Slow Food, founded in 1986, is an international organization whose aim is to protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of modern fast food and life. Though a variety of initiatives it promotes gastronomic culture, develops taste education, conserves agricultural biodiversity and protects traditional foods at risk of extinction. It now boasts over 100,000 members in 153 countries.

Slow Food Auckland, formerly Slow Food Waitakere, is registered as a charitable entity. Registration Number: CC38263, please click here to read our Rules and Regulations

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Urban Beekeeping Italian Style

What do cocktails in Japan, cheeseboards in San Francisco, women in incarceration and banning cars in Florence have in common?

(I attended the Slow Food conference (Terra Madre Salone del Gusto) in Turin, Italy from the 22nd till the 26th of September 2016. Over January I am going to post something each week that was key for me. It will speak of Italy, Turin, Slow Food, tastes, people and joy).

26 September 2016
It’s my very last day at conference and I am buzzing (:)) about my forum this morning on Urban beekeeping. There is a nice connection as some of New Zealand's first honey bees are Apis Mellifera which are subspecies of the Italian honey bee. They were brought out by ship in the 1880s to NZ via England.

First we get an Italian introduction where it is explained that Urban beekeeping is many centuries old. The founder in Italy is considered to be Father Primo Generi, (a monk I can find no reference to on Google, perhaps I am spelling the name wrong?). 

We then met two Italian speakers, Francesco Panello and Paolo Facciolli who are deeply and passionately involved in beekeeping and bee research. Each in turn described how in the face of pollution and loss of bee populations rurally, bees are doing fine in the cities. These men have a great love for bees and insects in general and their passion is obvious. Paolo designed a special apiary that is bee friendly in conjunction with a German group.

Claudio Porrini was up next and he was a fascinating speaker explaining his involvement with Bee keeping from a bio monitoring and pollution / quality perspective. This began in the mid 1980s in Florence. The outcome of the initial work of using bees as biological indicators led to cars being banned. Bees are ideal as biological indicators. An analysis of data from the bees and their products can show the bio availability of pollutants in the area surrounding the hive. They can monitor heavy metals, pesticides, radioactive pollution, pathogens, and explosives. Bees travel so much, going back and forth we can develop a good understanding of the area they cover. The hive’s levels of pollutants can then be mapped seasonally to show a cities hot spots of pollution and work can then be done to identify the source of pollution and plans made to reduce it. An example might be a derelict building that has lead based paint flaking onto surrounding land. Bees are an excellent biological indicator as they are easy to breed, and keep and are low cost. There are limitations however particularly in very cold areas in the winter. The bees have even been found to be able to identify the smell of tumours in humans and truffles locations. If you are particularly interested in this topic, Cordoba, Spain has done some excellent work and there is much published research available on the web.
Silvia Bragada came from a different perspective explaining how she left a high flying corporate job to undertake a project helping women re-enter the workplace following incarceration. They started making bags from coffee beans but have now moved into a new project with a view to produce honey and market it. She now has 20 beehives that she gets assistance with from professional bee keepers and the women do the work around packaging and will take the honey to the markets. Now, this summer, after 2 years of having the hives, they will be able to market the honey for the first time. Their project is called Renascita which is Italian for rebirth.

Davido Lopue is an environmental educator who runs a project called Parco del Nobile. This foundation started in 2005 and by 2010 included urban beekeeping and gardens. Different projects have been undertaken, taking bees to a home for sick children, blind people visiting the bee hives, school visits to the hives and gardens, a honey label competition for children, etc. Protective gear is given to the visitors to wear and some instruction and then they are encouraged to move freely among the hives. Some people are fearful initially but it is just a process of learning how to be with the bees. The brand of the honey is Ozzenam and that is produced on the rooftops and the sale of the honey helps to fund new projects. An upcoming project is the placing of hives in a school courtyard.
Takayasu Kazuo from Japan was dressed in traditional Japanese costume and proudly presented the Ginza Honey Bee Project. : The bees are kept on a high rise building 11 stories high, (45 metres from the ground). The bees gather what they need to produce honey from the flowers in season so the honey changes flavour through the year. They produce a ton of honey each year. They only sell the honey locally as it is a local project. The honey is used to make cakes, macaroons, cocktails and has become synonymous with the city. School children make visits. The bees with their pollinating have led to more fruit production and  more biodiversity in the city. They combine the project with traditional cultural events and markets. I didn’t quite catch what ‘Computer bees’ was but it sounds to be a project connecting the honey producers with consumers. Check out their incredible projest. It is not just bees and honey but a whole ecosystem...

