“You could not reach my wood by car. If you call me and tell me that you’ll come to visit, be prepared to walk a few kilometers under any weather condition. ” Looking at Giulio Gelardi’s bright eyes, the man of pure manna from Madonie Mountains in Sicily, I realized that I was been offered the precious detail of this visit to the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre 2012.
Since 2006, this expo represents the opportunity to see friends, listen to stories, taste very chaotic emotional food, hurt my feet and get my hands dirty.
Al laboratorio sull’Aceto Balsamico tenuto da Massimo Bottura e dal Gran Maestro Luca Gozzoli della Consorteria di Modena mi hanno proprio servito un aceto invecchiato in botte di ginepro sul palmo della mano. Una macchia scurissima da leccare.
During the laboratory on Modena’s Traditional Balsamic Vinegar held by Massimo Bottura and Luca Gozzoli, Grand Master of the Guild, i have been served an aged balsamic vinegar in the palm of my hand. A very dark spot to lick and savour. Bottura said like a sushi master serves his food from his hand with the exact temperature of his body.
The three Michelin starred chef annotated the experience saying that working in a kitchen means sink one’s hands in ingredients. You have to get your hands dirty. Bauman himself says the same in this interview with Lettera 43 on line magazine. No longer the time for comfort, we must learn to reuse, save, fix what is broken. We must return to be artisans.
I do not know if Salone del Gusto deities have also planned this interview with the sociologist, but it is as if he had lined up what I’ve seen in this year’s show. Together with Giulio’s words.
Let’s start from the African vegetable garden planted in the middle of the Oval space where all the international exhibitors were concentrated. Quite an impossible-to-find place since the most asked question was: “Excuse me, Do you perhaps know where the Oval is?”. You could smell the crops, sink your hands into the ground, touch the tender leaves. That piece of green within booths and corridors was one of the most exciting visions of the exhibition, an island of true nature amidst the crowd. I came back to my English friends booth and their bacon from black pigs bred in freedom. I had a nice english sandwich accompanied by Scottish ale while my friends were getting ready for the whole tasting experience. And then the study session about the use of social media in African vegetable gardens project “1000 orti per l’Africa”. A passage to hear the music played with drums in South Korea’s booth that offered kimchi, theri traditional fermented vegetables. Up and down admiring the japanese sakes, the demonstration of Kai knives. Someone said “Now he will cut a wooden piece in one single swoop?” And you realize that the Miracle Blade ad has taken away poetry from Japanese knives. Luckily someone mentioned the katanas from Kill Bill movie while the sushi chef sliced fish without worrying about the crowd.
The educational workshops for children were perhaps the best events and they remind me of what should be the foundation of food and raw materials: culture. Children touched the ground without their mums screaming or being worried about the laundry duty. Children learned to get their hands dirty to grow something and then eat it according to the passage of time, the change of seasons. Children learned to protect biodiversity, even those less famous crops.
With this thought i return to Giulio’s shining eyes, the man of manna and Sicily area’s testimonial. His smile stood on the ad suspended in the air in Hall 3. A smile of someone who knows he’s guarding something. I’m not afraid to walk to get to his wood I told him. “But what is manna? It’s not that of the Bible, right? “. Manna is the sap of the ashtree. He told me that all the varieties of that particular tree produce manna. Event those in the urban parks and gardens. But his wood contains the rarest ones. From what he collect he makes a cream white powder which can be used as a sweetener, but also for beauty masks. He creates also a Modican style dark chocolate that leaves a roung and vegetal taste in the mouth.
“Imagine when the Northmen came to Sicily hundreds years ago and found this sweet white liquid that flowed from the ash trees. Who knows what they thought. For them, they are sacred trees as the Yggdrasil” and he quoted a passage from the legend in which between the leaves of the cosmic trees there are deers sucking a sweet liquid, a vital lymph.
Then, a little farther, i spent some time with the Noto’s Almonds biodiversity defense committee. In the booth Carlo Assenza of Caffè Sicilia with his wonderful almond cream, and Marco Bonfanti, who is one of Postrivoro’s founders, but it is also a native of Noto, who moved to Faenza and returned to Noto to cultivate the land. Here he produces oil and almonds. Together they told me about their “Mandorla di Noto production chain” project which seeks to preserve the different types of almond native of Sicily threatend by the economical exploitation of on variety, Pizzuta of Avola. But this one without the others can not last because they pollinate each other. And you must know that Marco before getting back to his crops was a lawyer.
Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre brought me back to that spirit. To combine manual labor with the cultural, intellectual one. Fruits that become symbols, white sap reminiscent of ancient legends. Men who get dirty hands and taste a dish with their finger.