrounding growth of flora and fauna; and the area determinesand the type of neighbouring tree the truffles grow under and the appropriate level above sea whether its in a hill or a valley. Alba exudes the perfection required for the white truffle and therefore, as the oldest truffle market, can determine the quality and the prices sold.