Image courtesy Slow Food International
On Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, foodies from around the world descended on Torino, Italy, for the biannual Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto, a five-day event hosted by Slow Food International that showcases global food traditions and engages visitors in educational workshops surrounding the practices, traditions, ethics and politics of local, sustainable food.
This year, for the first time ever, Terra Madre opens its doors to the public. Once only open to invited delegates from Slow Food member countries who have demonstrated leadership in changing their local food systems, all people with a passion for celebrating local food can attend the event, and it’s expected that the crowd numbers will reach 250,000 people this year.
“We want anyone who is interested to be able to attend and to learn more about what we call ‘good, clean and fair’ food and to offer interactive experiences to deepen interest in issues that we face in food and farming around the world,” says Jenny Best, director of operations and public affairs for Slow Food USA.
The size and scope of Terra Madre can be unimaginable to people who have never attended the event before. Thousands of people who care about the quality of the source and preparation of the food they eat spend a week under one roof, tasting together and discussing ways to expand the local-food movement worldwide.
Educational events at Terra Madre include 77 conferences, 19 master of food and master of horticulture classes, and more than 120 tasting workshops, as well as learning areas for children and families. During these sessions, participants can learn to taste the nuances in extra-virgin olive oil, delve into the world of wine or beer making, get tips for preparing multiple meals with a surplus harvest, or engage in a multi-cultural discussion on challenges and successes facing African agriculture. Whether your interest is in raising and using the products of rare sheep breeds on your farm or raising awareness of the importance of food labeling among government leaders, a session is available to help you grow in your interests and knowledge.
From the educational events, participants head over to Salone del Gusto, or Hall of Taste, to savor a diverse array of foods and take part in unique food traditions from around the world. At the international marketplace are location-specific varieties of rice, dried beans, spices and more, as well as vendors featuring beloved foods from across the host country, Italy: hundreds of cheeses, meats, wines, vinegars, chocolates, spices and more.
“In the most wonderful way, it overwhelms the senses, from your taste buds to your mind,” Best says. “And while the conferences and workshops are fantastic, it’s often the random individual encounters that mean the most. I remember meeting a farmer from East Africa in a line somewhere, and while we couldn’t communicate verbally, he showed me photos of his vegetable garden. It really inspired me. You can’t walk away not changed.”
Terra Madre also allows American attendees the opportunity to convene and share what is happening at Slow Food USA conviviums across the U.S. At the U.S. Salone del Gusto booth, products from the U.S. Ark of Taste, such as Buckeye chicken and the Sebastopol Gravenstein apple, will be featured to remind visitors of the foods found on their home turf that are in danger of extinction. U.S. delegates will also meet for a food swap, bringing food items with them from their hometown to exchange with another delegate.