The Terra Madre festival, held in Waterford the weekend before last, proved a most successful event.
The clash with the All-Ireland hurling final had some affect on attendances at the Farmer’s Market held in the city on Sunday the 14th.
However, those that made it to the Market had nothing but positive noises to make at the end of this culinary celebration, which was excellently received by locals and superbly supported by major food suppliers.
Over 600 people attended the banquet held at the WIT College Street campus on September 12th, and the night proved a great success.
Speaking at the festival’s official opening at WIT, President Mary McAleese spoke of her enthusiasm for the Slow Food Movement.
“The Irish palate and the Irish food industry, both for domestic and international consumption, have all been conspicuously revolutionised in recent years,” said Mrs McAleese.
“We have, firstly, a wonderful food heritage and, secondly, an ambition to secure a wonderful, healthy and profitable food future. The first is the bedrock of the second for, as Slow Food Ireland rightly reminds us, we have a very rich resource in our traditional food culture.”
The President continued: “In Ireland, as elsewhere, food has played an important and determining part in the shaping of our past and our present.
“In some parts of the country food is an integral part of our local identity whether it be Blaa in Waterford, or Ulster champ or Dublin coddle or any of the myriad of specialities that distinguish one parish from another and fly happily in the face of a homogenisation which is not always the same exciting thing as internationalisation.
“Here you can find that local culinary imprint side by side with the best of cuisines from around the globe. They inform and enhance one another and in these times of greater affluence, education and fluent European and international networking, they have given us access to interesting and varied food that is of high quality.”
The President praised the Slow Food Movement in its efforts to “help us to focus more deeply on those values of care for one another and care for ourselves through caring deeply and intelligently about the food we consume”.
She thanked Darina Allen and her Slow Food colleagues for helping us to make the good food choices and decisions. That will keep us healthy as families and as a society”.
Understandably, Darina Allen was “over the moon” given the President’s praise. As she told The Munster Express afterwards: “the lady has got it!”
Ms Allen said that the festival could act as a catalyst in heralding forth stated to those assembled that a major drive on food education was now inevitable.
“Buying less food but buying better quality is, in my view, the way to go,” she said.
“By adopting such a policy, you’re also keeping food out of the bin and ensuring it will all be eaten. Unfortunately, waste has become a way of life in Ireland, which, in a country which experienced famine, really oughtn’t to be the case at all.”
And her motto? “Buy local food, organic food – and eat it, don’t waste it.”
Slow Food Movement founder Carlo Petrini also addressed the gathering as only an Italian can and spoke of his delight in visiting Waterford for the event.
He added: “Over the last 20 years, Slow Food has developed the concept of eco-gastronomy, in which pleasure is not just a pretext but a basic ingredient, provided it helps respect for the environment and social justice. Food production is a question that needs to be addressed on a planetary scale.
“The top item on the agenda for Terra Madre is the provision of the right motivations and rewards to persuade young people to return to the land. It is necessary for the number of people who work the land to increase and this can only happen with the contribution of young people.
Mr Pertini continued: “Farmers are the true guardians of our planet, conservers of biodiversity and traditional wisdom. To re-localise food production is to combine economic value with a sustainable model for agriculture.
“Since we are aware of the need to regenerate agriculture through young people, thousands of students and young farmers have now joined the Terra Madre network.
“We need to exploit their creativity and the support of the university system which needs to elaborate new economic, political and cultural strategies.”
Several workshops were held at the festival, covering over 40 different food categories – including dairy, beef, fruit, vegetables and fish.
Areas such as food tourism, education, Government regulation, farming and labelling were also addressed, the latter so topical currently given Cappoquin Chickens’ ongoing problems.
Kevin Jephson of Ardkeen Stores stressed the need for a clear differentiation between Irish and non Irish products noting how their store has built an excellent reputation for selling quality local produce.
Between debates and speeches, food was also happily consumed, the quality of which had to be eaten to be believed – and take our word for it, the quality was top notch!
We hope that the success of the festival means that a return visit to Waterford may not be out of the question, for, as has become the case in recent years, our city had its best face on for a big event. Congratulations to all concerned in organising the festival.