In the wine world, we talk a lot about “terroir” – that sense of place that often showcases the uniqueness of a wine. This concept exists in all products that are grown in the earth, and even in the people. We don’t just have different languages, we have different cultures. There is one thing we all have in common though; we all eat food.
I had the privilege to be a part of the Slow Food Canada delegation at a worldwide celebration of food and its traditions in Italy in October called Terra Madre, and I was astounded not only at the vast variety of foods and terroir from around the world, but also the variety we were able to showcase from Canada. It was a magical experience to be connected to so many people, simply through sharing a taste of food.
One of my favourite experiences was the “Honey Bar”, a tasting booth set up by the Beekeepers Association of Italy, Conapi. They had samples of honey from five continents, and they took me around the planet on a tour that offered a myriad of flavours and colours, not to mention stories. Talk about a sense of place!
Did you know that there is a Japanese pressed honey that is almost the colour of maple syrup? It has a more pungent flavour than Canadian honey, and a sandy texture from the bee pollen that is included in the pressing.
There is a honey from Sri Lanka where the bees collect pollen from mangrove trees that live at the edge of the sea. The honey tastes salty.
Honey from stingless bees in Brazil is not as thick, and it has a citrus finish to it.
They did have buckwheat and dandelion honey from Quebec. The buckwheat honey was a more unique flavour, sweeter than many of the other honeys but with a sort of nutty aftertaste.
In Italy, they have Sicilian orange blossom honey and many others, but they are most proud of the chestnut honey as this is a tree that exists throughout the country, so they can say it is truly an Italian taste.
I was proud that Canadian honeys were a part of this experience that showcased tastes throughout the world. We showed ourselves as unique, but also as a part of the world. We all produce foods that sustain our people and we like to share them with others – for the pleasure of learning a new taste, and so much more. At the honey bar, like on so many other occasions at Terra Madre, I was struck by the common passion we all shared, and how willing we all were to learn about each other. Understanding the stories behind the food was as important as the taste.
I am excited to bring Slow Food to our region, because I know there are so many wonderful stories we can share with our neighbours, with the rest of Canada, and with the world.
To sign up and become part of our local Slow Food Convivium, go to the international website – the direct link is: http://www.slowfood.com/joinus/membership/canada
~ Kristin Peturson-Laprise