Terra Madre Day 2016 was a great success, with celebrations of good, clean and fair food taking place around the globe. Some countries went the extra mile in their festivities – least among them Albania – just watch the video! We spoke to Altin Prenga, one of the country’s greatest chefs and a protagonist of the Slow Food movement there.
Slow Food: How did Terra Madre Day go in Albania this year?
Altin Prenga: This year’s edition of Terra Madre Day was amazing! So many positive elements. First, there were a lot of children that took part in the farm work of the adults, learning how to sow rye, milk the cows, gather wild herbs, and how to recognize seasonal vegetables. It filled all the adults with optimism to see the children, how much they love the earth and agricultural work. There was also a great collaboration between all the cooks involved in the Chefs’ Alliance.
There was a great response to the fundraising campaign in defense of biodiversity, and the restaurant was packed out.
Why is it important?
It’s very important that people take part. In Albania we really need people to understand just how important it is to defend our traditions, our biodiversity, and the local economies that small farmers represent. People who donate definitely feel like they’re doing something for the cause. They become real ambassadors for the Slow Food philosophy.
What are you doing to promote local gastronomy, and what are the next steps for the future?
There are now lots of Slow Food convivia in Albania, stretching from the North to the South of the country. And we’re lucky that the most important restaurants, farms and chefs are all involved in these convivia. This is an important point because local food is starting to becoming a sort of national trend. There’s still a lot to do, but we’re on the right path. With regards to my restaurant, Mrizi i Zanave, we’re renovating a new building, which is a former political prison. Inside we’re building workshops in these disused spaces, including a goats’ milk dairy, a butcher for goats and sheep, plus spaces for meat-curing, wine-making, meetings with farmers and a shop. We think that with all these elements togethers, the restaurant will become a real outlet for the producers in our region, counting over 300 families.
On the 9th of December, traditional recipes from southern Albania were presented in Permet at a local public school, as part of an initiative by the Chefs’ Alliance in collaboration with the Educational Directorate of the Italian Embassy. The same day, the Shkoder Food Community organized a dinner based on traditional plates from North Albania at a restaurant involved with the Chefs’ Alliance, hosting many small scale producers from the region.
On the 10th of December, the local convivium organized an event hosting alumni of the Krajen middle school around the theme of “from Soil to the Table”, in collaboration with cooks from the Chefs’ Alliance. They planted seeds, harvested seasonal produce, milked cows and started the first phases of cheese production .
On the 17th of December, in Tirana, the local convivium and the Chefs’ Alliance organized a Terra Madre Day event where participants brought seasonal products and dishes to share. The revenue gained from the event was donated to the Love the Earth fundraiser. The same day, in the northern region Shkrel, a “Kaçimak Fest” was organized to prepare a traditional plate from the Albanian mountains.
On the 18th of December in Tirana, a cook from the Chefs’ Alliance, with the local convivium organized “Buke ne Strajc” (Bread in a bag). A small van went around town and offered sandwiches to children, explaining the difference between industrially produced food and their own sandwiches, made with seasonal local produce.