How can you not love food when in Italy, especially when you are at Terra Madre?
But something different is happening to me. Something less utilitarian. I’m “feeling” the flavors, because I am among people with reverence for food. For the thousands of different types of squashes and beans and apples and grains. This wheat versus that one. The soil, the air, the length of the season. I don’t really taste the difference myself – yet. But I am tasting the passion of the person who offers it.
I’m staying with a lovely couple in Turin who offered me their special marmalade bought on vacation on an island in France. “It is our favorite one!” So I put a thin smear on my bread. “No more!” They wanted me to really taste it. It was good, sure, but more so because of their stories.
How could I have missed this with all my talk of food!? I can feel my utilitarian mind shattering. In part, of course, it’s because I am drenched in the utilitarian American consciousness. I was a purveyor of frugality for umpteen years. So I need to take the girdle of frugality off, at least for my days here at Terra Madre. And let this experience in.
Yesterday I walked miles and miles to go from lecture to experience to lecture to experience. It’s a huge venue – the old Fiat factory with, I’m told, even a race track on the roof. I met people who can help me with my projects – the 10-Day Local Food Challenge and a local food grocery store/deli/education center – but my eyeball feast was the Ark of Taste. This is the Slow Food project of preserving the biodiversity of foods being lost to industrialization. Oh, the squashes. Something came over me. I wanted to have these seeds and grow them all. Or at least some. The beans! So many varieties and through them I could feel the peoples in pockets of the planet who for centuries had cultivated these beans, who felt about their beans the way I feel about my community.
Off I go to dive in to another day of swimming through food.