The last speaker was Terry Oxford from San Francisco: Terry became a bee keeper in 2008. She believes that beekeeping needs to be nature centred. The world is very polluted and in America pesticides have taken over. Additional challenges are drought and climate change. California has not had much rain for 7 years and they have had 40 million tree deaths which is their cooling canopy. She says we should be planting trees; flowering trees make up whole ecosystems. Terry never takes all the bees food, she doesn’t use any chemicals, and she believes healthy bees come from healthy nutrition. She has hives on 6 buildings. The challenge is to get the bees on to the roofs. She gives the honey to restaurants for their cheese plates but is selective who she will give to and work with. The rooftop is good from the perspective of no ants or beetles to deal with. Her rooftop honey tastes good winning an award in a blind taste test.
“We believe that some things are sacred and should not be monetized.  If the condition of the earth is telling us anything, it is that some things should be simply honored because they are keeping us alive. Some things, like the pollinator life system, are a gift”. Terry Oxford.

I came out of the meeting bursting with ideas and enthusiasm and hope. Just time for a final wine and charcuterie tasting over lunch where I ate prosciutto, salami and mortadella and learnt what qualities the best of these have.

In the afternoon I caught the metro to the old Fiat factory, (did you know Fiat stands for “Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino" or Italian car manufacturer Turin. Right beside the factory is Eataly celebrating their 10th anniversary. If you haven’t been to an Eataly it is well worth a visit with branches in Rome, Milan, Bologna, Genoa etc. and now popping up in Seoul, Japan, Sao Paolo, the USA, Dubai and Istanbul. What you find here is fresh, delicious ingredients as well as cafes, gelato, cookbooks and kitchen equipment. I bought fat fresh figs and gobbled them all the way back to the metro.

And that was pretty much the end of this incredible experience for me. What I have not shared was the wonderful, rich encounters I had with people from around the world. You just simply can’t document it all but here’s a shout out to just a few; the lady who gave me her honey from north of Madrid in Spain, the Italian man living in China, the Australian chickies really eating, sleeping and breathing this stuff, the indigenous Canadian woman living and working in close alignment to her values, the couple from Papua New Guinea making TV about it, the Slow Food youth girl that sold me her picture of the future, the Russian looking fella who gave me his photo and every amazing human being doing their best here and everywhere to make the world right. I will be back. I promise myself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Feet Firmly on Italian Soil

I attended the Slow Food conference (Terra Madre Salone del Gusto) in Turin, Italy from the 22nd till the 26th of September 2016. Over January I am going to post something each week that was key for me. It will speak of Italy, Turin, Slow Food, tastes, people and joy. It is educational. I hope you will enjoy.

Saving the Fertility of our Soil.
Monocultures, fertilizers and high-yield seeds have seen harvests triple, yet they have compromised the biodiversity and fertility of soils. Every year we lose 24 billion tons of fertile soil on a global scale, while 60% of our land is somewhat deteriorated. Impoverished and polluted soil cannot produce good food. Only a few countries have laws that protect the land: People4Soil has launched a campaign aiming to make soil protection mandatory by law. 

This was the blurb of the Terra Madre forum that I excitedly bowled up to. 
But first let me back up a little...

Saturday 24th September

In the late afternoon I made my way to the Royal Palace area again by tram as I had a blind date. I had arranged to meet an Italian gentleman from Umbria who was a university professor that specialises in olives. He had visited New Zealand previously and met my NZ Slow Food team and was keen to meet more of us. Sue, Brian and I all met in the square.

What a delight to meet our new friend. Saverio took us to the Perugia stand that he was manning and we had our own private tasting of the delicious Vin Santo and Salami of his area. He explained the growing conditions and special character of the grapes and the process of making the Vin Santo. We also nibbled delicious tiny cookies put together with fruit preserves. All the while Saverio talked to us, hands would reach in and around us trying to snatch the samples we had been offered. 

