Friday, October 29, 2010

Slow Food's Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, another chapter












If you have never heard of the "Slow Food" movement, then you must not be from around these parts. Then again, you probably aren't alone. They say that over 200,000 people attended this year's edition of "Slow Food's" "Salone del Gusto 2010". It was a big woop de do, really. A little background for you if you are unfamiliar, otherwise you can just skip down to the photos.  The "Slow Food" movement was born in Piedmont Italy in the small town of Bra, as a protest against the rise of fast food culture seeping into Italy. Specifically the installation of a McDonalds near the Spanish Steps in Rome was the outrage that pushed the original group to action. Now, some 25 years later, the "Slow Food" movement has gone global and metastasized into many different avenues of food networks and communities. It continues to evolve into so many facets, with recognition and development for high quality food, their producers and consumers. The emphasis being on small biodiverse farms and related producers to be able to support themselves and their families with ancient traditions and modern innovations while not harming the environment or the consumers. Building relationships and opportunities to share ideas and brainstorm how we can move forward together in a sustainable model of  decent food for all. Lofty goals indeed and difficult to attain, and yet we must try. They have started a conversation about food and the politics of food, that is gaining momentum and needs to flourish and take place on many levels. So we start at the grass roots level and every 2 years the "Salone del Gusto", provides a market place open to the public with a reasonable entrance fee, €20, where buyers and sellers can meet and sample all the wondrous products on offer. 
So much to taste so little time
There are presentations of various food and drink in smaller settings as well as "pull out the stops" dinners, showcasing high quality and often unusual or rare ingredients turned out by celebrity chefs.  There are opportunities to participate in the smaller "Taste Workshops" that showcase a variety of diverse subjects like, "Cheese and Mostarda from the Po Valley" or "the Vermouths of Catalonia", to name just a couple.
Pomodorini from Calabria
There is also Terra Madre, which grew out of a need to give small producers, world wide,  a voice and visibility in which to develop sustainable food networks and communities. This loosely knit consortium comes together, here in Torino, to support, discuss, and debate the politics and ecology of food. A place to exam the many facets and layers of food, a sharing of ideas and ways to impact positively in our global community. Food is definitely one of my passions and I feel passionate about the way it is produced and concerned that everyone should have access to and be able to afford wholesome food. Fabrizio and I share this passion. It is a human rights issue for me. Naturally, we appreciate and support the goals of this organization as it continues to evolve and work in our own way to raise awareness while supporting local growers and traditional foods an culture.
Fabrizio and I feel strongly about preserving the culture and traditions of our mountain region. We created our T.E.M. association (Touristic Ecosostenibile Montano/ Sustainable Mountain Tourism) several years ago to help support the local economy while promoting our greater valley through culinary tourism showcasing local food and producers. We also are involved with clearing and marking of our local mountain paths and stocking the mountain streams with trout, and a wide variety of other projects all aimed at preserving and reviving the mountain traditions and bringing tourism into our area that will have a positive impact.
Fabrizio and I have worked closely the past few years with our friends the Bernard family traveling abroad to help with the English speakers. We also have been involved with the Regione Piemonte and the Provincia di Torino with the "Paniere" (basket of typical products) producers and to bring to fruition of our "Strada Reale dei Vini Torinese" in hopes of broadening our Piemontese promotion.

These Scandinavian Terre Madre delegates'
(who stopped by Bernards a few times)
faces summed up the spirit of the "Salone del Gusto" for me!
When I wasn't working at the Bernard booth I got a round to snap a few photos and run into some of the  other Slow Food people we have met at some of the other festivals. I must also thank artisan chocolatier Chef Gaetan Tessier, one of the owners of "ChocoMotive" from Montebello, Quebec, who so graciously remembered our conversation of 2 years ago and how I missed having cranberries. He brought me a huge bag of dried ones. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see him, so he gave them to Fabrizio for me. What a sweetheart and what a score! I can hardly wait to put them into all kinds of goodies. He also gave us a sample of their chocolates and they are worth tracking down. Gorgeous and delicious!

