For an Ark of Taste enthusiast like me, Terra Madre was almost too good to be true. Terra Madre is Slow Food International's bi-annual conference and gastronomy exhibition. The conference takes place in Turin, Italy, and brings together thousands of food producers and artisans from around the world. Artisans exhibit their products throughout the conference, with Slow Food Ark of Taste products receiving prominent placement.
The Ark of Taste's mission to preserve food items and cultures at risk of extinction has long resonated with me. I feel giddy just scrolling through the Ark of Taste online catalog, traveling in my mind from one corner of the globe to another. So, this September, when I arrived at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto to experience the Ark of Taste catalog in person, I was over the moon.
As the conference began and I took my first steps into the former Olympic skating arena that housed Terra Madre exhibitors, it was as if the world suddenly shrank into one single (gigantic) room. I was amazed by the sheer number of products available for tasting and purchase, from Ark of Taste fruits to hand woven baskets and shawls. As I walked from booth to booth, I could only imagine the inconceivably complicated customs paperwork that these exhibitors had to navigate in order to bring their goods safely into Italy. Even today, months after my journey to Terra Madre, I am in awe of the amount of coordination and work that Slow Food International puts into this event to create a truly global experience for attendees.
Just being there, amidst all of the different producers and growers, tasting their fruits and nuts and honeys, was truly almost too much to handle. My enthusiasm bubbled over quickly, and I became lost in the thick of it. There was no calmly walking from one end of the room to the other for me. I continuously found another stand I hadn’t noticed before, a fruit I needed to taste, a farmer with whom I might share a language.
Terra Madre made me feel immensely grateful for the size and diversity of our planet. But it also made me unexpectedly grateful that I don’t generally have all-the-time easy access to the many disparate countries and cultures that make it up. While Terra Madre was a rich and unforgettable experience, I feel a sense of relief for the slower pace at which I must now learn about and experience new culinary traditions. I appreciate the glimpse I had of so much of the Ark of Taste in one place, but I am also content to be back to my regular, slowed-down version of Slow Food.
Of course, the true beauty of Terra Madre is not in the size of the event or even the variety of items to try. Rather, it’s the diversity of people, growers, and producers, all from different walks of life, coming together in Turin, united by one common goal – good, clean, fair food for all.
Below are a few of my favorite Ark of Taste products from Terra Madre: