Dutch Oysters

If you would like the Cliff’s Notes version for this post, here you have it:

Be bold, and the world will be your Dutch oyster.

Now let me explain. From October 23-27, I had the culinary adventure of a lifetime: a global gathering for advocates of good, clean, and fair food at the 2014 Terra Madre Conference & Salone del Gusto. I attended as a board member and representative of Slow Food Santa Cruz, a Slow Food convivium on the California Central Coast.

I had little sleep but lots of inspiration, and in that half-fog I found myself to be my own muse again. Flurries of ideas came constantly—so many ideas that my little blue conference notebook could not hold them.

At the conference, I was on a non-linear, self-directed, and totally delicious learning journey. I walked around the world, taking in the sights, tastes, and faces—from the the Philippines to Africa, Switzerland to Mexico. I engaged with people quickly, and found that exchanges of warm smiles and a beautiful sense of sharing and camaraderie were nearly everywhere I ventured. I discovered Sardengnean cheese and Basque salumi; I listened to Old Mac Donald in Navajo; I went to a lecture in Italian without a translator; I went to a bread popup and to tastings of honey and orange wine; I was humbled by cheese makers from Brazil; I boarded the Ark of Taste; I met and re-met hundreds of people that I deeply admire. Everything literally exceeded my expectations, and it will suffice to say that they were high to begin with.

But of all the experiences that stand out, the peak was a moment on a dance floor in the conference center. There was something that just clicked. I looked around and realized that I was dancing with my new friends from around the world: a woman from Tamil Naru, India; an American living in Germany; a food writer from Pittsburgh . . . Sicilians, Slovenians, Nigerians, and more! There were girls in Bavarian costumes dancing with a Somali man on a table. Everything started to seem surreal, and I had to ask: where was I?

1377197_10152318327111076_7565070411285963885_n-2I looked up to see my new American friends on the balcony, and I waved and grinned. We were still in the Lingotto (the Terra Madre conference center and old Fiat Factory). I was actually in the Slow Food Youth Network’s conference booth. After getting my bearings, I thought of how my dear friend Tim had started the Slow Food Youth Network at a previous Terra Madre, and this realization of the context made the moment sweeter.

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 1.02.56 AMAnd as if to snap me out of my awe, two Dutch girls came to the dance floor and slammed a tub of fresh oysters on the ground with a bang. They had on their chain mail gloves, and with knives in hand they began shucking and handing them out. On the dance floor. And so of course a fantastic party ensued!

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 1.08.00 AMThis was the second occasion I had ever shot an oyster, but if I still harbored any hesitations, this was certainly not the moment to refuse. And down the hatch it went! It was then, in the middle of the dance floor—with champagne being sprayed to the left, and an impromptu honey tasting to the right—that I realized: if only for a brief moment, the world was my dutch oyster! I just looked around, grinned, and reveled in it all.

May your world be not just Dutch oysters but the best that the sea and the earth can offer you.

Note: you can see a snippet of the party in the video above. You can jump to 1:25, where you see someone crowd surfing. (Yeah, that also happened.)

Photo credits go out to Hal B. Klein. Thank you for documenting this!

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