 I can't show you the ChocMotive chocolates, because we already devoured them. Urp! Here's another chocolatiers wares from the show. 
Whimsical and I'm sure tasty
 I can't show you the ChocMotive chocolates, because we already devoured them. Urp! Here's another chocolatiers wares from the show.
This  delicious 5 kg Gilber Pannetone bakes for 3 hours in the oven
and perfect for New Years festivities
I loved the Pear and Fig one! 
The street food was great.
Love, love, love, fresh Ligurian farinata!
Always entertaining.
Colorful

Musical 
and always temptingly delicious!
Don't miss the 2012 edition of the Salone del Gusto!
It's worth the saving up and waiting!
We'll see you there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cumiana Celebrates, "Olio é Olive"

Piedmont Italy is known for it's fine wines and oh so delicious cuisine and if most people are familiar with this region that is what first comes to mind when contemplating what this region is famous for. What you don't usually think of is olive oil. Well, at least I don't, knowing that we are on the upper reaches of the olive growing zone. It came as a pleasant surprise a couple of years back to discover that olive production is starting to come back to this area. We were visiting the Castello di Razzano winery, over in neighboring Monferrato  not so long ago and were pleasantly surprised to find that they had just put in about 150 olive trees to replace some of their vineyard that they deemed better suited to olives. I was fascinated to learn that Piedmont use to produce a fair amount of olive oil, but the weather changed and people changed over to grapes from olives as they felt the weather was more conducive to wine production. Now we find as temperatures have increased the olive trees are going back in. 
What a pleasant surprise to find that the lovely little town of Cumiana our neighbor just outside of our valley and hugging the base of the mountains, began a festival a couple of years ago celebrating the local olive oil revival. This is one revival I can get more than a little excited about attending.
Cumiana
Even on a chilly autumn Sunday, there was plenty to see, taste and buy and we weren't alone in our exploration of the festa. In fact I got so carried away with all of the interesting things to check out aside from the wonderful variety of olive oils, that I forgot to even photograph any of the oil tasting tables. Silly me. 
But we did end up with a great selection of olive oils representing several areas of Italy and with quite . All of the oils we selected were from small producers, organic, cold and some stone pressed. Our selections reflect the varied personalities and flavor profiles of Piedmont, Liguria and Apuglia. We're looking forward to enjoying them over the winter.
Local Pinerolo producer Mimosa, were busy pressing oil all day long.

We enjoyed seeing our friends from Pinasca represented with their wonderful bakery goods. 
 Stefano was doing a brisk business, while papa Angelo was home making all the products to keep the stall well stocked.  I worked for Angelo a few years back when we first arrived and we were getting the B&B on it's feet. I learned a lot about local specialties and of the differences of baking in Europe. It was an enlightening experience and one I wished to have had many years ago when I was starting out as a baker. Little baker's tips and tricks for big scale production. Happily, I love my small scale baking these days. Simply satisfying when I can make it to my tastes and interest.

Liguria was well represented with their light and flavorful olive oils. This man was making fresh pesto to  sample and bring home for later consumption.

 Lots of varieties of cheeses to choose from also.

 Naturally, there was plenty of wine to sample, like from our friends in Frossasco, Dora Vini, who just recently won an award for their wine. It wouldn't be a festa without some vino and delicious vino at that!

 And always a welcome touch to any festival is a bit of music, provided by this young man on his Ghironda or more commonly known to Americans as the hurdy gurdy.
This festival serves as a wonderful warm up for this years Salone del Gusto that begins this week October 21-25. You can read about some of the previous festivals here  and here.

Here's a teaser of Ghironda music in the Occitania style.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Autumn in Pinerolo is Festival Time


I must say that I love all of the seasons here in Italy, but autumn is dear to my heart just because it has so many different festivities it'll make your head spin.  You could say that the celebrations go into overdrive with a sagra or festa for just about anything and absolutely everything. Bread, chestnuts, polenta, wine harvest, donkey races, porcino mushroom extravaganza, music, artists, food, and drink, and, food and, did I say food? Well, I believe you get the picture.  Then the leaves start  to turn and work their golden magic, so, why not get out and sample just as many as you can?
Our big town of Pinerolo, (population around 35,000 with the surrounding frazione/hamlets) which lies at the mouth of our valley has more than their fair share lined up in rapid succession. Each year it seems they just get better with each new edition of the festivities. Over the past month we have been able to enjoy 3 of Pinerolo's offerings. The "Mostra del'Artigianato" is a weekend of various artists displaying their work, with an emphasis on the woodcrafters.

