In a defiant stance against the shortening days and cooling temperatures, Turin has been hosting yet another succession of festivals. Beer, Street Food, Slow Food, Wine and Books, Flowers and then more Beer… it’s as though the Italians get all boozed up to hibernate through the winter.
If they do, they are doing it in style. The first of many weekends was a heavy combination of German Beer and Italian-style Mexican, which was a complete relief after the ample amount of pizza and pasta we had been surrounded by. I realised more than ever that I have been missing the spices of non- Italian flavours. This realisation hit me again the following week when the smells of Kenyan dishes drifted through the trees and I pushed through crowds as thick as at concerts. It was the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto Slow Food festival which had rolled into town, bringing with it countless tourists and a taste of home. The slow food festival was on a completely different scale than the street food festival. It took over the city, flooding Valentino Park, Piazza San Carlo, Piazza Castello, and all the main shopping streets with white tents and stalls. Food producers from across Europe and the world had arrived to meet other producers and market their goods.
One of the things that is great about food festivals is that the vendors attempt to convince through providing samples of their food. And they expect everyone to shamelessly take advantage of the free nibbles. While I did shell out on the most delicious gelato ever (Pistachio and Hazelnut from the Piemont region, with local milk, all prepared a day before) and some pizza (made with a cheese called Stracciatella rather than with mozzarella, pesto, and cherry tomatoes) I mostly tried cheeses until my stomach hurt. Local goats cheeses gave me flashbacks to Mongolia, only partially welcome as I remembered the curds drying on the roof of yurts in the hot sun. Softer sheep and cow cheeses melted on my tongue, while blue cheeses made me raise my eyebrows in surprise. And then, at the far end of the park, just meters from my exit towards home, I suddenly saw the Union Jack flags.
UK cheese in Turin. Oh goody!!
I queued while everyone else pushed and elbowed in, as is appropriate. I tried all of the cheeses, talking to the bilingual volunteers about where they were from and what they were made of, how old they were. And then, unlike anywhere else, I spent the money on my favorites to take home. This led to a conversation with the actual exhibitors from Bath and White Lake Cheese.
Currently at home I am still slowly nibbling at my favorite cheese, ‘Morn Dew’ from the White Lake cheese producers, while going through their list of mail-order companies to see if anyone delivers outside of the UK…
Update: We have a winner!! Check out pongcheese.co.uk if you are addicted enough to spend significant ammounts of your income on international cheeses. It is cheaper than flying to pick it up yourself…