Over the five days of the event we attended 3 taste workshops. These taste workshops were Slow Food Presidia projects. These projects aim to support and protect:
Tasting food is a total sensory experience. It not only involves the taste buds but it is also a visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile experience.
Parmigiano Reggiano - Vertical Tasting.
The setting: The magnificent Palazzo (palace) Graneri della Roccia and its evocative blend of baroque and contemporary architecture.
It is a wonderfully ornate room, set with tables in rows, and the service is formal. The panel includes the master cheese maker, the wine maker and the cheese expert. The first tasting is a cheese aged for 2 years and 42 days and commences with the cutting of the cheese wheel weighing 40 kilos. The master cheese maker explains the process:
First step is about sound. A hammer is used to bang the cheese - there needs to be a strong hollow sound. Next a thin taster like a needle is inserted for the initial taste which is eaten of the side of the hand. Then the first of a number different knives is used to cut through the rind.(a hooked "Unico Doppio" blade) The first cut of the rind is made right around the middle of the wheel. Four, (Pavia” or “Milano" blades) pointed almond shaped knives are inserted at the compass points of the cheese and then another four (Cuore” Parmigiano) larger, almond shaped, double-bladed knifes are inserted on the alternate diagonals. The insertion of these knives are to ease the wheel open Finally, the flat (Premana) knife is inserted to crack the halves of the wheel apart. Fantastico and very theatrical! This cheese along with 5 other vintages were served.
While the service was occurring, a discourse on the cheese making occurred:
The parmigiano reggiano was made from the milk of the white cow of Modena. In the 1950’s there were 140,000 head of this cattle breed, but over successive decades it suffered a steep decline, corresponding to the unstoppable rise of the Friesan. Friesans have very high milk production between 16 to 30 litres a day, where as the white Modenas produce 8 to 11 litres a day. However while the Friesan cow produces quantity it does not produce milk to make quality cheese. The milk from the white Modena cow has been proven as the best
milk for this cheese production. The coagulation of this milk is slower and this factor is key in the making of the cheese. The milk is sent straight from the cow farm to the cheese maker, without heating or cooling so as to keep as much of the bacteria / enzymes alive as possible. Warm air is blown across the curd keeping the temperature around 70 degrees so as not to kill the bacteria. Parmigiano is a living cheese with the protein turned into peptides. Friesan milk coagulation lasts about 9 minutes while Modena milk lasts 11.5 minutes.
The tasting consisted of 6 vintages of parmiagano regianno: 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 and 84 months. To taste we were advised to sniff first, smell, feel, (must be eaten with the hands) and then taste. A great deal of discussion ensued about the qualities of the different vintages. This also included discussions with the cheese maker about the weather conditions when the cheese was made, the meadow conditions etc. The taste changes in the vintages were detectable and interesting. The 24 month vintage had some spiciness and a bit dry; 36 months - slightly sweater; 48 months - well balanced; 60 months - this was my preferred one. It was really good. 72 months - dry and an ‘interesting taste'; 84 months - I didn’t really like. Each tasting was accompanied with a wine.
The event was really interesting and it was amazing to taste such beautiful cheeses and great wines. It was a wonderful merry day.
The taste workshops offer a way of learning while tasting (and smelling, touching, hearing and seeing), stimulating the senses while delving into topical issues and fascinating products and hearing stories directly from the producers.Terra Madre Salone del Gusto events program
The Conferences and Forums, gave a strong and impressive voice to alternative thinking. The program aims to encouraging us to widen our perspective and discover how, for better or for worse, food can change the planet. Speakers of international fame will confront the global economy, human and animal welfare, happiness, the environment, the kitchen, food in the arts, and more. Terra Madre Salone del Gusto events program
Can Agroecology Feed the World?
Miguel Altieri,a Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.
Miguel commenced the forum by summarising the major problems with industrial agriculture and global food empires:
Agroecology applies ecological principles to food production, taking care of natural resources and values biodiversity.
Agroecology is not a farming practice as such but provides the principles or the ethos for food production. It links ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities.
It is about:
Yacouba Sawadogo is a Burkinabe farmer Burkina Faso who has been successfully using a traditional farming technique called Zaï to restore soils damaged by desertification and drought.
Yacouba Sawadogo spoke next. He is an older man known as “the man who stopped the desert” He is responsible for developing or readapting a farming technique known as Zaï.
