Slow Food’s Terra Madre: Regional Cuisine
June 13, 2013 § 1 Comment
Regional cuisine is a concept that should be no surprise to anyone; after all, food (like humans, animals and microbiota) is as unique as the place that it came from. Globally, food cultures exist by region, state, city, neighborhood and family. In October I was lucky enough to serve as an International Delegate at Slow Food International’s biannual Terra Madre conference held in Turin, Italy. Like the United States, and virtually everywhere else on earth, Italy’s regional cuisine varies based on geography.
Terra Madre, a food-centric celebration with over one hundred-thirty countries, was insane; the entire experience a revelation. It was there that the concept of eating traditional foods – that are whole, nourishing, adhere to cultural culinary practices and that protect and restore communities and their surrounding environments – really began to resonate with me.
Rich cured meats, pungent fermented cheeses, smoked fish, organ pates, heirloom vegetables, saccharine desserts and glutenous breads are just a few nourishing traditions I encountered. With Terra Madre comes Salone del Gusto. Salone del Gusto is a concentration of Italian regional specialties spread throughout a refurbished Fiat factory in Turin. Below you’ll see two men carrying a heavily marbled cured specimen (possibly salami or bresaola) spanning at least fifteen-feet. I’m convinced that one must be in Italy to see such a sight. Along with the cured meets, Italian desserts populated nearly every region represented at the gathering. Rhode Island (my home) has a robust Italian population, much of which inhabits our capital city’s gem, Federal Hill, the home of exceptional Italian food. I’ve tasted some delicious cannoli, a Silician pastry, but never anything like the little tubes of sheep’s milk ricotta that I tried at Salone del Gusto. Between constructive workshops and meetings, a handful of delegates explored Alba’s annual white truffle festival. While in Alba we were submerged in the slow food culture that makes Italy so appealing . At a humble market nestled between the town’s church and several cafes we bought some of the highest quality food I’ve ever tasted and sat in the piazza enjoying our findings.
Terra Madre was a clash of all things culturally relevant; traditions, environment, family, religion, livelihood, art and education. And, it’s especially important to note that food was the conduit that connected such diverse people from every corner of the earth.Only through Slow Food. Sometimes I miss the important things because I’m rushing off to accomplish something else. Sound familiar? If so let food act as the anchor that grounds you, that slows you down. As you grow, prepare, cook and share food realize, as I did at Terra Madre, that food not only nourishes our cells, but also feeds our soul.