It’s a strange environment attending this for me and watching people’s behaviour. Mostly I sampled nothing. I do recall trying a piece of dried fruit at a Sicilian stall but other than the experience with Saverio, I taste tested nothing. Even though I was at a Slow Food conference with literally thousands of stalls with samples of food! The truth is that people flocked around each stall jostling and clamouring to get to the front and snatch their morsel. They often seemed to have no interest in the producer and what the producer wanted to share with them. I’m not even sure that many of the attendees were interested in Slow Food and what it means. I suspect many thousands here were locals enjoying the days outing. It wasn’t pleasant for me to participate in that frenzy but I did buy food, arancini from the Sicilian area, farinata (chick pea based unleavened flatbread and a delicious takeaway panino with grilled aubergine, peppers and courgettes. Yum. And only 3.50euro.

So after our educational visit to Perugia, (just the stall),  Saverio and I meandered around making our way to a famous café for an institution here that has spread across Italy and the world. The aperitivo some say was born in Turin, …The aperitivo has an interesting history, and despite its popularity across different areas of Italy it is very much associated with Turin. Although some anthropologists claim the idea of a pre-dinner drink stretches back as far as the ancient Egyptians, the creator of the modern day aperitivo is generally credited as being Antonio Benedetto Carpano.
Carpano is known as the inventor of Vermouth which he first made in Turin in 1786 by infusing Moscato white wine with herbs and spices. Apparently the drink was considered perfect for opening the stomach before a good meal.

Sunday 25th September.

I woke early around 6am and went walking. It was a beautiful morning. I wanted to get a look at the Mole Antonelliana but had not had a chance until now. It is a stunning building having been conceived of originally as a Jewish synagogue and completed in 1889. But I was way too early for it to be open to take the elevator up to the top for the view. I wasn’t too early for the gypsys though and I found myself shrieking at them this morning. I shocked them and shocked myself. I’m definitely getting a bit tired, normally they don’t bother me. 

I walked on through the beautiful Piazza Vittorio Veneto and over the Ponte with a wonderful view of the Chiesa Della Gran Madre Di Dio. I looped back to the city side by the Valentino Park. It looked like it was going to be a really busy day. I followed my nose in the park wandering away from the Slow Food activity into the Borgo Medieval.

In 1884 for the Turin Expo a faithful copy of a 15th century castle was built as an educational and promotional setting. It stands today with a series of shops selling medieval costumes, weapons and maps, jewellery and knick knacks. It also houses cafes and restaurants that look out upon the river. I had a lovely time enjoying the shade and few tourists after the frenetic conference areas.

Then it was time for my soil forum so I hurried back to the esposizione at Torino University for a seat. Expecting a repeat of the overcrowded slow travel forum, I came early and positioned myself at the side however this was attended by maybe a quarter of the crowd size.

Unfortunately, I am ashamed to say I did not document the speaker’s names at this forum. Below is fairly brief note form of what I learnt:

The first speaker was from France and an expert on soil having written a book about the topic. He talked about how European soils are 10,000 years old, and therefore not renewable. They carry the history of the relationship between man and the earth. The key problems as he sees them are that:
- the soil is left fallow and naked through winter in Europe exposing it to the elements with the subsequent oxidation and the effects on microorganisms, exposure to winds and weather and the losses associated with these,
-we use deep ploughing practices which have the same outcomes,
-the use of mineral fertilisers produces bloated attractive looking produce but the roots are atrophied not having developed and have to search for nutrient so the plants are weak and not healthy.
-and finally, the sealing or water proofing of the ground under urbanized areas and the impact this has on soil and how much is available to us.
The next speaker pointed out that last December the 5th was World Soil day; 2015 was year of the soil, and that we are currently in the decade of the soil as proclaimed by the International union of soil sciences!
The next speaker was a soil consultant having been a Pedologist his entire career, Pedology (from Greek: πέδον, pedon, "soil"; and λόγος, logos, "study") is the study of soils in their natural environment. It is one of two main branches of soil science, the other being edaphology.
He discussed the loss of quality in the soils we have and the way that it is measured and the rules and measurements to assess it. He believes soil should be certified.
Apparently there are 500,000 microorganisms in every spoonful of soil; it is the most richly diverse ecological system on Earth.
He also mentioned the Terra Fuochi southern Italian polluted soil. On researching this reference, a wiki led me to the sad tale of what he is talking about. In an area north of Naples near Caserta toxic waste from near Venice and northern Italy was dumped and spread over agricultural land by local camorra. Also fires were lit to burn an estimated 30 000 tons of copper wiring and other industrial waste which has badly polluted the soil with among other things, dioxins and PCBs. All of this has led to unusually high cancer rates in the local population. It is referred to as the greatest mass poisoning in Italian history and is fairly recent.

