TOWARDS TERRA MADRE – Passage to India – PART TWO

06 Aug 2004

Five thousand food producers from five continents-farmers, fishermen, shepherds, cheesemakers … – will meet in Turin in October as part of Slow Food’s groundbreaking Terra Madre event. Until then the site will monitor the preparatory journeys of the project’s collaborators.

Indian, organic, artisanal
Dilli Haat, in New Delhi, is a sort of open-air shopping center and is where Navdanya has organized a small group of food producers. The stalls offer the best of Indian artisanal food: spices, pickles, food for breakfast (cereals, puffed rice, amaranth), amla (Indian gooseberry, a fruit with complex tastes much used in Ayurvedic medicine) and refreshing drinks (rose and rhododendron juice, lassi). Also breads, ghee (clarified butter), rice from Orissa, dhal (lentils), sugar cane products (gur, shakkar, bhura and khand) and green tea. Everything is organically grown.

The work that Navdanya has put into quality control and ensuring producers act responsibly is truly commendable. And the smiles of producers as they explain why they have returned to organic farming, how their food is now much better, are the best indication of what Vandana Shiva and her assistants are achieving. We will recognize many of these smiles at Terra Madre.

The traditional way
Uttar Pradesh, Chaprauli district: a boundless landscape, flat and lush. Sugar cane everywhere and camels carrying massive loads. Not many cars, the occasional truck. In the distance is the sugar cane processing factory whose owners are Swiss.

In Tikrit we learn the traditional method for processing sugar cane. The cane must first be cleaned and is then passed through a crusher. The extracted juice – dark brown and cloudy – is filtered through linen bags and left to settle in a skin dug into the ground. Next to the first vat are another two, the first for further cleaning – where the juice is heated up and has impurities skimmed off – the second for boiling the almost clean juice ready for use. The process does not take long: the finished product (gur or shakkar) can be ready in an hour and a half.

The boiling juice is then tipped with a large ladle onto a circular stone surface about two meters wide and worked with a wooden spatula. The dense liquid in contact with the stone begins to thicken: it is mixed and turned and, depending on the type of product required, has more or less bicarbonate of soda added. To produce shakkar (a sweet light brown powder used as a sugar substitute) bicarbonate is added to make the juice clear and not coagulate too much. Once the juice begins to solidify it is transferred onto sheets and crumbled up to a fine homogenous powder.

The process for making gur – sweetish blocks again used as a sugar substitute or eaten as they are – is the same, just that bicarbonate is not added at the end, so the liquid coagulates more. The blocks look like large soft caramels. To produce khand, the cleaned and boiled juice is put in a mixer for three days. It is then centrifuged (with added water) for about 5 minutes and the resulting white paste is crumbled up after drying.

Nicola Ferrero is the Asia and Oceania area coordinator on the Terra Madre project

Adapted by Ronnie Richards

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