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  Crossing Paths - Terra Madre & Hidden Kitchens
Excerpted from Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes and More
     



Story #10 "Milk Cow Blues

Slow Food
—if there’s one organization that’s inspired our thinking about lost and endangered kitchen traditions it’s this international organization that supports, protects and celebrates small farmers, artisan food producers and disappearing regional foods. Founded by Italian Carlo Petrinni in response to the opening of a McDonalds in Rome’s historic Spanish Steps in 1986, Slow Food brings together people from agricultural communities around the world to share ideas and techniques and grapple with issues of biological and cultural diversity, hunger, poverty, and sustainability.

No place was that more evident than at Slow Foods’ massive conference, Terra Madre (Mother Earth), that we attended in Turin Italy in October 2004. Imagine a gathering of five thousand shepherds, beekeepers, fishermen, farmers, nomads, cattle breeders, community cooks, and cocoa growers, not to mention The Prince of Wales – people from over one hundred thirty countries meeting in Italy for four days to talk via simultaneous translators in seven different languages about food -- its traditions and its future – a kind of United Nations meets Woodstock meets the County Fair meets Martin Luther King’s historic march on Washington.

The delegates to this global gathering of community food producers were a sight to behold. Brazilian tribesmen with feathers pierced through their chins shared their beans with organic shrimp breeders from eastern Java. Kirghistani yak herdsman with gold teeth and high peaked felt hats traded tips with the camel milk producers from Mauritania. Abalone divers from Palau mingled with the black-headed sea bream fishermen from the state of Oaxaca, while a Texas cattlemen with such pride in his hay that he brought it all the way to Italy to show off to anyone who would look.

During the course of Terra Madre, some hundred cheese makers from countries throughout the world met in a high hill town an hour or so outside of Torino. Most of these small producers of unpasteurized milk and artisan cheeses have been criminalized by their governments, caught in the modern raw milk cheese wars raging around the globe. These farmers of small herds of goats, sheep and cows were gathering to share their methods and wisdom, their love of land and animals and the ancient traditions and techniques used to age cheese in caves, on wood, with leaves, ash and herb, and how to approach their individual legal dilemmas in a united way.

In the midst of the cheese conversations we met Debbie Apple, a dairy farmer and co-founder of the Indiana Cow Share Association whose small herd of Dutch Belted cows and the milk it yielded had recently been slapped with a cease and desist order by the Indiana State Veterinarian after a neighbor had secretly turned them in.

You wouldn’t think you would go all the way to Italy to find a story in Indiana but we did. We decided to follow Debbie home to McCordsville and see what was going on in the hidden hearts of Indiana diary farmers.

(Chapter excerpt - Milk Cow Blues)

photo - SLOW FOOD

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