“Zaï or Tassa is a farming technique to dig pits (20-30 cm long and deep and 90 cm apart) in the soil during the pre-season to catch water and concentrate compost. The technique is used to restore degraded drylands and increase soil fertility.” Wikipedia
Yacouba talked about his life and how his interest in Zaï came about. He explained that he was a merchant with a small plot of land around his home. In the 80’s there was severe drought and his countrymen were hungry and sick. He knew that there were traditional medicines that came from the trees and bushes, but most of the the trees and bushes had died. He had small number of trees on his land and decided he should grow more and so this is what he did. He drew on old knowledge to get his trees to grow and they did.
“If we take care of our earth we can get anything from it….Each of us needs to live in our environment…Chemicals destroy the soil, where there is lack of truth there is destruction…”
10,000’s of hectares that were no longer productive had now been made productive using Yaciuba’s techniques. He shares his knowledge and conducts training programs.
Anuradha Mittal, founder of the Oakland Institute, is a considered an "expert on trade, development, human rights, democracy, and agriculture issues". It is headquartered in Oakland, California
The final guest speaker was Anuradha Mittal who explained the work of the Oakland Institute. “The Oakland Institute is a progressive think tank founded in 2004 (by Anuradha Mittal.) It’s ethos is Change Begins with Informed and Active Citizens.”
Anuradha talked primarily of the land grabbing taking place in Africa with the support of the World Bank. The Oakland Institute has been looking at this issue for a number of years and is deeply concerned by what is taking place. She stated that currently 40% of the landmass of Africa is owned by global companies. Anuradha further explained that governments are coerced into these arrangements.
…”Recent initiatives have focused on supporting industrial agriculture and large agribusiness companies at the expense of family farmers. The World Bank’s “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” (EBA), is one of these initiatives. The EBA is a benchmarking tool created in 2013 to foster “policies that facilitate doing business in agriculture and increase the investment attractiveness and competitiveness of countries…With the EBA, the World Bank is adapting its Doing Business index to agriculture, ranking countries according to“the ease of doing business.” In a series of reports, the Oakland institute has documented how the ranking system of the Doing Business index has created harmful competition among countries to reduce or remove economic, social, and environmental safeguards and regulations… https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/about
The last part of the forum was about considering change with the focus on consumers as being a major part of the agricultural system. Terminology was considered paramount in this discussion. Is the usage of the word consumers useful? Anuradha put forward the view point that consuming is a very negative term; to use fuel, time, resources; fire consumes, it is a term that implies a lack of control or powerlessness. We need to change the language so that we see ourselves as active positive enablers.
Slow Food has introduced the term co-producer. “A conscious consumer who goes beyond the passive role of consuming and takes an interest in those who produce our food, how they produce it and the problems they face in doing so. In actively supporting food producers, we become part of the production process. The term co-producer was coined by Slow Food to highlight how collectively our consumer choices can bring great change to how food is cultivated, produced and distributed.”
Food for Thought
When further considering the concerns raised about 40% of the landmass of Africa being owned by global companies, I decided to do some research on foreign land ownership in Australia. Successive Australian Governments have and are continuing to allow foreign countries to “invest” in our resources and land. According to the Guardian Newspaper the proportion of foreign ownership of Australian farmland in 2013 was as follows::
Totally foreign owned = 12.4%
50% or higher foreign ownership = 7%
Foreign ownership between 10% and 50% = 5.2%
This equates to a total of 24.6% of Australian farmland being in foreign hands along with 1.8 million megalitres agricultural water entitlements.
The countries in order of highest foreign investment in agriculture, forestry and fishing are UK, USA, Canada, Singapore, China. This however is somewhat insignificant compared to the mining sector which had an estimated $230bn in foreign investment at the end of 2013. The Reserve Bank Of Australia estimates that four fifths of Australian mining operations were effectively owned by foreign interests. 83% of mining profits were accrued to foreign interests in 2009-10. Looking at the three largest 'Australian' miners, foreign ownership accounts for three-quarters of BHP-Billiton, over 80% of Rio Tinto and 100% of Xstrata.
Combing the foreign ownership of Australian farmland along with foreign investment in mineral resources may well see Australia equal that of Africa’s 40% land mass owned by foreign or global companies. Definitely an issue of concern and worthy of further discussion.