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Mei Ram-ew festival makes it to Lonely Planet

SHILLONG: The Mei Ram-ew (or Terra Madre, meaning mother earth) held in Meghalaya in December every year since 2010 has made it to the Lonely Planet an international tourist guide which foreign tourists worldwide consider as their Bible. The Mei Ram-ew festival next year will be held at an international plane in Meghalaya and already has enquiries from several countries that want to participate and showcase their food and other bio-diverse products.

The Mei Ram-ew draws its inspiration from the Slow Food movement and is modelled on the lines of the global Terra Madre festivals. Here, forest-foraged and locally grown foods are displayed, cooked and served by indigenous communities of the northeast. Workshops and demonstrations include tasting workshops of indigenous food varieties, cooking demos, and talks on culinary aspects of foods like millets.

Since 2010 the Mei Ram-ew fest has been held annually in Mawphlang near the sacred grove. This year the global Terra Madre festival was held in Turin, Italy in October where the North East Slow Food and Agro-biodiversity Society (NESFAS) which is driving the Slow Food Movement in North East India and whose brain child the Mei Ram-ew festival is, participated in a big way. Since NESFAS is preparing for the mega event in 2015 they have not held a local festival this year in Shillong.

Several farmers’ groups have joined this movement and are partnering with NESFAS for the 2015 event.

About 40 villages in different parts of Meghalaya will be receiving international visitors, mainly indigenous peoples from different parts of the globe in a knowledge sharing interface.

Last year the Mei Ram-ew festival showcased different things like – the unique traditional cuisines of tribes from North East India.

Over 200 edible plant species and their recipes in 2012 were on display.

The highlight of the festival last year was the Disco Soup, a delicious concoction made of leftovers. The chefs and volunteers chopped, danced, and cooked to music.

Commenting on the latest achievement, NESFAS Chairman, Phrang Roy said, “We started the Food Festival in 2010 and we were lucky that Carlo Petrini (founder of the Slow Food Movement) who I met at an IFAD Workshop agreed to be the Chief Guest. He willingly came, asked a young boy from the local Orphanage at Mawphlang to cut the ribbon on his behalf and suggested that we call this Festival a Mei Ram-ew Festival. We did it and now four years later, Lonely Planet has classified it as one of the top 5 Festivals of North East India”.

“We must have done something good and I thank all those who stood by our side when we were surrounded by many doubting Thomases of many of our crazy initiatives,” Roy added.

Today NESFAS is teaming up with the Government to make this movement a sustainable one. “This movement is about reclaiming our crop diversity and growing those crops and vegetables that our people are beginning to forget. NESFAS is trying to promote school gardens so that students get first- hand experience about vegetable gardening and also making those vegetables part of their midday meals,” Roy explained.

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