Sunday, January 9, 2011

Guest Post: Terra Madre Day 2010


I spy Chef Alex and Mr. Donovan in this shot...

Last month, my generous friend Heather offered to cover Slow Food Toronto's Terra Madre Day Event for After the Harvest. The event was celebrated all over the world on December 10th, and in Toronto it was presented by Slow Food Toronto with help from The Stop Community Food Centre. The result: an entertaining guest post, mouth-watering photos and a bit of event-envy on my part. Please enjoy as Heather takes us on a journey through local food and drink:

Terra Madre Day, Toronto 2010: A New Celebration of Old Traditions
by Heather Thorkelson

It was a dark, crisp night in Toronto and I hadn’t seen another human for days, nor had I worn anything but pyjamas for almost a week, having been in the midst of writing final papers for school. The second annual Terra Madre Day was taking place just a short bike ride from my house, and I couldn’t resist the call to local, fresh, deliciousness, so I ventured out. As I climbed my way up the slow incline, through the dark and cold towards Artscape Wychwood Barns, all I could think was that the food would make this bleary ride worthwhile. I was not wrong.



The philosophy behind Terra Madre Day is to recognize the importance of supporting local food networks. Organized by Slow Food, last year the inaugural Terra Madre 2009 event was celebrated at over 1000 locations spanning 120 countries. As stated on this year’s promo flyer, Terra Madre Day is “...one of the largest collective occasions celebrating food diversity and the right to good, clean and fair food ever achieved on a global scale.” Toronto’s event was co-organized with the help of The Stop Community Food Centre and it brought together Ontario farmers, fishers, cooks and food artisans whom are all committed to delicious, local and sustainable food.



The cover charge was $15 with $5 going to Slow Food’s A Thousand Gardens in Africa project. Upon arrival, I was left to fend for myself in a giant hall full of mouth-watering free samples. In typical ruin-yourself-out-of-the-gate fashion, they had the cheesemakers located at the beginning of the tasting circuit. Before I even got to see what else was being given out, I had filled my small plate with a pile of artisanal cheese – a strategy which would not leave me feeling great at the end of the night, but that didn't stop me. Catering to the lactose-tolerant, there was everything from hybrid goat and cow cheeses to homemade Indian paneer. Further along the tables I came across hearty crackers and breads, including tasters of Native bannock which I haven’t had since I was a kid.


Scotch Mountain Meats



Then came the meats – perfect on a cold night - from GMO-free steak and sausage grilled on the spot, to venison chili, elk, and cured meats of all kinds. After the meat, the chocolate. I was already stuffed by the time I got to the far corner and came across the ChocoSol stand. Described on their blog as a “...learning community/social enterprise that uses artisanal chocolate as a symbolic product that incarnates the values that we make part of our art of living and dying with dignity,” ChocoSol is a unique company that offers a stellar product. I literally stopped in my tracks when I saw what they were serving up.


The culprit...

Their offering was a homemade mini blue corn tortilla with a chunk of homemade dark chocolate, topped with a blob of brie. I got in line behind a gentleman who was practically drooling, and knowing this would push my stomach to its outer reaches, I tasted the decadent creation. This little treat was so otherworldly, that in the process of eating it, I accidentally ate a leftover toothpick that had been sitting on my plate. This was probably the moment when my belly started flashing an invisible neon, “FAIL” sign, but I was well beyond caring at that point.


ChocoSol white chocolate

Like a good food-loving soldier I marched on and visited the remaining booths, chatting with the local producers and learning all sorts of things along the way. There were producers selling preserves, mushrooms (not the magic kind), oil and honey, sprouts and microgreens (two thumbs up!), fruit, fresh apple cider and cranberry juice. A full list of all of the food producers who were in attendance can be found here.


Mycosource mushrooms


Kind Organics

The event ran from 6 to 9 p.m., and in spite of the self-inflicted food baby that was sucking the life force out of me two thirds of the way into the night, I stuck it out until the end. I think I can speak for most of the attendees in saying that the event was quite inspiring, as it showcased how invested so many people in our local communities are in getting back to the land and their commitment to sustainable and ethical ways of producing food.


Lincoln Line Orchards

One organization that deserves special mention is one I had never heard of before called Not Far From the Tree. They organize a volunteer force every season to harvest fruit from trees in private residents' backyards. As most households with fruit trees can’t possibly use the full bounty, Not Far From the Tree picks the fruit, offers 1/3 to the tree owner, shares 1/3 among the volunteers, and 1/3 is delivered by bicycle as donations to food banks, shelters, and community kitchens in the neighbourhood so that these existing sources of fresh fruit are put to good use. Awesome!

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention that there was live entertainment all evening in the form of Native Canadian musicians performing traditional songs from a central platform in the venue. All in all it was a wonderfully well-run, kid-friendly event with a great community atmosphere that would appeal to all manner of food lovers both from the neighbourhood and beyond. Many of the producers showcased at Terra Madre Day also have stalls at the farmers market every Saturday in the same location, so you don’t even have to wait until next year to check it out! Happy discovering, and consider yourself warned about the cheese!



Many thanks to Heather for providing coverage on this event! Heather is a world-travelling, tabla-playing, adventure-seeking foodie who never passes up a good Argentinian Malbec or a snuggle with her beloved pooch, Wicket. She is currently hitting the high seas with her adventurous beau and partner in crime, Sean.

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