Salone del Gusto: 4 Days of Gluttonous Determination

Thanks to Salone del Gusto, the Slow Food event of a lifetime, I have to go shopping for a larger pants size and maybe a visit to the doctor to control my liver function.

Arriving at the Lingotto Convention Center in Turin’s city center, I was blown away by the sheer size of the event. Comprised of 5 expansive pavilions, 3 dedicated to Italy’s regional cuisines, and the rest to the international community, there were more than enough foods to taste and people to meet. The sheer size of the event justified the fact that I was there for 4 days, though certain products definitely kept me coming back for more free tasters ūüėČ

Unlike many of the patrons of the event, I went with a mission, to promote Ferrarini’s Italian food community I Sapori Della Nostra Terra by handing out information cards and giving mini presentations to the various producers there. Let’s just say I made a lot of friends, connected with people both professionally and personally, through the free tasters offered at their booths.

In a delirium of wine, artisan beer, cheese, cured meat, and sweets, I lost myself in the labyrinth of Italy’s regions. This past weekend, I ate enough bread dipped in olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, Sicilian Cannoli, cured meat, Parmigiano Reggiano, and unidentifiable fried delicacies to induce immediate cardiac arrest. Fortunately however, my body is used to gluttonous abuse from the way that I’ve been eating/drinking for the duration of this past year at the University.

To seem more official, I presented myself to producers as “Michelle Aspis, a student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences,” in a desperate effort to find work, and share a moment with the producers I have met over the past year in an effort to evade my quasi-inevitable return to the US.

Salone del Gusto, in a way, was a culmination of my entire gastronomic education. A truly Grassroots Gourmet experience, the Olympic tournament reserved for those with a stomach and a heart for good food and unforgettable people.

I once read a book called that tried to explain why Italians constantly talk about food, but only in experiences such as this can one truly understand the depth and importance of the world of food for a culture that depends so heavily upon cuisine to progress economically, governmentally, and most importantly, emotionally. Being at Salone del Gusto was like sharing a meal with the entire country, a nonverbal understanding between food lovers about what it means to live to eat, to eat to live, and to survive in a world that seems to sometimes spin out of control.

 

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Slow Food Army, Unite!


The moment has arrived, from October 21-25, the biennial (this means once every two years, I looked it up) culmination of everything that the Slow Food movement stands for, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto at the Lingotto Convention Center in Turin, Italy.

Though both events are sponsored by Slow Food, they are each directed at a particular target. Terra Madre is basically a UN type megameeting for invited representatives of Slow Food from all over the world. With over 5000 representatives present, this five day conference unites food communities, cooks, academics, artists, and youth who share the common goal of promoting sustainability in the food world.

Over the course of 5 days, various lectures and conferences take place about the current state of the world’s environmental health, learning traditions and cultures of others, and discussing crucial issues of these subjects that pertain to assuring a better future. Sounds a little bit idealistic… Kind of like the final part of “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland, where all the animatronic dolls of different races are mechanically bouncing up and down and rejoicing in their diversity. Haha…..just kidding.

Terra Madre is an exclusive invite only event for members of the Terra Madre network, my being a student at the University of Gastronomic Science has granted me access into an event that continues to make history (we hope).

Salone del Gusto, on the other hand is a public event for anyone who is passionate about food. I would use the word ‘foodie’ but I find it degrading. This is a convention where artisan producers, wine makers, chefs, and academics come together to celebrate their love of good quality and delicious foods. Producers from all over Italy as well as abroad come here to set up a stand and share the fruit of their labor with hungry patrons. Needless to say, this is THE place to be if you consider the pleasure of food to be on par with the pleasure of sex ūüėČ

Ferrarini, the company I’m interning for, will also have a booth at Salone del Gusto, where they’ll be selling non GMO Parmigiano Reggiano, non GMO Butter, Prosciutto di Parma, Salami, and other delicious traditional specialities. We’ll see if I will be able to pull myself away from their stand to try the rest of the goodies offered, though it is difficult to separate from Parmigiano Reggiano; at this point it runs through my veins.

I will be going up to Torino on Thursday and will probably stick around until Sunday. The next update will probably just be pictures of me stuffing my face with food from all around the world but I’ll try to include some substantial information between bites.

Take it Slow, Face the Food.

slow_food

Why Slow Food?
This non-profit organization has made it a top priority to combat the ways of fast-food and fast life that have completely engulfed modern society… Something that many in the Western world have integrated so intensely into their lives that they don’t even realize the consequences of their consumption.

Now, I hate to be preachy, but, not only is fast-food ultimately unsatisfying (we’ve all hugged a toilet bowl), the negative repercussions of eating that quadruple bypass burger outWEIGH the 30 seconds of enjoyment one gets while eating fast foods.

anti-mcdonalds-ads
A little too much lovin'

Almost 30 years after its initial founding in 1989 by Carlo Petrini, the Slow Food movement has become a cornerstone non-profit organization that works in Europe and abroad to preserve sustainability and ethics within the food industry. Sadly the reason it was ultimately started was in protest of a McDonald’s opening near the Spanish Steps in Rome… but if anyone has been to Italy, McDonald’s locations are beginning to eat that country alive….

