Thursday, April 13, 2006

Seattle...A Conference with Character!

Having just arrived from the IACP conference in Seattle I am starting to put in order all the thoughts and feelings I was able to experience. As I walked through the city, I felt an air of something different I was not able to pinpoint then. It was as if I had arrived at a place where more than buildings counted. I was smack in the middle of high-rises, in downtown, but still felt a certain kind of deepness in the people, the store signs, and the market that made them all disappear and allowed me to connect.

The first two food places I visited were Salumi and The Pink Door; the first was a fantastic little shop where we sampled both cold and warm plates. The owner, Mr. Batali was a very kind man who introduced us to his family and showed us around the production area, an impecably clean and orderly place. Congratulations to him and his family. Then later that day we were invited to eat at the latter, a small sort of underground Italian restaurant, with tables pretty close to one another but where everyone was happy having their own conversation as if they were at home. We even had a trapeze artist dance in the air over the tables with this slow and gracious movement that was exiting yet easy to see at dinner. While I sat there I felt kind of in a small place at Montmartre in France, in a decadent and wonderful artistic place that simply felt good.

The conference started with a different schedule this time; we had speakers at all breakfasts and they started an hour later than usual. Fantastic, for a night person like me; I enjoy writing at night and waking up early is not my strength. I enjoyed all speakers but one in particular, Mas Massumoto, made all the conference worth my long 2-day trip. I was transported to his farm and to his life through the words he spoke and read. I was so exited, and I had never read his books that I ran and bought them all. It is wonderful to find such a deeply vocal, humble and poetic man standing right in front of us.

I attended many of the Food Science and Nutrition lectures; including the Wednesday section forum. I enjoyed all and admired the quality of speakers that presented to us scientific data about the health benefits of food; omega-3’s, plant steroids, antioxidants and phytochemicals. The reality of food related studies and research possibilities. The session on Personalized Nutrition was eye opening, especially for those in the food industry, and for me a great pat on the back of the way I have always felt about foods. The topic of Neutrogenics was discussed as well as the realistic possibilities there are for the future of people really needing it in order to manage food allergies and sensitivities and possibly other less medical needs. The Diabetes conference was focused on giving people good food that can lead them to stick to the correct eating habits for years; offering happier-healthier living. It had two great points of view, the Nutritionist and the Chef, both vital in offering good tasting and low sugar foods as well as the importance of portion control.

Finally it came time to leave. Now I can tell I felt as though I was back in time, in a small Western city, near the water, where happy fishermen sold their seafood as they bargained the price with customers. Pedestrians carrying small bunches of colored flowers wrapped in paper made us all feel they were close to home. Everyone smiled and was nice; people listened to musicians playing western music on the sides of coffee stores all in all a great place to be early a Sunday morning. Coffee of course is sold in every corner of the city adding to the already colorful town an air or culture and cuisine. The vendors on the side of the market selling tee-pees of beautifully bright colors, the children in stroller with their parents purchasing their freshly made cheeses and breads all add up to a colorful yet “real” sense of being part of a community. And real to me is not arquitectured to look beautiful and new, but being of character, the foods coming from the area, prepared there with the hands of real people who touch and feel the love for what they do; food to keep people living and not just feeling full.

Patricia McCausland-Gallo
Member from Panama

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