TERRA MADRE Mother Earth – A Trip to Turin, Italy

by Pritya Books on November 2, 2010

Terra Madre delegates

Flags from across the globe - An inspiring sight at Terra Madre

When we were invited by Navdanya to be a part of a delegation to Terra Madre 2010 conference on Slow Food, we were excited, but in all honesty, we didn’t know what to really expect. So we went with no grandiose expectations, just our faith in the larger design of the maker, in the faith that we’d be true to the spirit of the convention, and that we would return enriched.

We were not let down by our faith at all! On the contrary, any trepidation we might have had was simply washed away.

Terra madre was not just a conference…it was a confluence of delegates from across 160 nations, each imparting & vitally contributing to the larger goal of preserving mother earth, of soil & seed sustenance, of getting back to the roots, of getting back to traditional methods of farming, cooking, eating and living so that mankind may survive the havoc of its own doing.


Opening ceremony of Terra Madre

Mr Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food Movement, in a moving & inspiring speech urged the youth of the world to stand up to the challenge of combining traditionalism with modern scie nce & technology. He said, “We must not ignore the natives, the indigenous groups, the elderly and the women of our societies for they are the ones who pass traditions from one generation to the next.” His speech was a re-affirmation of our work & ethos at PRITYA where we endevaour to document culinary traditions.

The next three days were full of seminars and presentations and it was not an easy task to decide which ones we should attend. Very often we would find ourselves wanting to attend more than one event at the same time. The rich content, the ardent speakers and the excellent simultaneous translations made it an enriching experience.

Vandana Shiva and Reetha Balsavar

Incredible Impact - Vandana Shiva with Reetha Balsavar of Navdanya

Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain

Jigyasa & Pratibha at Terra Madre - Methodology of documenting culinary traditions

Jigyasa Giri

Jigyasa dances at Terra Madre

Terra Madre was also a splendid example of selfless community spirit. It was as if the entire city of Torino and all its neighboring provinces & towns came together to make it happen. Every worker at the 4 day confluence was a volunteer, a citizen of the city who gave his or her time, energy & effort willingly and completely to the event. They were there at the registration counters, baggage counters, food buffets, in the buses that shuttled us from our respective houses to the conference venue every day, at the headphone counters, and at every other step. Many of them were senior citizens and we were truly impressed by their agility and cheerfulness.

At a personal level, it was an eye-opener & a heart warmer like nothing else, ever. Every delegate was assigned to stay with a local, Italian family in the surrounding provinces of Torino. One can only imagine the kind of organization and community spirit that needs to go into doing this successfully. First the families need to volunteer, then they have to be okayed by the organizers, then the delegates have to be allotted to the various families (2 delegates to a family). Each family is given a brief CV of the delegates who will stay with them, their food habits; for instance, some are vegetarian, some have food allergies, some have ailments like BP or diabetes, so on and so forth. Then buses to and from the venue have to be organized. Pick up & drop off points to the various towns/villages, the mayors of each precinct directly communicating with the families. Oh, the list can go on & on. As if this was not enough, an evening party was hosted by the town of Pinerolo for delegates and the families at the town square club!

On the first day, we were a bit apprehensive! We’d never done this before! We’ve stayed with friends, but never with strangers in a new country, with language barriers, away from the rest of the delegates. But we were engulfed by love, sharing , merriment, joy. Our hosts were a beautiful family of five –Giorgio & Raffaella, their children Alice (age 6), Sofia (age 4) & Fabio (age 15 months) & their cats Mirtilla & Pallina. It was a house out of a fairytale, a family out of a fable and the town of Cumiana in the very lap of mother earth.


Our beautiful host Raffaella with Fabio

Alice & Sofia peeping out of the kitchen window to bid us Tata

Alice & Sofia peeping out of the kitchen window sleepily

Jigyasa with her new Italian admirer (Fabio)

Jigyasa with Fabio, her new Indian admirer

We are back home to our families and routines now. But not a moment goes without thinking of all the goodness of their lives that they so willingly & happily shared with us. Their generosity of gifts, time, space & love, their lovely, innocent children, their warmth & hospitality, their wonderful friends Ezio & Adriana…the list is endless. Thank you so much Giorgio & Raffaella, & may God always bless your home, your hearth & your lives. We miss Alice, Sofia & Fabio very much! We miss Mirtilla & Pallina too :) . Our families cannot believe what we tell them…that there are such wonderful people out there in the world….the beautiful world of Torina, and for us, especially Cumiana :) .

In Turin with our new friends (Adriana & Ezio in the centre, and Alice & Sofia with Pape Giorgio)

In Turin with our new friends (Adriana & Ezio in the centre, and Alice & Sofia with Pape Giorgio)

We are enjoying the pastas, pesto & cheese that you gifted us and helped us buy at Salon del gusto!! Adriana’s jams are delicious and Ezio’s honey fantastic! Raffaella, thank you so so so much for the breakfast bag that you sent through Giorgio for us along with the leviate & the polenta farina!!! You are very kind & sweet…and beautiful! Thank you for all the happy meals in your warm & happy kitchen :) . Giorgio, thank you for taking us to church & allowing us to pray with your community & hear you play the guitar, for driving us around every day, and for the fabulous coffee every morning!

Please do plan a trip to India and be our guests. Our world is not as quiet & beautiful as yours, but we will make it as comfortable & interesting as possible for you, our very dear friends….

In the Church

In the church with Ezio, Giorgio, Adriana & the Church Father

And thus our hearts expand. We have come back with new friendships and so much more love in our hearts and a stronger understanding of the oft loosely used phrase “one world”. We, on this magnificent mother earth, are truly privileged to be part of a community called mankind, part of one world. May we learn to cherish, respect and sustain her bounty.


Tomatoes & Chillies at Salone Del Gusto - an incredible food fair


The food fair of Salone Del Gusto with roofs looking like the Alps

Posted by Jigyasa & Pratibha
Photo courtesy: Sunil Shenbag for pic 5 & 8, and Rushina Ghildiyal for pic 1, 3 & 4.

Click to read how we celebrated the Terra Madre Day on Dec 10, 2010.
Click to share URLs of Traditional, Indian Vegetarian recipes – a project inspired by Terra Madre & Slow Food.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Vibha Mathur November 3, 2010 at 3:28 am

Dear Jinga & Pratibha.
Achieving success in one’s field is very appreciable but what I admire more than anything else about you both is the way you are able to appreciate, accept and acknowledge others’ kindness and love which is not common these days. Your inner beauty and love for Mother Earth reflects in your thinking and that is what make you 2 beautiful women. My best wishes always…with lots of love.

Your words leave us speechless Vibha. One would have to be really insensitive not to appreciate such unconditional warmth & caring that we received in Turin :) , but thank you for saying such lovely things.


Teena Antia November 3, 2010 at 3:29 am

Dearest Jigyasa and Pratibha,
The best thing about both of you is that you create opportunities of potential beauty and then realise it, savouring every moment of it all. Sounds like an awesome trip, so glad for you both.
Though I have to say, that the term “slow food” cannot be claimed to be coined by some visionary committee, there is an enterprising owner of a small “kadai” in Valmikinagar (near Singapore Shoppee) who promises that his idlis are not fast food but slow food.

Lol Teena…how typical of you to remember your Chennai at every instance. You are right honey, slow cooking is not a new phenomenon, nor is anyone claiming it to be…but Terra Madre is doing some path breaking work. And by the law of Morphic resonance, your idli man and many others like him are all part of the same larger spirit.


Indosungod November 3, 2010 at 3:30 am

Great to read about your trip. The host family sounds fantastic. Must have been an awesome experience.
I am glad I can understand what “Slow Food” actually means because I just recently read the book Slow Food (translation from the original Slow Food book in Italian). Hopefully this movement will spread to other parts of the world especially here to the US which is intent on globalizing its food habits and that is scary.

Thank you ISG. As we just wrote in response to the comment above, the concept of Slow Movement symbolizes a resurrection, an awakening! And as each of us becomes sensitive and responsive, it will gather universal momentum for a better tomorrow.


Aruna November 3, 2010 at 3:32 am

The description of the events at Terra Madre is so heart warming. Makes me wish that there is and event organised on similar lines in India as well. India has been leaping beyond recognition in the last few years and what is worrying is that little villages and towns are being influenced with the onslaught of media and mobilised to join the rat-race – what with mobile phones and daily serials on TV, the basic village lifestyles have changed in the last couple of years. In the times where joining the rat-race is considered a virtue, wish the importance of slowing down is realized before it is too late!

Aruna, appreciate your heartfelt views. Yes, we need to understand slowing down :) .


G. Srivalli November 3, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Pratibha, that was one incredible read! What an experience…Giorgio & Raffaella and their family sound too good…Thanks for sharing this with us.

Thank you Valli, next time we will go better prepared with a camera. We have one more post coming up about our host family and an old bollywood song – we were both thinking of you at that time :) .


Tanmai Chordia November 4, 2010 at 3:33 am

Well what to say… :) The ancient culture of Italy and its magnificent architecture has always put me into trance.. and as if this wasn’t enough to woo me they hav started the ‘fooood’ fest.. hmmm… Italy here i come!!! :D
It looks like u truly enjoyed every bit of it and well i do hope tht u hav learnt how to make some mind-blowing pasta.. :P
I do really hope some thing good like this does happen in out country too… and it was wonderful to hear tht warm hearted ppl like Giorgio, Rafaella n Co. are still a part of this world!!! And good luck on ur next ‘to-be-best’ book.. :)

Thank you Tanmai, it was truly magical. Appreciate your understanding.


Mohini Giri November 6, 2010 at 3:34 am

Girls you have done it again! All the grand warmth and love of Torino/Cumiana and the the host family comes shining thru. Finally the world is recognizing sustenance..sounds like a real meaningful and fun trip..god bless.

Thank you Mohini Aunty, you are always our inspiration!


Aruna November 9, 2010 at 3:35 am

BBC covers indigenous delegation at Terra Madre
Thought it might interest those who would like to hear the sounds and descriptions that complement what has been written here.


Shanti Chorida November 10, 2010 at 3:31 am

Hey great to see the new horizons opened up in your life. Reminds me of the time when I was hitchhiking in Honolulu and a family allowed me to spend the rainy night in their home.
People are warm and human the world over. Nice to see Jigyasa being the epitome of Indian culture and cheers to our brand ambassador(s) !!
Italy or China, East or West, Pedatha, the world is yours and ours, to where you beckon us !!
God Bless !!

Shanti, as always, u write from the heart…thanks.


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