I recently heard it called the Olympic Games of food and drink, and that probably sums it up perfectly. A biennial event, which takes place in the Italian city of Turin, Terra Madre – Salone del Gusto is the largest pilgrimage of the world’s most dedicated and passionate food and drink producers. Between them, they represented 300 Slow Food Presidia and 1,000 food communities of the Terra Madre network that stretches across five continents. The event also hosted over 7,000 international Slow Food delegates, assembled from 143 countries. That’s quite an event, I’m sure you’ll agree!
This was my first encounter with this epic event and, due to the accounts I’d been hearing from previous attendees, my expectations had been growing for several months. Previously, the event has centered on the Lingotto building (the FIAT factory that you’ve probably seen in the film, The Italian Job), however, this year, with the event celebrating its 20th anniversary, it was taking place right across the city centre, occupying numerous landmarks and Valentino Park. Usually attracting in the region of 250,000 visitors, because of the change of venue and due to the fact that it would be free for all to attend, they were estimating upward of half a million this time.
Needless to say, it certainly lived up to my expectations and far more! My initial tour around the beautiful city of Turin revealed evidence of Slow Food’s occupation all over the place; in the streets, piazzas and numerous public buildings. However, it was my first walk around Valentino Park that proved to be the real eye opener; hosting thousands of food and drink producers, representing all four corners of the globe, there was a diversity of produce on display that was absolutely mind-boggling. From Afghan raisins to Hungarian Mangalica sausage, Peruvian cacao to Smilyan beans from Bulgaria, and far too many more to mention in between! For me to walk around the park and pay attention to everything on display would have been, at least, a two-day project.
That said, perusing all of this amazing Slow Food Ark of Taste and Presidia produce was only to skim the surface of the event. As well as celebrating the world’s food and drink biodiversity on a mammoth scale, Terra Madre – Salone del Gusto features: Taste Workshops, exploring the stories behind a wealth of tastes and flavours; Meetings, dedicated to the wealth and diversity of global cuisine, street food, the Enoteca, conferences examining issues around agriculture from different points of view, the Forums of Terra Madre’s food communities and more, all with the aim of loving the earth and consciously choosing the future of our food.
A Terra Madre parade took place on Friday night. Setting off from Valentino Park and making its way through Turin’s city streets, hundreds of people, of numerous ethnicities participated and thousands more lined the route in celebration of this, the world’s best food and drink event. The parade was concluded with an inspiring speech from Slow Food’s founder, Carlo Petrini and the celebrations carried on in a great atmosphere at Piazza Castello, and live music went on late into the night.
Terra Madre – Salone del Gusto takes place in Turin every two years and, I urge you, if you have even the faintest interest in the future of our food and our relationship with it, join Slow Food and start planning your visit now. The passion and dedication of the people involved, the producers and the multitude of amazing projects are absolutely mind blowing, and most certainly worthy of your attention for four or five days. I’m sure you’ll LOVE IT!
Check out the rest of the images from Salone del Gusto.