Terra Madre Day

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

Tomorrow is Dec. 10 and in around 160 countries around the world where they have Slow Food communities, people will gather to celebrate food, the slow kind. This means digging up old recipes, finding ingredients that may already be forgotten and cooking or simply eating what Nature still has growing for us. It is also called Terra Madre Day, as differentiated from the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, the bigger celebration in Turin, Italy which happens every other year. It happens on even years when other events happen on odd years (like Anuga, the biggest food fair in Germany).

Terra Madre Day is a momentous event for Slow Food communities as we celebrate with the world but in our own localities. Last year brought Slow Food Cavite to our farm, where farmers brought “pot luck” dishes of Cavite terno-terno or pares-pares like adobo and kilawin, for example. Two years ago, deep in the Covid era, Ige Ramos and Riza Matibag Muyot of Shambala curated a Cavite event, too, with such pairings of food popular in the upland and lowlands of Cavite province.

Last year, Senator Loren Legarda joined us on Dec. 10 to meet the farmers in our place in Amadeo, Cavite and we learned about the different specialties of lesser known towns like Magallanes, Maragondon and Indang. After the event, consumers continued to patronize the micro entrepreneurs’ products and we even went on to present them to the food service industry in WOFEX in August this year. The industry must know these producers still exist – kesong puti, honey from stingless bees, vinegar from palm or kaong, among others.

We also got to meet artisan advocates like Dr. Kat Apilado, who rallies for artisanal salt called buy-o, as well as farmers who promote use of vegetables and root crops that are soon disappearing from our dining tables. Takuan or stalks of gabi, kaong samples, langkawas or yellow ginger are just some of the wild, non-commercial but delicious food ingredients we need to promote the use of, usually during WOFEX Food Expo and during Terra Madre Day.

The celebration can also be a small intimate gathering of Slow Food advocates to remember and remind each other about the Ark Of Taste (www.fondazioneslowfood.com ) – a catalog of ingredients, flora and fauna which may disappear if we stop using them in our kitchens. I am proud to say that through the Slow Food movement, we have resurrected ingredients like adlai, batuan, kadyos, native corn and turmeric, among many others. There now is increased consciousness about heirloom rice or tinawon, Barako or Liberica coffee and Benguet Arabica coffee arguably because of Slow Food and the heightened interest in Philippine coffee, of course. No matter what caused the awareness, all is good.

And there are many more discoveries in the Visayas, for example. I have written about eating capiz (yes, the shell used for window panes) in Casa A. Gamboa in Silay as well as trying new cocktails at Lanai by Fresh Start using foraged ingredients. We also take pride in having celebrated Terra Madre Visayas last month, because the Visayas has more than its fair share of Slow Food communities already. We in Luzon are still working on creating more communities, especially in food capitals like Pampanga and Bulacan. And the work and love for slow food continues for all the advocates, cooks or non-cooks, farmers and non-farmers and ordinary citizens who wish to take part in preservation of food culture. After all, if a people cannot call a food local or indigenous, what are we all eating now? It has been said that supermarkets have a bigger area devoted to commercial and processed food rather than fresh and local food. This is why we all work towards looking for our fresh and natural fruits, vegetables and even grass-fed meats – so our food culture will not disappear. If we have been successful with adlai and batuan, the rest will follow. Just keep on reviving these lost and forgotten food.

On Terra Madre Day, you can celebrate even in our own homes by discovering and consuming local fare. And by being aware of what you already are missing on your tables, we can work together to revive tradition and culture. Maybe you have not eaten a chico or mabolo for years. Maybe you have not eaten kamias or used local souring ingredients in your sinigang for a long time already. Maybe you are still using table salt instead of healthier artisanal salts like tedted (Ilocos), tibuok (Bohol), tultul (Negros or Capiz) and buy-o (Zambales).

You can also try using heirloom rice in your homes. Not just brown (unmilled) but red or black rice with a provenance (Kalinga, Ifugao, etc.) like the Cordillera. It is the secret and now a revelation that mountain people are healthy because of consumption of this once-a-year rice – this is why it is called tinawon (once a year). They harvest enough for the family’s annual rice requirement, and they have been the beacon of self-sufficiency and food security when it comes to rice. Unless they sell or trade these healthy rice for double amounts of the imported white polished less nutritious kind. And there are many horror stories of such swapping to the detriment of the indigenous producers.

This Terra Madre Day, look for original ingredients at your weekend markets and serve local fare even just for today. This way you will also learn what is no longer available in markets so we can flag the farmers to keep producing them. In Lipa Public Market we found seeds and grains we have not seen before, as well as local tablea chocolate that can win awards. Maybe we can visit other markets, too, and discover what may be gone soon if we stop eating or drinking them.

For Slow Food Manila, we will celebrate by educating others about Slow Food, which is our mission. And that starts after this read. Happy Terra Madre Day!

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