When I first stepped into Terre Madre del Gusto on September 21st in Torino Italy, I was taken aback by how many vendors and people were there. Not knowing where to start, I looked for the closest sample and started there.
The number of people that were there that supported sustainability and made sure their business practices were good for the environment, and good for the animals involved was truly impressive. We talked to a man named Alessandro, whose family had been making cheese in northern Italy for over 137 years.
Despite the language barrier, his passion for food was so evident. He was so eager to let us try all of the cheese. We started with a type of cheese that was aged for five months, and it was soft and mild. He talked about how his family had cheese caves and how they were a beneficial place for the cheese to rest and grow bacteria because of their cool temperature and constant humidity level.
After trying the first cheese, we moved onto a two-year-old cheese, which was slightly harder but had a very similar flavor to the first cheese we tasted. The final cheese we tried, which was aged 10 years, had a piquant flavor and was dense, but it was still delicious.
The natural progression of what the rind of the cheese looked like was astonishing. The amount of mold that was on the rind was surprisingly little, yet Alessandro said the bacteria from the mold gave the cheese its flavor. Alessandro mentioned how his family's cheese was different from many kinds of cheese because their cheese had both cow and goat milk in it, in order to give it a unique flavor.
Each exhibitionist we talked to discussed the importance of where they got their ingredients. Alessandro talked about how it was important that the ingredients were naturally sourced and that the goats only ate alpine grass.
He said the taste of the cheese was different if they had eaten a different type of grass, or if the weather hadn't been as good that year. They talked about how it was easy to answer any questions their clients might have about their ingredients because they had such good relationships with their farmers.
I had never been to a food festival before and although Terre Madre isn't over, I'm eager to go again. The excitement of everyone around me was contagious and I learned so much from every vendor I talked to.
I didn't know how many different types of olives there were, or that in Puglia, they tie their "queen" tomatoes together and hang them in caves. I tried the saltiest and softest buffalo mozzarella of my life and I'm not sure if I can ever eat packaged mozzarella again. Although the food was magic, the reasoning behind everything was more important.
It's amazing that all of these people could come together because they share the same idea that food should be good for every party involved.