Slow food youth in the Netherlands have undertaken a project to draw people’s attention to the need for soil conservation and protection by making it sexy. Good on them!

And lastly, check out People4soil, an initiative launched last month to run for 12 months in an effort to pressure Europe into legislating to protect soil. Here is a short sharp clip of their project:

I so enjoyed this talk. It was comfortable and I felt surrounded by interesting, intelligent people who deeply care about our Earth. I was inspired and made a pact with myself. When I return to this conference in 2018 I will not be living my life the same way I do now; unaligned beliefs and behaviour; in employment selling products that I am not always comfortable about, not truly living my truth.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Surprising what you can grow on a quarter of an acre.....Two fabulous women!

When Andrea told us about meeting Helen and Bron at Terra Madre in Turin and shared their inspiring story of a small village farm - we got excited. And the excitement grew when we realised we would be able to visit on our South Coast Aussie holiday!

Yvonne at the farm

Wynlen House Slow Food Farm in their own words:
"Wynlen house is the name of our very small farm or micro farming enterprise located on a large village block (just under 1.5 acres or about 1/2 a hectare) in the village of Braidwood in the Southern Tablelands.  It is a small organic four season, cool climate, slow food farm selling produce (vegetables and meat) all year to consumers."

Bron cleaning garlic

Growing Australian garlic and supporting other small growers is a big focus - as is education and sustainability. I got a whole new insight  in to the key role small producers play in food security and sustainability - two tons of produce from a quarter of an acre. It was sobering to hear the challenges that small producers are facing in Australia and how the support is given to the big "boys" -  right down to growing bulk tomatoes in the desert at the expense of  "local" food and producers.

Helen and Yvonne on the garden tour

Morning tea and getting to know each other (and Lorraine from Canberra) was followed by a tour of the garden and we got to meet the chickens and the ducks. Wynlen House truly embodies the  Slow Food principles of good, clean and fair and supporting everything local.

Glorious local garlic 

It was very interesting to see first hand the the intensive, companion planting  that makes the high yields  sustainable and possible. We have taken on board some ideas for our small garden. 

Intensive companion planting

The garden produces a broad range of produce with 45kg a week being harvested at peak times. The food is picked and sold locally in Braidwood within 24 hours.

The garden tour

Helen and Bron are very involved in the Canberra Slow Food Convivium and got to experience the  "big picture" when they were delegates at Terra Madre  in 2016.
It was fantastic to be with women who love good food, who are "walking the talk" and fighting for for good, clean and fair!

The farm ducks

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Slow Travel

I attended the Slow Food conference (Terra Madre Salone del Gusto) in Turin, Italy from the 22nd till the 26th of September 2016 with Sue and Brian. I was able to participate in a rich human and gastronomic educational and fun festa that I have sat on now for 3 months with barely any sharing. I'm fit to burst.

Over January I am going to post something each week that was key for me, to make up a picture of my experience of this event and try to show what Slow Food means to me.
It will speak of Italy, Turin, Slow Food, tastes, people and joy. It is educational. I hope you will enjoy.

Post 1: 
Slow Travel.
I should describe the conference layout. It is hard to fathom but Slow Food had taken over the entire city of Turin. In every piazza and public building of historic significance it seems, Slow food is utilizing spaces for talks and tastings and food stalls from around the world and every region of Italy. There were conferences on an array of topics, forums to listen to experts speak and art exhibitions with Slow Food themes. There were musicians and markets and parades through the streets. It was truly a whole city extravaganza where an estimated 500,000 delegates and non delegates from every corner of the globe attend as well as local Torinese that attended en mass.

