Food & Drink

Slow Food tour leaves my world whirling

We are still overwhelmed by the whirlwind experience of our trip to Italy for Slow Food International's global gathering, Terra Madre.

And maybe we're still a bit jet-lagged. A customer who is a retired airline pilot said to figure one day of recovery for each hour of time change. Couple that with the end of Daylight Saving Time and I am still not right.

There are those who question whether I was right before our trip, but that is beside the point.

How was the trip? It is hard to know where to begin.

After traveling 14 hours and arriving at the Turin airport, we were met by Slow Food volunteers and put on a bus for more than hour to reach the main site. After registering, it was around 11 a.m. and we found out the bus to our hotel wouldn't leave until 4:30 p.m.

We were thinking, “Why can't they just run us to our hotel?” Then we found out our hotel was almost 90 minutes away, in the town of Fossano.

Slow Food had to provide housing for more than 6,000 farmers, cooks and educators from around the world. As chaotic as it seemed, it is amazing how well it went, but people were spread out all around the towns surrounding Turin.

We were a little bummed out because we had no idea where the other 11 members of the Charlotte Slow Food delegation were staying. But we met great people on the bus.

Those bus rides turned out to be one of the high points of our trip. Because we had a 90-minute trip each morning and afternoon through beautiful Italian farmland, we had great conversations.

We were warned to get our fiber early, at breakfast, because the rest of the day would be cured meat and cheese, and cheese and cured meat. And that was true.

Slow Food covered our evening meal. Ours was at a small family restaurant about a half block from our hotel. Our reservations were for 8:30 or 9 p.m. It was a simple five-course meal that took around two hours, with excellent red wine in pitchers on the tables. We did not get much sleep.

I'll write more about the happenings at Terra Madre, about having to wear headphones and dial into atrocious English translators to understand the eight official languages, about the huge event called Salon De Gusto, about our two hours helping the American Raw Cheese Association cut the cheese.

We ate exquisite rabbit and raw beef at a restaurant in Barolo that was next to a castle. We got an impromptu invitation to dinner by a friend of the mayor of Fossano that was held in a school gym and had some of the best food ever.

But I'll share this for now:

Our hotel was the Dama, a 33-room place that was full of Americans there for Slow Food.

When we arrived the first night, we were hit with the aroma of “Whoa! What's that?” We all agreed it was freshly spread dairy manure. The next evening, it smelled like pig manure.

Ironically, my dad had contracted to have chicken manure spread on his pastures, which surround our house, while we were gone. The neighbor started spreading the day after we left, but the bearings went out on his spreader truck. By the time he got it repaired, he finished spreading chicken manure the day before we got back home.

So when we pulled into the driveway at 1:30 a.m., it was “Whoa! I guess we are home...”