NONETHELESS the Slow Food movement has succeeded in communicating its goal to promote Ecogastronomy

Ecogastronomy: A branch of the ecology movement and as well as the culinary side of the anti-globalization movement.

Not only is the movement against fast food consumption, both on a personal and societal level, but also the production of these products. How much energy do we waste in producing mass amounts of food that will ultimately go to waste? Where has the culture behind cuisine vanished to?

I speak from the American perspective, but as a general society our relative loss of interest in food, and its origins may be one of the connections to our increasing body masses. When we no longer feel any real connections to the foods we eat, we break the chain in our relationship to the environment, our personal cultures and histories, and our health.

A quick exercise: Open your refrigerators for a moment. How many of the products that blankly sit on the shelves have readily identifiable ingredients? (if you answer is: “I only keep produce in the frigde”) Fine, how many of you know where that produce came from? Was that zombie GMO tomato grown in Mexico 3 months ago or was it grown organically by a local farm?

If you are interested in this subject and would like to join your local Slow Food chapter, become a member Here!!!!!!!

The movement has become wildly influential in Europe and abroad, with over 100,000 members in 132 countries, but together we can help it grow even further!

In the chaotic and unpredictable world we live in, it feels nice to be a part of something positive.

So eat well, and please, chew slowly ūüėČ

Grassroots Gourmet is Expanding!!!: Your Opinions

So, now that I am soon to be a college graduate I am planning on making Grassroots Gourmet one of my main priorities…which means more time to update and expand the site.

As an expansion idea, I was thinking of locally shipping (within California) baked goods made from the freshest and most delicious ingredients I can find. My baking will include fruits from my local farmers market, which is always full of delicious things in the summer months, as well as artisan ingredients from distributors around Orange County.

So, This is where you guys can give me your opinion:

I would be willing to create recipes based on user requests, as well as adapting user recipes to really take on the Grassroots feel. I can’t wait to share with you guys. Thanks for being such a great group.

‚̧ your devoted eater,
Michelle

Top 5 Most Misunderstood Vegan Foods

Sometimes the menus at Vegan restaurants seem like they are written in another language, below is a simple guide to decoding some of the most commonly used ingredients in a vegan/vegetarian’s diet…

Alright, so you’re in a hip vegan/vegitarian restaurant with your super cool bohemian girlfriend/boyfriend and you want to impress them by ordering something truly earth friendly. Looking at the menu however, it looks like it is written in another language (hippy-ese): “Freshly grilled seitan over a bed of local rainbow chard and quinoa” or perhaps you’d like to try the “terikayi tempeh with brown rice”

The girl/guy you’re with has ordered and is staring at you waiting for your decision, the sweat beads down your forehead and nervously you order something that you can’t even pronounce…

Luckily guys, I am about to create a comprehensive list to identify and explain some common vegan and vegetarian food items so you never find yourself caught in this embarassing situation. (you can thank me later) Here we go.

1) Tofu:

Sichuan Style Spicy Tofu
Sichuan Style Spicy Tofu

Tofu is a product made of soy protein rendered from soy milk. It is made in the same type of way as cheese in that the soy milk is cultured and the curds are pressed to ultimately form tofu. By itself, tofu does not really have any specific taste, but it is a delicious addition to meals with other prominent ingredients and powerful sauces as it takes on the flavor of whatever it is being prepared with. Tofu is a staple protein source for vegans and vegetarians. It is also dairy/gluten free.

2) Tempeh:

Marinated and Grilled Tempeh over a bed of veggies
Marinated and Grilled Tempeh over a bed of veggies

Tempeh is nothing but a bunch of soybeans fused together in a natural fermentation process. Yeah I know, this sounds kind of funky, but it actually yields are really delicious nutty flavor and texture. Unlike tofu (which is also made from soybeans), tempeh is made up of a whole bean, rather than going under further refining processes. Usually, tempeh is served grilled and marinated (see above photo) and tastes particularly good with teriyaki sauce (in my humble opinion).

3) Quinoa:

Uncooked Quinoa Grain
Uncooked Quinoa Grain

Originating in the Andean region of South America, quinoa is a delicious protein-rich(12-18%) grain that adds heartiness to any vegetarian or vegan meal. Quinoa has a somewhat nutty flavor and retains the flavor of any sauce that it is prepared with, thought it also tastes good all by itself. It holds much historical value for native communities in South America but it requires a relatively long growing season in very particular climates. While the quinoa you find in the grocery store might not be grown locally, it is still a better option than pre-packaged, pre-cooked white rice (like Uncle Ben’s *cringe*)

4) Seitan: (a.k.a. Wheat Meat)

Seitan Steak
Seitan Steak

While that might look like a delicious steak dinner you would order at Houston’s, in reality that is actually not meat at all. I introduce to you, Seitan, a protein rich ‘meat-like’ food made from wheat gluten. Seitan is one of my favorite vegan meat subsitutes. It legitmately does taste like meat, minus the substandard slaughterhouse and high blood pressure. If you’re afraid of breaking too far away from your carnivorous lifestyle, Seitan is probably the closest thing you can have to the real deal. No weird textures here.

