Monday, December 13, 2010

Slow Food getting its act together

Terra Madre Day in Palestine: Rediscovering Gastronomic Traditions

The transmission of knowledge linked to the food preparation and local traditions will be at the heart of a series of events organized in Palestine for Terra Madre Day. The celebration of local food, to be held on December 10, will see the involvement of farmers, food producers, schools, cooks and association members from the Slow Food network, coordinating 1000 events in over 100 countries.

In Gaza, Terra Madre Day will be celebrated with an event promoting the gastronomic traditions and local products that risk disappearing because of occupation the spread of cheap Israeli products. Paradoxically, the Palestinians consume few products from their own fields; imported goods have instead taken their place.
Gaza Strip women’s clubs will organize a lunch based on maftoul (Palestinian couscous), prepared according to ancient recipes, at their headquarters in Rafah. They will use many ingredients from 150 small vegetable plots in the courtyards of houses in the Strip. These gardens, created by an initiative launched by the NGOs ACS (Associazione per la cooperazione e lo sviluppo – Association for cooperation and development) and PARC (Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees), give the Strip’s women a way of coping with food shortages and earning a small income.

A similar initiative is also being organized in Jericho in the West Bank. The elderly women of the community, the true guardians of Palestine’s gastronomic heritage, will work with young students to prepare two dishes: couscous and freekeh (toasted green wheat).
Around 150 people from the women’s clubs and the groups coordinated by PARC will participate in the two events, with the support of the Terra Madre food communities of Jericho and Gaza couscous producers and Nablus freekeh producers.

In the villages of Beit Dajan and Sabastia, in the northern West Bank district of Nablus, women from the local communities will be cooking and explaining traditional recipes. The event is organized by the YDA (Youth Development Association), a Palestinian NGO working with young people and volunteers in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Representatives from the YDA took part in the last edition of Terra Madre, held in Turin in October, because of their work with young Palestinians.

Members of the YDA will recount their experiences at the Turin meeting of food communities to students from the villages of Ithna (Hebron district) and Wadi Fokeen (Bethlehem district) in the southern West Bank. Simultaneously, a day of meetings about Slow Food and Terra Madre, with tastings of traditional foods, will be held with the local women’s clubs and the inhabitants of nearby villages.

On Saturday December 11, in Al-Bireh, a small town near Ramallah, a special edition of the weekly farmers’ market will be held in the Al Kaykab botanical gardens to celebrate Terra Madre Day. Alongside the small-scale producers will be students from a local school who cultivate their own organic garden and women from nearby village cooperatives selling jams and marmalades. This will be a unique opportunity to get to know and taste quality artisanal food made in the Ramallah area: bread, dairy products, honey, olive oil and more. The farmers’ market and the special Terra Madre Day event are organized by Sharaka, a group of volunteers who support small-scale food producers by shortening the distribution chain between producer and consumer.

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