Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Slow Food and Terra Madre

From the 23rd to 26th October, I experienced one of the most moving events of my life, the Salone del Gusto - a celebration of Slow Food and the Terra Madre (Mother earth) organisation. and

It was an event that will shape my future, and solidify the structure that I have chosen to experience this lifetime through!

It was a 5 day conference, of which Dad and I experienced 2 of the days. A meeting of people from across the earth, who ultimately, care about the earth and its food communities. They use that term, "food communities", because it is a term that goes a long way to describe not just the produce, but the culture, people, lives, and livelihoods that it takes to get that food to your table.

The Salone is a celebration of these food communities, and the chance for people within these communities to come together and share food, ideas, and make contacts in the same situation as them across the earth, regardless of their income levels.

I have come to realise that perhaps its mostly our generation Y, specifically individuals born from 1977 to 1995, that don't have a lot of idea of where our food comes from. I have read recently, that some kids (and i struggle to believe that it got this bad), think its disgusting that carrots could have dirt on them, apparently not knowing that carrots are a root vegetable grown in the earth.

How did we come to be so far detached from food and the seasonality of food, some us I am sure don't know that fish and meats, and even eggs have a season...

Am I right, that it is mostly our generation?

I know we are a small and not very random sample of the population (many would say we ARE random!!) AND I know that my dad doesn't know everything (he thinks he does) there was definitely one or two questions like this that I had, and he was the catalyst for the answers I found in our days together in Torino, Italy!

As we strolled around exhibition halls of food stalls from what felt like every community in the world, and I regarded the tradition of food and the average age of the stall holders, something I did realise is that there is going to be a huge sadness as libraries full of knowledge go to the grave untapped,over the next 40-50 years.

That sadness befell me between the stalls of spit roasted pig and cured pork products from Italy...Tears welled in both dad and my eyes when it dawned on me as a nearly 30 year old, if i don't start asking dad and mum, and the grandparents I have left, about their traditions in food, and some "how to" questions, then the buck stops with me.

If I don't learn how my family cooks a camping one pot roast, or how my dad would build a smokehouse or a wood fired oven, then my kids will never know either.

I know that of late it has become fashionable in Australia to be a sea-changer or a tree-changer, and I heartily welcome this decentralisation as a sign that the future might not be so grim. In fact without any facts and figures to support this blog entry, sometimes I can't tell if i am warped by how it is here in Europe.
One way or the other - you know...I will no longer take for granted the fresh catch of flathead from the dinghy out the front of mum's house now!

So as I watched the whole world of communities become one, under one roof in Torino, I started asking Dad questions...How do i make a woodfired pizza oven, how do I build a smokehouse, how do I make a hangi?
I now am the proud owner of the Martin method of building such things. I don't really care that it's maybe not the way dad's dad's dad would have done it, but I tell you, it's the closest I am ever gonna get, and that's really important for me to have it to pass on to my children!

It's at this point I could go on about native Australians and why we didn't take more time to learn from some people who already know Australia quite literally like the back of their hand, instead of annihilating their culture, but I will spare you...and let you use your imagination!

I will just say that I felt inspired and sad at the Salone.
Inspired by moments like this one.
I was sitting in what ended up being my favourite seminar of the weekend, "the importance of Bees". There we were all sitting with our headsets on. There is no amplification in the seminar spaces, as there are so many seminars within a small area. The moderator of the lecture, Francesco Panella from Italy was speaking Italian, and we listed in one of the 8 languages it was translated into. Francesco finished his speech and opened the floor up to the many apiarists and bee enthusiasts in the room. There were 10 people that put their hand up and spoke, each one of the from a different country, places such as Kenya, India, Mexico, Peru, Paris, the States, London, the list goes one...a really equal spread of 1st and 3rd world residents. But the moment that got me was this...when a man stood and spoke in Hindi, he explained his despair as he watched over the years the depletion of bees in his valley, and that impact the use of pesticides has had on the bee population. When he finished, he turned back to stand against the wall of the room, where a man from Afghanistan was standing too. He had been listening, as the Indian man's words were translated from Hindi to Italian to whichever of the 8 Slow Food languages the Afghani chose to understand. As the Indian man turned back, the Afghani man patted him knowingly on the shoulder, and looked at him with a shared sympathy for his situation. I was again moved to tears. How small the world really is. We share the same problems, and despair over the same environmental sadness's world over. And the plight of one little bee brought these men together.

And the thing that made me sad...that among all these traditionally dressed cultural contributors from countries all over the world, there was no traditionally dressed Australians sharing Australia.

Maybe the Salone in 2 years time will be different?

See you there!

kath x

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