One of the reasons for going to Terra Madre – Salone Del Gusto, except for the apparent goal of tasting great food is to get inspiration. Special ingredients that are grown by small-scale producers against all the odds, stories of family run business and tastes that are almost extinct from the world. If all that, together with the fantastic group of Slow Food volunteers from all over the world won’t get the food bug in you, I don’t know what will.
Terra Madre – Salone Del Gusto, is taking place every two years in Turin, in the north of Italy. Organized by the Slow Food movement, with the help of enthusiastic volunteers from all over the world. This event is an attraction for producers, buyers, journalists, chefs, and foodies who gather together for five days focusing just on food. Except for tasting exceptional products from different origins, it is the place to take part in forums and discussions regarding the future of our food system, to get new ideas for your own business and to meet old friends.
We met a Sicilian honey producer that is making series of single flower honey prepared by a particular Black Bee that is typical to the region of Sicily. This unique honey is considered to be the most antioxidant honey in the world. The black bee is a native inhabitant of the Sicilian region, living in the area for millenniums, and still, in risk of extension. Since the 1970s when it was abandoned by the beekeepers who changed their traditional methods of beekeeping in favor of more modern, imported ways. Those bees, ‘Apis mellifera siciliana,’ are super productive and keep working even in sweltering weather and under temperature changes.
You can find here the finest chocolate from Ecuador and Peru, the countries of origin for some of the finest cocoa beans in the world. Alongside to special, crunchy chocolate from Modica, Sicily. ‘Cioccolato di Modica’ is traditionally made by a particular recipe inspired by the Aztec, in which manual grinding is used to gives the chocolate a distinct grainy texture. Originally introduced to the Sicilians by the Spaniards back in the days when they were dominating southern Italy.
Surprisingly one of the chocolate bars I loved the most arrived from an award-winning chocolate producer from Denmark that is making his chocolate bars both in traditional and experimental methods. Fris Holm, are basing their production on sustainable values such as microecology of place, single origin natural cacao varietals, and a direct trade model. The company is a co-founder of an international body called ‘Direct Cacao,’ an organization that is connecting chocolate makers, chocolatiers, independent tasters and others in the chocolate industry. ‘Direct Cacao’ was launched at a formation conference on 29 January 2012, on the Honduran Island of Guanaja, an iconic place for the cacao history as it is the place where the European first got in contact with cacao when Colombus encountered Mayan canoes at sea in 1502. As part of the founding ceremony, a symbolic ‘Criollo Antiguo’ tree was planted, and a declaration was made – aiming to change the attitude towards fine cacao.
Entering the world of cheese, we met here wonderful Pecorino Sardo, Pecorino from the Island of Sardinia, made by local organic producers. It is a slow food presidium and an exciting cheese, reacher in taste than the Tuscan Pecorino and less salty and sharp. Mountain cheese from Veneto that is also a slow food presidium called, ‘Monte Veronese di Malga.’ This cheese is traditionally made at the mountains of Lessinia, a mountain area overlooking Verona. The cheese is made from already skimmed milk from the mountain pasture, and it must be matured at list 90 days. It can be used both as a table cheese or for grating when it is aged for six months to 2 years. It has a thin, straw yellow rind and an offwhite color with occasional holes. In the past centuries, this cheese was made by expert cheesemakers in mountain summer farms build by the Cimbri (An ancient tribe with German origins, from the times of the Roman Empire). Today only around 30 farms are left and even fewer cheesemakers. The presidium is trying to encourage farmers to continue the tradition and not to mix their mountain milk with milk form a cattle reared in stalls. You will also taste here the freshest Mozzarella and Burrata from Campania. Smelly German aged goat cheese, the British Stichelton made from local raw milk and many more.
In the meat section, there were, of course, spicy ‘Nduja’ from Calabria, Huge Mortadela wheals from Bolognia, ‘Proscuitto di Parma,’ and a lot of local salumi cuts. We also met ‘Soppressata di Gioi,’ a slow food presidia, that received its name from the small village at the Salerno province in Campania. It is made with lean ham filling, seasoned with only salt and paper and stuffed in a natural casing. But the unique thing about it is that it has a piece of lard in its center.
At the UNISG stand, you could have breakfast and aperitive with producers from all around the world, hear lectures from chefs and producers and hang out with talented Alumni. I got the chance to join the Columbian Breakfast, where we had a beautiful chocolate cake from the Criollo variety with a surprising ingredient of ‘Aji Nero,’ as the indigenous call it, an ark of taste product – the black chili. The preparation of this black chili involves a complex process of filtering and cooking to get rid of the cyanide contained in raw manioc, the plant from which this chili is produced. It is traditionally produced by the indigenous people of North West Amazonia as a basis for a variety of recipes.
As opposed to the previous Terra Madre, when I was still a student at UNISG and took part in the activities organized by the university, this year as an Alumni the experience was completely different. I had the chance to enjoy the fair in a much quieter way. To meet producers and enter forums, but I have to say that I missed the rush. I think the biggest lesson I learned for the next Salone is to arrive much more prepared – to have a list of producers or products that I want to examine and to have a reasonable amount of conferences I’m interested in, as it is so easy to get lost between all these goods.