Slow Food/ Terra Madre

January 19, 2013 | Comment

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Terra Madre 2012

Every two years, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto meet in the beautiful city of Torino, Italy and just about every two years Manoomin Rice is present to represent Manoomin, aka, wild rice. This year, founder Winona LaDuke was not able to attend Terra Madre and she asked Lisa Brunner, and myself, Tessa McLean to help take her spot. Terra Madre is a food symposium, made up of Indigenous vendors from all over the world and attended by folks from across the globe. Salone del Gusto is distinctly for Italian vendors; one could say the best of the best Italian vendors are there to display meats, cheeses, wines, desserts, and gelato!

Arriving at Terra Madre, many folks who love wild rice welcomed Lisa and me; it was an overjoyed feeling to be so welcomed. We brought 100 pounds of wild rice overseas not only to sell but also to educate European consumers about what wild rice means to us as Anishinaabeg people. Italian was the main language spoken to us but with the help of our cashiers, they quickly became a godsend as they translated all Italian for us. We told tales of how riso, or wild rice was processed long ago and about how wild rice is processed today. One of the only differences in wild rice harvesting is the metal canoe we use now versus a birch bark canoe used long ago.

Couple of the common questions asked by the Terra Madre-goers was, “Biologica?” Is it organic? Our response was “Ci!!” or Yes! It was unfathomable that the wild rice we brought over was organic and naturally harvested. Another important question asked was, “How is it cultivated?” The shock and disbelief that we do not have to cultivate it really brought home the terminology of what “wild” really meant. Many had heard of wild rice or bought it but explained the color was blacker and that it came from California. We told our guests that wasn’t real wild rice because real wild rice comes from the lakes of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario and that type of rice is not ‘wild’ but it is cultivated. Wild rice has the ability to grow on its own, without the help of humans and we simply harvest it. Folks were inspired that this indigenous food has sustained itself through generations and generations, not needing any help or chemicals to come back each year.

Collectively, for Lisa and I, we understood Terra Madre as gathering of Indigenous people from all over the world coming together in solidarity to share their food, culture, customs, hand crafted items and stories about their origins of their goods as we had shared the origins of ours. The gathering of so many was a powerful statement of the dire need to protect and support food sovereignty of all Indigenous people of the world because their seeds that are generations old must be protected and preserved for the generations to come to ensure transference of the legends, language, teaching, and harvesting.

All in all, Terra Made was a great experience; we were in a foreign place where passer-byers stopped to hear the story of wild rice. We saw many folks raise the display rice to their noses and we watched their faces try to understand our Manoomin. Some folks came to our Manoomin Rice with a mission to buy at least a few boxes because they had our rice a few years ago and they absolutely had to have it again.