Ore – Second report from Terra Madre

Report number 2 from Stanley Feder:

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Ore. It means “hours” in Italian, and it summarizes my experience of my first day at Terra Madre. Many hours of that day, Thursday, was spent waiting in line.

Early in the morning I went to the Palasport Olympico Isozaki, a huge arena built for the Turin winter Olympics, to register for Terra Madre.

The line there was not so bad. There where hundreds of people from all over the world, many in their national costumes.

After about 20 minutes on line I was able to register and get my badge. Next I wanted to get to the Salone del Gusto, a huge food fair that is run in conjunction with Terra Madre. There were at least 1000 producers of food and wine exhibiting at the Salone. But there were also special lectures, tastings, and dinners that I wanted to sign up for.

From the Palasport Olympico Isozaki I hurried to Lingotto, another former Olympic venue, where the Terra Madre meetings and the Salone were being held. The line for people who had not pre-registered for special events, such as me, had only about 20 people on it. After 15 minutes I discovered that it was moving at a snail’s pace. (Slow Food, yes: slow lines, no!) After two hours I finally got a chance to buy tickets. My first choice event, a special session on salumi (Italian fresh and cured pork products) was sold out. Instead I was able to get into a session on tequila production. I also got tickets for a lecture on two theories of chocolate and a dinner on the last day of Terra Madre for which six famous chefs would turn leftovers from the exhibits into a grand repast.

But, by the time I got my tickets it was 2:25 pm. The official opening of Terra Madre was scheduled for 2:30 at Isozaki, about 1.5 miles away. And, I had had anything to eat or drink since 7 that morning.

While I was on line I made friends with the person ahead of me, a chef from Barcelona. We grabbed a quick snack at the “Street Food” exhibit and jumped in a taxi. The driver was skilled; his catering to our urgency was exhilaratingly scary. He sped down alleys and narrow streets. But he got us to Isozaki by 2:35. We rushed inside, grabbed headphones for the translations, and found seats in the hugh arena.

Carlo Petrini, the head of Slow Food, welcomed everyone. He emphasized that one purpose of the meeting was to strengthen an international network of food and to work to provide everyone with adequate supplies of food that were natural, sustainably produced, and fairly priced. A second theme of this Terra Madre was to draw attention to the plight of indigenous peoples and threats to their traditional ways of life. To emphasize this, the program included presentations from leaders of indigenous peoples who are trying to maintain centuries-old traditions in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the South Pacific, and Europe. Each of them spoke in his native language. We also heard lengthy welcomes from the Mayor of Turin and the President of Piemonte. Heads of delegations from each country marched in, one continent at a time, in carrying their countries’ flags. A troop of men from Macedonia, accompanied by a drummer and a player of something similar to an oboe, did a slow and lengthy dance to welcome the harvest. A chorus of 300 children who came from around the world sang one song for each continent represented. There was much pageantry and an emphasis on both the need to share ideas globally and safeguard the traditions of threatened cultures.

After two and a half hours of sitting in very hard seats I had to leave. I was very hungry and thirsty. Mayela, the chef from Barcelona, and I took a bus back to Lingotto and grabbed a quick bite and a beer at the “Street Food” exhibit.
We then went to look for friends. Mayela was supposed to meet with the rest of the Spanish delegation and I was to meet with Genis Noguera, with whom I worked in 2007 and last March at his family’s charcuterie in Catalunya, who was also part of the Spanish delegation. Genis and I had a few glasses of wine at the enoteca which offered 1870 selections. By 9pm it felt to me as if I had spent a very long day, with a lot of waiting, and not enough to eat or drink.

The Spaniards all wanted to go out to dinner. Being too tired, I said good night to them and walked across the very long foot bridge that spanned both a highway and a rail yard,

under the monumental “oval”, back to my hotel. I went to sleep looking forward to Friday, when the substantive part of the meeting would start.

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