Saturday the 24th of September
It was day 3 of the conference and I was struggling with fatigue again. There is simply so much to see and do and I keep becoming overloaded and unable to do anything. It is extraordinarily frustrating. Once I finally could move from my bed I made my way on the tram back to the Torino Esposizione to queue for the Slow Travel forum. The room is a lecture style room with rows of seating and super uncomfortable seats at that. The kind you sweat against and stick to the hard plastic. We all filed in and quickly the space is overfull and standing room only. I am never good with enclosed overfull spaces and as the room starts to heat up, (so that we all fan ourselves with our papers), I was having to talk firmly to myself to remain seated…

There was a panel of people, at the front and once they started talking I was so very inspired I forgot my claustrophobia right away.
I thought it was already a well-established thing. I had done a bit of reading on slow travel prior to this 2016 travel to Italy for the conference. I incorporated it into this trip as best I understood it. I had spent two weeks in a tiny village prior to arriving here. I attempted to not tick off key tourist destinations but to spend my time and money in the village and surrounding villages and natural sites. The theory being the money you would have spent on accommodation and food and sightseeing goes directly to the villagers. And that there is much to be gained in experiencing another culture by being present, sitting in the Piazza, talking with locals, practicing Italian, going to the market on Wednesday morning. And slowing down, truly resting and having a break that resonates in your very soul.

Images below are my interpretation of slow travel in Montalto della Marche where I spent two weeks prior to the conference, it is bellisimo!

It turns out Slow Travel is a new thing when it is in relation to the Slow Food organisation. What I was reading prior was, with hindsight, people’s ideas on the concept and commercial operators selling their agritourismo or food production. All strength to them, it can only do good but it is not Slow Food endorsed or accredited.
Slow Travel at this stage is currently being trialed and formal structures are being put into place to formalise it, with those involved having to jump through many hoops to ensure that what they offer truly meets Slow Food principles.
The following 2 pictures are very poor and hard to read but I have included them as they show the rigorous process being put into place here and how precious the accreditation will be.

The pilot project has been undertaken in an area in Austria in the Danube, Carinthia.  This project has seen a group of Italians tourists taken to, accommodated and fed in the area, meeting the producers and locals and learning while they holiday. The visitors get a truly cultural experience being fully immersed in local life and finding out how the locals live and eat. The local producers are expected to join Slow Food and to offer traditional fare. In some cases they needed to be encouraged to go back to old products that they had stopped making as they had been considered old fashioned, undesirable and therefore uneconomic.

Unexpected effects have been that the producers get their pride back in the local traditional products, and in one case children who had given up on taking over the family business have returned from the city as it looks to becoming a viable, exciting and invigorated business with hope for the future.
This project could change producer’s lives dramatically as their businesses are rejuvenated, with even the locals getting on board purchasing traditional local products too.
For this to get off the ground it needs to involve a range of stakeholders including not only Slow Food and the producers but also restaurants, tourism operators, accommodation providers and artisans all in the same area. Local heroes need to be identified that have the community's trust and support and of course, funding is needed.

A second speaker discussed a project not yet underway but being scoped in Kenya. It is the Kenya Slow Safari idea. Apparently very few Kenyan restaurants offer authentic Kenyan food. They currently cater to tourists with international food offerings and the profits don’t make it into local’s hands. In fact some tourists come to Kenya, go on safari and then relax at the beach without ever participating in any locally run business venture. The project aims to offer community and cultural tourism. This campaign is called ‘Eat Kenya’. Look out for it as it develops. It was so exciting to hear about and makes so much sense both for the locals and for the visitors to get a far more authentic cultural Kenyan experience.

The recurrent themes were that Slow Travel needs to be sustainable, responsible, help economies, and be good, clean and fair. It needs to connect tourists to local producers so that the locals see the economic benefit. Strict guidelines are needed, along with principles and criteria’s. A local value chain needs to be established where money stays in the region. Business development assistance with these features in mind is needed. And of course, the future needs to be centered firmly in farming as opposed to the current situation where farmers are walking away from their farms, with their returns unsustainable.

The plan is that if an area applies and is accepted as a destination, the logo of Slow Food and Slow Travel can be used by that business. There would be a guide or compendium of all those accredited so that travelers could select from the available options when choosing their travel. These places would then offer a unique experience, build Slow Food membership, and nominations for ark of taste products will grow off the back of it. It is envisaged that international networking for those involved will contribute to the building of successful ventures.

It was a fabulous meeting and as we made our way out I was just buzzing with excitement for the whole concept, it makes sense. It is light on the earth, supporting healthy, natural, environmental activity and behaviour. It seems the way of the future for travel. I was also brimming with ideas for what I could do at home in New Zealand, the home of fast paced, adrenaline inducing fast travel, (think skydiving, heli-skiing & bungee jumping!). I would love to be a part of this somehow…So now I need to put my thinking cap on!


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