Laura Masterson spent a week amidst turmeric producers from Erode, India; sea salt producers from Castro Marin, Portugal; reindeer breeders from Magadan, Russia; raisin producers from Herat; bario rice growers from Malaysia; and breeders of Ragusano donkeys - the head count of delegates was upwards of 5,000 people at this world conference.
Masterson, manager of Luscher Farm CSA, was representing Slow Food Portland Convivium at the second Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy. Held every other year, Terra Madre is a meeting of ambassadors from 1,600 food communities from 150 countries around the world.
Rubbing elbows with other delegates and getting to know their food communities enabled participants like Masterson to get to know the world. Delegates were asked to become aware of the situation of agriculture round the world, of the continuous erosion of biodiversity, of the risks that a globalized market involves, and of the ignorance of the new generations about these issues.
Besides farmers, fisherfolk and food producers, chefs and university personnel were included. These professionals were asked to listen, and use their knowledge to help find possible solutions to the big problems of the world's small food producers.
'It was a huge honor to be included. Imagine people from all over the world who care about local eating coming together. Farmers, fishermen, shepherds, cheese makers, bakers - people as committed to preserving their food heritage as we are. It made the world seem very small,' she said.
Carlo Petrini - founder of the Slow Food Movement - greeted the delegates, addressing them as members of the special interest group 'people who eat food.'
Laura told me she and about 40 other delegates were housed in a family run hotel about 45 minutes outside Turin. At first she was disappointed to be so far from the conference center, but each day the bus commute was filled with conversations about what the delegates had seen, heard, eaten that day. In some cases, the conversations were more pantomimed than spoken, but communication occurred.
'I was reading a magazine from the conference that was printed in English and French. A couple from Cameroon was seated next to me, and I noticed they were trying to read the French section. We moved so we could share the magazine. I don't speak French and they spoke little English but we were able to share a few words that we knew each would understand. 'Organic' was one of the words. That was a moment I think I will hold for the rest of my life,' said Masterson.
The major effort of the Slow Food organization is to preserve techniques that are in harmony with the environment, use breeding systems that are respectful of animal well-being and slow, complex processing methods which produce breads, cured meats, cheeses, cakes and biscuits that are excellent, unique and unrepeatable.
Food communities are at the forefront of a new agriculture and food production philosophy based on taste quality, sustainability and social justice. Together they wage important battles: For the free circulation of information, fair trade, the right to water, GMO-less (genetically modified-less) farming, and the conservation of native breeds. In addition to food information sharing, attendees at the conference learned firsthand about different cultures.
'The clothing was beautiful, too. There were Bolivian women in their bowler hats and bright-colored dresses, Masai delegates with these beautiful earrings and wraps - it was a collage of color. We looked at ourselves and wondered 'Is this our native garb?'' she chuckled as she kicked at a pebble with a booted foot attached to a jean-clad leg.
Whew - Terra Madre was not exactly a junket to Reno!
As we walked the fields at Luscher Farm, I was pleased to see what would be in my share basket that week from our food community: Garlic, potatoes, Swiss chard, pumpkin, turnips, carrots, delicato squash, kale and more. My mind was simmering with possibilities to create with the treasures. These are roasting and braising vegetables, perfect for the heartier winter meals we crave to warm chilled bodies on cold rainy nights.
Masterson mused, 'I think winter crops lost favor with our population years ago; root crops and winter leafy vegetables like chard and kale became food for 'poor' people. People wanted to eat what they thought were 'exotic' foods - they wanted to eat tomatoes and asparagus year round. I am trying to find ways to bring more folks back into the fold and re-discover how delicious these foods really are.'
Masterson's view of the world and her commitment to farming have been altered since the trip to Turin.
'Food is a great way to get to all these issues we are already talking about: the environment, social justice. I want to do what I can to help make these connections. People need to consider themselves co-producers - not passive 'consumers,' because they are involved in this process,' Masterson said.
Amen. There is so much more to farming and food production than soil, water and seeds.
One of the best side dishes my family ate this Thanksgiving was this recipe of carrots and parsnips. It comes from my friend Chuck Mansfield (spouse of Review/Tidings office manager Susan Mansfield). It has received rave reviews from his family for years, and mine was equally pleased. Try it tonight!
To learn more about the Slow Food Movement and Terra Madre see the Web site at www.slowfoodusa.org. You can learn about Slow Food Portland through that link as well.
Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!
Carrots and Parsnips with Horseradish Sauce
Makes 8 servings
4 large carrots, julienned
2 large parsnips, julienned
½ cup cooked vegetable liquid
1 teaspoon grated onion
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup bread crumbs, browned
1 sprig parsley, chopped
In a large pan, cover the carrots and parsnips with water and cook until fork tender. Drain and set aside the liquid from the pan.
Place the carrots and parsnips in a baking dish and set aside.
In a bowl, mix together the vegetable liquid, onion, horseradish, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Pour over carrots and parsnips.
Brown bread crumbs in two tablespoons of melted butter, brown lightly. Sprinkle on top of vegetables and sauce.
Bake in 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Garnish with parsley and/or paprika.
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Hey, friends! This week you can start bringing your entries in for our Best Kept Secret Holiday Recipe Contest!
Bring you best Dessert and/or Hors D'oeuvres dish and the recipe to the Review and Tidings office at 400 Second St., in downtown Lake Oswego, during business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Monday through Friday, Dec. 7 through 14.
Entry fee is two cans of food for the Oregon Food Bank.
The contest is open to all ages within the Review and Tidings readership areas.
Judging is based on Holiday Presentation/Visual appeal (30 percent), Originality (30 percent) and Taste and overall food quality (40 percent). Please bring you entry on a disposable plate.
Judging will be done by members of the Review/Tidings newstaff. Top three entries in each category will be featured Dec. 21 in the Review and Tidings.
Tell you friends! Share the spirit of the season!