Sunday, November 18, 2012

Salone del Gusto - Terra Madre Day 1

 After a 1 hour flight to New York, then a 9 hour flight to Milan, and a 2 hour bus ride to Turin let's just say I was a little exhausted, but I wasn't alone. Everyone on my flight and those that came in to Milan at the same time were all feeling the jet lag and fatigue, but there was no rest for the weary. I really can't complain though because I met this couple from Papua New Guinea and they said they had a flight that was 12 hours then 14 hours then another 2 hours. I can't event imagine that. They were so cute. Incredible slap happy and delirious from the flight, but so kind-hearted. I don't know if I would have been that happy after that long of a traveling day.

After our two hour bus ride to the Salone, checking in, receiving our information bags (they were made out of the large vinyl signs from the Terra Madre two years ago. Such a great idea!) and packets, and deliriously checking our luggage I met up with Greg Boulous, my regional director. We had met in the airport. He was on the same plane as I was and had been to Terra Madre before. Luckily, he had the inside scoop. After taking us to the Salone and seeing all the booths being set up, he directed us to this amazing Slow Food based grocery stored called Eataly to get an espresso and walk around a little.  I just recently found out that there is one of these in New York also.  It is incredible. I'll talk about that a little later. I took Les to this grocery store/restaurant also.

After buying a liter of wine, he told us about this beautiful park just outside of the huge Fiat building and Lingotto, the place were the Salone took place. So this is us taking a nap in the park trying to give ourselves some energy for the exciting opening ceremony that was coming. I thought, "perfect, now I'll have a place to go when I need nature and have some time to process all the things that I'm learning. This will be a great respite from the amount of people at the conference." Unfortunately I never made it back out to that park. It rained almost every day there, but to be honest I was so busy meeting amazing people and going to interesting workshops that I'm not sure I would have had the time to do that.
 I wish I was a better writer and could describe the energy at the opening ceremony. There were people from all over the world with this contagious passion for all things food and agriculture. It was so fascinating to see so many people dressed in their traditional dress. This picture doesn't really express that, but it was quite interesting.

I sat next to a student from Italy, Pietro. His parents own a dairy and they make cheese especially the Caciotta. You can see their products -  He said it was a large production and they actually sell their cheese to large stores in America like Costco. He was very passionate about the cheese, and you could tell the gleam of pride in his eye knowing that his family makes a great product. I'm not sure if I've ever heard of the cheese he was talking about, but I'll have to keep my eye out for it. Later in the week he became my tour guide-of-sorts for the gala dinner. He told me all about the products I was eating and became quite upset about the fact they they were serving a different brand of Caciotta. He told me that it's quite hard, expensive, and there are many regulations to make Caciotta but the brand that they were serving was actually made in the Czech Republic with an Italian brand on it. So it wasn't actually Caciotta. Very interesting! I'll tell you more about the Gala in a later post.

I also sat next to Yolanda who is an intern at the Rodale Institute. She was quite friendly, and I hung out with her a good amount. She is doing research on soil biology. I hope she can make it down to Gorman sometime. This was another person I wish I had more time to talk to. I think that was the story of the entire week.
During the opening ceremony we heard from some amazing people including: Vandana Shiva talking about seeds, Carmen Martinez from Mexico talking about water, Alice Waters (Chez Panisse and Edible Schoolyard) and Nikki Henderson (People's Grocery) talking about education, Yuko Sudo from Fukoshima talking about energy, Edward Mikiibu from Uganda (Coordinator of the 1000 Gardens in Africa), and Carlo Petrini (Founder of Slow Food). The picture is of the wonderful Terra Madre Orchestra that was a group of people from all over the world. It was absolutely beautiful with all different kinds of musical instruments from their countries. I wish you could have heard this.

Listening to all of the speakers was a different kind of experience because we had to have headsets that translated everything that was said. To be honest I wish I understood more languages because I'm sure the translators did a wonderful job, but I definitely feel like a lot of the inflection and passion was lost. You'd see the person speaking so passionately and the translator would just speak it back in a sort of hyper monotone voice. 

Alice Waters and Nikki Henderson talking about the importance of education in the food movement
Also Dario Fo, who is the Nobel Prize Winner for Literature in 1997, did a very strange performance. He spoke totally in a made up language that he created. He then proceed to do two reenactments. One was of a person who was so hungry that he started eating himself, and the other one of someone who ate so much that he was in extreme pain. I understand the point he was trying to make, but it was definitely a strange way of doing it. I guess if you wanted to get the point across to a multi-lingual crowd you might as well make up your own language.

I found out Turin is who pays for our lodging and food. That's incredible that a cit would pay for that many people to go to such a grand event. In fact I heard that 6 years ago they had a US delegation of around 800 people!  They said because of the economy they couldn't pay for as many people anymore. Wow, thank goodness I was so blessed to be selected to go this year.

After a very long and eventful day we packed into buses and headed to our hotels. To my sadness there was a mixup at the hotel, and I wasn't on the list for having a room as well as another woman, Jamie Milks. It turns out that I was scheduled to be in a room with Jamie Milks, and Aaron Newton but they thought that we were all men. I noticed on the list their mistake before we had even left for Italy and e-mailed Slow Food USA to tell them I was a female. They had said they were sorry about the confusion and would try and get that fixed. I didn't mind if I had to stay with two men, but it wouldn't have been very comfortable and I don't think Les would've been so happy. Unfortunately instead of changing the rooms around they by accident just took me off the list. Oops! Luckily there was a woman from Scotland whose roommate didn't show up so we stayed in her room. They said we'd have to talk with Slow Food USA directors about getting another room since her roommate was coming the next day. Let's just say the whole housing situation was a little frustrating.  I'll tell you in the next day's blog entry about what happened with housing the rest of the week. But luckily I had a bed to sleep in because I was exhausted.

Haha, but we didn't sleep too much because we were all interested in hearing each other stories. The woman from Scotland, Karen, is a crofter which I'd never heard of before and Jamie is a chef and works within all parts of the food system in Kansas City. I hung out with Jamie the most of anyone. I wish I had more time to talk with Karen about crofting. She had a very high opinion of crofting but after returning home and reading up on it, it seems like it's a controversial thing. You should read about it.

Carlo Petrini giving an inspirational speech - "Happy Versatility"
Thanks for your patience with me getting this up and I'm sorry for my wordiness. I'll write the next day soon with more pictures.

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