I arrived in Torino on Thursday, October 25th, and was greeted at the bus terminal by my home stay host, Franco.
After dropping my bags and having a bite, I headed off to The Oval, the home of Terra Madre. The set up was different then 2 years ago, because this year, Terra Madre, as well as The Salone Del Gusto, was open to the public, which meant there were more people and the crowds were everywhere.
In the past, The Oval was just for the Slow Food delegates, and the conferences, and The Salone del Gusto was next door, in the adjacent halls. That allowed for a separation between the two events and a little more breathing space. Once I adjusted to the new layout, I was fine, but it took a little time.
The halls were filled with foods from around the world, as well as Artisanal Beer and Wines, a display of the Thousand Gardens in Africa project, as well as educational conferences on topics such as Edible Gardens, How Climate Change Effects Agriculture, the Debate on Raw Milk, and Uniting Food Movements. It was an unbelievable experience and a time to network with other US Slow Food members and meet people from around the world.
However, there were a few things that struck me, that I wanted to share with you. The first thing that was very obvious, was the lack of vegetables represented in the halls. The foods were predominately meats, cheeses, breads and olive oil. There was the occasional pickle or pepper on display, but the opportunity to share with people the myriad ways that vegetables could be served, preserved, pickled, fermented and processed, was drastically missed.
As a Slow Food chapter leader, and as a natural foods chef and educator, I think we have a responsibility to model healthier foods. There was such a disproportionate amount of meat on display, without the balance of fruits and vegetables. After all, don’t we want to encourage people to eat less meat and more vegetables? I realize that all of the meat and cheeses were coming from small producers, but the fact still remains, that eating less meat and dairy needs to be encouraged, not only for one’s health, but from a sustainability and global perspective.
The other thing that struck me was, that amongst the wonderful traditions, history and stories that surround the food in Italy (which I love and appreciate), as a chef and consumer, I found myself constantly wanting things I wasn’t allowed to have. I like to be creative, and to experiment with foods, and I don’t like rules! Who says you can’t put Parmesan cheese on Pasta with Mushrooms, or on Linguine with White Clam Sauce? And why can’t I have coffee at the same time as my dessert? These are all part of the food traditions here in Piedmonte, Italy, and while I am here, I will certainly respect their traditions, but I think they are missing out on something delicious!