Round the World with Slow Food
01 Jul 08
Held in the pavilions of the Lingotto Fiere exhibition center and the Oval arena in Torino from October 23-27, this year’s Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre events will lay on a journey to the roots of food and back: from fork to field, from field to fork. These two major events mark the climax of the work of a worldwide network of small-scale producers who follow the philosophy of good, clean and fair food production. Many of these people come from places that also happen to be tourist atractions, some of which not yet well known but all of incomparable beauty.
What follows is a journey round the world via the Slow Food network.
No lovers of cultural travel in search of places that preserve ancient customs, habits, traditions and dialects that haven’t changed in centuries can afford not to visit the Siwa Oasis in eastern Egypt. Here, from out of the hot sand, appears an expanse of palm trees with small lakes and pools of fresh spring water at different temperatures (the so-called ‘Cleopatra’s baths’, where once upon a time brides would bathe on their wedding day).
Today Siwa has a population of 11,000 inhabitants, some of whom still live in traditional mud brick huts. The area still conserves sites of great historical value such as the temple of the oracle dedicated to the god Amon, other buildings from the times of the Pharaos and the Hill of the Dead (Gebel el-Maut), with tombs dating from the 25th dynasty to the Ptolemaic period. Siwa also boasts an excellent spa with bathing and sand-bathing facilities. This year the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre will showcase the Slow Food Siwa Oasis Date Presidium dedicated to a staple foodstuff of the local tradition. With the support of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, the Siwa Community Development Environmental Conservation association is promoting the production and commercialization of the best quality dates on national and international markets.
From the sea to the mountaintops in the space of less than a kilometer. This is the province of Castellón, in the Valencian Community, home to the Slow Food Maestrat Millenary Olive Tree Extra Virgin Oil Presidium. Besides beach holiday activities, the region offers a great variety of tour options: castles (the clifftop Castillo de Peñisola for starters), fortified villages like Mascarell, the Roman ruins of Benicató, the grottoes of San José in the Uxó Valley, the church at Nules, nature parks, the sanctuary of Cueva Santa, and more besides. A trip through a typically Mediterranean landscape. Since 2003 local producers have made and commercialized an oil with olives from millenary trees to preserve the landscape and culture of the commerce of Maestrat. The oil, which is extracted cold and decantered naturally, has an intense, fruity scent. It will be available for tasting and purchasing at this year’s Salone del Gusto.
This year Terra Madre will welcome food communities from one of the most exotic locations in the world. Thanks to the financial support of the Veneto Regional Authority, the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is developing a project to promote food biodiversity, agricultural traditions and practices in New Caledonia. The focus will be on the Kanaks, natives of Melanesian origin, but the other racial groups of European, Asian, Japanese, Melanesian and Polynesian origin that interact locally will not be neglected.
New Caledonia, situated in the western part of Melanesia, the French-speaking Pacific, is an archipelago completely surrounded by a coral reef that forms the largest lagoon in the world. The main attractions are the beautiful beaches, the ocean floors, the crystal-clear waters of Grande Terre Island, on which the capital Nouméa is situated, Ile des Pins, to the south, and the Louyauté Islands archipelago off the east coast.
A must-see is the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Nouméa, founded in 1998 by Jean-Marie Tjibaou, an ethnologist and leader of the national independence movement who, in the 1970s and 1980s, fought to defend and promote Kanak culture. The aim of the center, a project of the Kanaks and designed by Renzo Piano, is to recover and conserve the traditional knowledge of native populations. It is one of the most innovative institutions in all of Oceania.
The Sateré-Mawé are a semi-nomadic ethnic group, with an estimated population of around 8,000 spread over 80 villages, who live in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity runs two presidium projects in the area: the Sateré Mawé Canudo Bee’s Honey Presidium and the Sateré Mawé Native Waranà Presidium, closely interlinked as the honey itself is produced mainly from the waranà flower. Canudo bees are domesticated in 15 or so villages. This fact is fundamental, since this wild bee is responsible for the pollination of at least 80% of the trees in the whole of Amazonia.
Immersed deep in the boundless green rainforest, the environment which surrounds the Sateré-Mawé community is virtually unspoilt. Adventure lovers who practice responsible tourism will be interested to know that the International Economic Cooperation Research Institute has built 20 Kilos, an experimental ‘ecovillage’ for indigenous communities on the Andirà River (a tributary of the Amazon). The village offers sustainable accommodation for tourists, hence unique opportunities to live with the Sateré-Mawé people, learn about their culture and take part in local activities.
(For more information: Icei tel. 02.25785763 - www.icei.it).