Terra Madre in Torino: the International Buffet
The lunch buffet at the Terra Madre conference was clearly designed to appeal to multiple nationalities while showcasing some regional Italian specialties. On each day, there were at least two vegetable and grain dishes (rice, and another); green salad, and both raw vegetables and cooked vegetables; fresh whole fruit (from bananas to ripe yellow plums, what a treat!) and fresh bread; sliced cooked meats and sliced salumi; large slabs of mortadella, studded with lard and pistachios, scored with criss-crossed cuts so that a toothpick served to extract a cube; large rich cheeses, presented in the same way – whole, loosened from the rind and partially cut into cubes, gently oozing as the temperature warmed from several thousand people talking and eating.
A co-delegate checked all of the buffet lines (4, I believe) to make certain she was not missing anything – but at that point we had been well-fed for days, perhaps even overfed, and I surprised myself by being content to sit and help the woman next to me by holding her baby while she fed her toddler girl. The toddler is named in part Terra Madre as she had been in the womb when her mother delivered the welcome speech two years prior – I recognized her from a video clip I watched online. I also met a baby named Pippin – his grandmother (in attendance with her two daughters, hailing from coastal Oregon) explained the provenance of his name, a reference to a seed-grown apple tree or, as she put it, ‘something good that sprouted by chance!’. I admired the round-headed, smiling wonder hanging in front of his mother’s heart, and chatted with the women about their lives and business on the Oregon coast.
Coffee turned out to be a culture shock to the Americans at the conference. Italian styple espresso, of course, is brewed fresh every time, by its very nature a quick exchange, a sip, tidy up, and grazie. It seems Italians don’t carry coffee with them; they enjoy a brief stop along the way, with a friend or co-worker, or alone, and really only sit for coffee after a meal, if even then. But American coffee is a BIG cup, often bottomless in a restaurant (and just as often served in single-use Styrofoam – argh), or its something we carry with us in our adult sippy cups (reusable or single-use to-go mugs). As much as I love espresso, I longed for a larger cup and a brimming Americano, espresso enlarged with hot water…but never did find one.