5) Vegenaise

Follow Your Heart's Vegenaise
Follow Your Heart's Vegenaise

Vegenaise is a common Mayo-type product that is found in almost every vegan restaurant, it can also be purchased commercially. Basically, this stuff tastes like mayonnaise, looks like mayonnaise, and has the same textures as mayonnaise. The only difference is that this product is made without the use of eggs or dairy. Because it is not made with animal products, it has ZERO cholesterol (real mayo has at least 5mg per tablespoon)!

Alright, though this list is not complete, it does offer a quick review of some of the most commonly used ingredients in vegan and vegetarian cuisines. So don’t be afraid folks, go out and indulge! hey, it’s good for you!

New food in a Crap-ola Economy

Sitting in class I began to think about our continously deteriorating economy… Are we on the brink of breadlines? Probably not… but what is the priority of preserving environmentally sound food systems in the hellish economy we now face?

In my opinion, developing a palate for the push away from GMO foods would actually probably save  us money in the longrun, devoting more funding towards the exploration/development of food systems that benefit our wallets and stomachs.

What do you think? Is there/should there be space for focus on food in the world economy at this point? or are industrialized food sources here to stay and grow to even more astronomically large and monopolized levels?

Also, with Obama as the supposed Messiah of the world, do you really think he will do much to save the current state of our national health and food mentality, or are we (for lack of a better phrase) Gastronomically screwed?

There is so much potential for new jobs to be created in these fields, it is just a matter of motivation and strength of knowledge within the global market. (both by consumers and producers)

DISCUSS!

Fear Not: Raw Milk Cheese

¬†Since the 1940s the FDA prohibited production/importation of any raw milk cheese that hadn’t been aged at least 60 days. Why? Well…because raw milk chese¬†is unpasteurized (heated above 140 Degrees) and is in theory¬†chock full of harmful, death causing bacteria…While most of the cheese in the States¬†is produced industrially, and therefore pasteurized, this¬†regulation was not a real problem; however, shortly after, a movement of angry(?)¬†American Artisan cheesemakers¬†ignited in order to¬†bring back the traditional methods of cheese production, using raw milk and traditional technology, produced on a much smaller scale than say… Kraft’s zombie cheese. (I hesitate to call American cheese, cheese, but for all intents and purposes..)

Sadly, at the same time that these artisan producers were “Bringin’ back” the old ways of cheese-making, an industrial cheese producer used fresh Mexican style cheese in one of its products that ended up¬† making a lot of people pretty sick, and even killed a few. What did this disaster mean for the American people? BAN ALL RAW MILK CHEESE!!IT’S EVIILLLLLLLL.

Now, Is this an appropriate reaction? Probably not. If we banned everything that killed people America you could say Ciao Ciao to pretty much everything from McDonald’s, most food products from China, anything with artificial coloring/sweetener, etc….. so basically everything on the industrial menu here in the US of A.

Thankfully, the FDA never went through with the raw milk ban. HOWEVER, they definitely don’t hesitate to¬†remind consumers about the hidden dangers of eating raw milk cheese….to be honest, I am more afraid to eat a piece of the plasticky¬†personality-lacking cheese¬†that is being produced industrially, that is much¬†more likely to make me sick to me stomach in all honesty.

Anywho, even though it is not illegal to produce, artisan cheese producers are having a hard time getting their feet back in the door of the industry. People are too scared to actually enjoy food, and good tasting food no less? Apparently Americans prefer the sterile, hospital quality, ‘SAFE’ foods that are so convieniently offered to the masses by these huge corporations. Many studies have been done however that prove the ability of raw milk cheese to be just as safe as the pasteurized stuff.

The Raw Milk Cheesemakers Association is committed to maintaining traditional standards of raw milk cheese production, and giving these artisan producers the opportunity to continue doing what they do best, making some delicious fresh cheese.

This is yet another example of why us Americans have very little sense of food tradition or craft, because every time something gets too good, we think it’s going to kill us.

Willing to take the risk…? Feast your eyes on some of these delish raw-milk cheeses that you have been missing out on:

"Oregonzola" and "Oregon Bleu" amongst many others from Rogue Creamery
"Oregonzola" and "Oregon Bleu" amongst many others from Rogue Creamery

Selection of Fresh Cheeses from Monteillet Fromagerie in Washington
Selection of Fresh Cheeses from Monteillet Fromagerie in Washington

Raw milk cheese produced by artisans in America is not only delicious but it is also environmentally friendly. Most of this cheese is made by hand or at least in small-scale production facilites, reducing carbon emissions. As well as the fact that most of the animal’s used for this processed are family owned and well treated. PLUS, by purchasing artisan cheese you are not only doing yourself a favor, but you are also supporting the local economy, instead of funding another one of Kraft’s (sorry but this is the biggest industrial cheese producer that comes to mind) new “food system facilities”.

 

For more info on Raw Milk Cheese, Check out :

Pass the Cheese please? ūüėČ