Many of the artisans ply their trade with the more practical elements of woodcraft, adding elaborate decorative elements to the Italian doors that are so fascinating and found everywhere throughout Italy. Often even the most humble looking dwelling will have a distinctive door that just sets it apart and draws one in to admire the craftsmanship. This year the woodcrafters were lined up around the perimeter of the church in the center of the old part of town and busily working on their different chosen specialities.

Whimsical or serious, hand made wood carvings are a thing of wonder to me. I love the ability of someone who is able to bring a piece of wood to life. What a gift and opportunity to see that  transformation occur before your eyes.
Sharing the same weekend as the artisans festival  is a town favorite, "I Concorsi Ippici"or the Equestrian Event. This weekend is an international horse jumping competition with 34 countries represented this year.

Pinerolo was the home of the original Calvary before moving to Bologna about 10 years ago, and so has a long love of horses and tradition of equestrian training and competition. We have a wonderful Calvary museum in town that is free to the public. There is another weekend of national competition the following week, making for a lot of gorgeous horses and competitive jumping to enjoy.

Then our other favorite annual autumn festival is quite a unique and unusual event, and that would be the "La Maschera di Ferro", or the Man in the Iron Mask festival.

 This annual recreation of the arrival of the mysterious "Man in the Iron Mask" starts on the first Saturday night of October with the famous musketeers bringing the masked man to town where he was imprisoned for 11 years before being moved on to another prison up the road in Exilles. This festive period celebration brings out all manner of people in period costumes and street performers carrying on what might have been a typical festival back in the day of his imprisonment, which was 1669.  You can find out some of the history in this Wikipedia entry here. There is a great YouTube video but out by the local association for the festival here.

 It is by far one of my favorite festivals. I love the costumes and activities that bring this period to life. The town really comes into its own at night with the campfires, torches, music, jugglers, flag throwers, and the marching corps with lords and ladies all parading around town in their finery, while the peasants roast chestnuts, cook up some stew, slice off juicy pieces of pork from a slow roasting pig on a spit and dance a jig or two.

The next day the festivities continue while everyone enjoys some of the games on offer and a chance to get a good look at the prisoner and try to guess his identity. They always have an Italian celebrity every year and unlike the real mysterious prisoner, the identity is revealed at the close of the festival Sunday afternoon and a collective gasp of surprise usually arises from the crowd.


It is a great time all weekend long, so you might want to consider making plans to come and visit us during this festival to feel like you've stepped back in time and privy to a mystery still unsolved to this day.
Last year during the festival we had the pleasure of hosting travel and educational film makers, Sid and Mary Lee Nolan, as our guests during this festival as they wanted to film the festival, to add some flavor to short film they are making about Italian wine regions. What a wonderful time we had showing them not only the festival but also our local treasures and introducing them to a few of our wine producers as they filmed away.

We enjoyed their many stories about their varied travels as they have been filming exotic location for over 35 years. Mary is a professor of geography and thought that filming many of the locations that she taught about would be not only interesting but a lot of fun as well as a means to travel to just about any location in the world you might or might not be interested in visiting. As one of our other guests remarked, "Every time they open their mouth, we're in a new country." They have produced an extensive selection of short, travel and geographic films and when they are not globe trotting or still busy teaching, they enjoy presenting their films to a wide range of audiences. They are always keen to find a new project that will launch them on to their next adventure. I can't say I don't blame them. You can find out more about them and sample some of the work on their site Academic Media Network / Globe Scope Travel Productions. I don't think they have finished their Italian wine regions project just yet, but when they do I will certainly put a post and update about it here when they do.
You can read about previous Maschera di Ferro celebrations here.  You can follow us around last year when we brought them around to a few of our favorite places and introduced them to some of our wine makers in my post, Vendemmia in Val Chisone.
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