Terra Madre 2018
In 2016 one of my year 12 students was privileged to attend the Terra Madre – Salone del gusto. During the event she rang the class to fill us in and after she returned she was inspired. So, when the opportunity arose for me to attend, I naturally said yes.
Nothing can prepare you for what is Terra Madre. It is like the Royal Show for adults. When I reminisce about the Perth royal show, it is the regional displays, the cake decorating and baking displays and the hot roasted cashews that spring to mind.
As I think back over my experience of the Terra Madre, the first thing is the food stalls. There were so many food stalls that I know I didn’t do them all justice. Some of these stalls only featured one item, such as the Crispiano yellow-red tomato, which can be kept for up to 12 months and others specialised in sheep cheeses that resembled pieces of stone and wood fungus (at least to my untrained eye).
The main pavilion where the Swan Valley contingent was based featured stalls from across the globe. The second pavilion represented the Italian regions and the third pavilion represented Italian producers, some of them know to Australian consumers.
In the main pavilion stallholders shared their culture, talked about their agricultural practices, willingly discussed food related problems with like-minded thinkers, even if language barriers made that challenging, and some promoted products. At the Swan Valley stall the team representing Prepare Produce Provide worked with Vincenzo Vellentri, Dale Tilbrook, Tarn Donovan and Noel Nannup (plus a few other volunteers) to man the stall. Each day we interacted with Italians and the many visitors, including the multi-national stall holders from the World pavilion. We quickly learnt important Italian words and phrases to help explain the various bush herbs, candied quandongs and flavoured oils that the Dale and Tarn had brought.
Our two students Johnnice and Peter were understandable shy on the first day but by the fifth day Johnnice, especially, wanted to spend as much time at the stall as possible. The opportunity to interact with other cultures and to be able to share their culture was very rewarding. Each morning over breakfast we were able to talk about our experiences and also share with the other nationalities from our hotel.
In addition to working on the stall, we developed a small network of Slow Food Members from the east coast, which included farmers and producers. This gave us the opportunity to talk about their concerns from an agricultural perspective, whilst they learnt about some of our West Australian bush foods. We discussed the importance of buying local and supporting the farming community over the multi-national companies, which can be difficult in small communities, but it also highlighted the value of growing your own food.
The stall was only one aspect of the Terra Madre. During the five days there were talks and presentations, a regional meeting to attend, Noel Nannup gave a speech and the Swan Valley presented tastings of foods infused with some of the bush spices. Our young ambassadors were invited to participate in a couple of special presentations and Johnnice in particular attended three very special events that focussed on the problems faced by indigenous women and indigenous communities, although the highlight for Johnnice was clearly the evening story-telling. She returned to the hotel on fire! The seeds have been sown, pun clearly intended, for great things to happen in Peter and Johnnices’ communities.
From an educator’s perspective, I found the Terra Madre experience to be mind-blowing. The opportunity to meet with different cultures and share knowledge, where else could you meet on this scale? From sampling food to discussing global warming, it reinforced what I try to include in my classes. My phone is full of photos taken during the week and my mind is full of ideas to share with my students.