By Judy Garrison
Rosalie Glauser, owner/proprietor of the Slow Down Food Company and Café had to speed up her already packed schedule to attend the Terra Madre conference in Turin, Piedmont, Italy, an event sponsored every two years by Slow Foods International. But how could she not? Terra Madre is a consortium of 1,600 food communities across the world; Rosalie is a devotee of the movement, and with Patty Cullen (Tourism director for the Delaware County Chamber and fellow member of the Andes Advertising Group) this year set up a local convivium called Slow Foods Catskills. If you go to the website www.slowfoodusa.com you will be greeted by their manifesto: “Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” While in Italy she would share information, network, learn a lot and reinforce her commitment to the movement. The trip would also give Rosalie, raised in Switzerland, a chance to spend time with her sister, and to luxuriate in truffles, which were in season.
Rosalie enjoyed being able to listen to and talk to people with real information and stories, such as the owner of Acme Bakery in California, one of the first artisanal bakers in the U.S. who has every step in the production process done by hand. She was stimulated by listening to knowledgeable and charismatic speakers such as Vandan Shiva, who has written a manifesto on seed saving and bio-diversity. Another portion of the conference was devoted to the Salone del Gusto, a huge food fair which presented food from around the world, items like salted anchovies, preserved eel, goat meat sausage and yak cheese. Rosalie who has brought many obscure and marvelous cheeses to her shop in Andes naturally zeroed in on the cheese makers in particular. The shared goal of all attendees: to preserve food traditions, the small farm, and the landscape that is part of the traditional farming way of life. For example, the most ancient bread of Sweden, which she tasted in a workshop on bread and found distinctive and wonderful, is still made in only one bakery, and if people aren’t paying attention, the special methods for producing this unique bread could be lost.
One day Rosalie and her sister took a jaunt to Alba and visited the truffle market. They made a reservation at a remote Osteria for their evening meal, and were a bit unnerved to see an empty restaurant when arriving at 8:30 pm. However, by 9 it was bustling—of course, now that the proper Italian dinner hour had arrived! Rosalie swooned as she ate shaved white truffle over porcini mushrooms. I have been in Italy during high truffle season (October to December in the Piedmont) and it generates a high state of excitement. There is a white and a black truffle, but white truffles are Piedmont’s pride and glory. They thrive among the roots of oak and beech trees, and in the soils where willows grow. In its mysterious way the truffle grows spontaneously in the clay soil, and there are no clues to its presence. Only the most experienced trifolau or truffle-hunter will succeed in finding it, often with knowledge transmitted from generation to generation. Aided only by a mongrel dog whose sense of smell has been trained to enable it to recognize the truffle even when it is hidden several inches beneath the ground, the trifolau works secretly at night to avoid betraying to others the spot where he knows he will find this elusive treasure.
As Rosalie glanced at the menu, it hit her that the restaurant’s name, “Con Calma,” was a transliteration of Slow Down. Emboldened by this realization, she made the acquaintance of the chef who gave her a recipe of one of the dishes she had enjoyed (leaving her to figure out amounts in her own kitchen).
Rosalie collects foods and sources and knowledge from around the world, but we can enjoy the fruits of her passion and hard research right in our little Andes. Her dream is to have a school vegetable and flower garden where young people can carry on the farming tradition even though dairy farming has waned. Anyone can join Slow Food Catskills. Go to www.slowfoodusa.com. You will be eligible for discounts at all slow food events, but, even more importantly, you will join a movement that values the environmentally sane, the sustainable, the healthy, and the delicious.~