Food and music create magic at the ITM pre-event

Shillong:  Flavours of Mei- Ramew, an Indigenous Terra Madre 2015 Pre-event, was organised at Hotel Pinewood on Tuesday. The Chefs Alliance comprising national, international chefs and those from the villages of  Meghalaya served up a delectable indigenous cuisine which was tasted by Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma and his cabinet colleagues Ms Roshan Warjri and Deborah Marak.
Also present was the State Chief Secretary, PBO Warjri and officers connected to the International Mei Ramew (IMR) scheduled for November 3-7 this year. .
Earlier, the Chief Minister also released a CD with the theme song for the IMR which is a fine blend of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo lyrics and music. The song with its lilting melody and feet-tapping rhythm was put together by Kit Shangpliang of Summersalt fame.
Shangpliang and the team spent almost 70 hours in the studio trying to choreograph what would be a fitting tribute to the spirit of the Slow Food Movement.
Speaking at the event, Dr Sangma said he is enthused and excited at the upcoming ITM event and also happy that he said ‘Yes’ to the proposal to hold this mega international pow-wow in Meghalaya.
“It makes economic sense to create a platform for people to pursue a sustainable livelihood even while we all connect to our roots by rediscovering our indigenous foods and flavours,” Dr Sangma said adding that the people of this region should leverage upon the ingredients that go into preparing traditional cuisines and turn it into a profitable economic activity.
“Every other country in the world from China to Japan to Korea and the Western nations has taken advantage of their culinary strengths to invade our taste-buds. Even India has done so to a large extent. It is important for us from the corners of this country to take advantage of our ingredients and create a chain of economic activities from growing to harvesting to processing and marketing etc.” Dr Sangma said.
He also pointed out that in our enthusiasm to imitate the food habits of others we do a poor job but are at our best when we cook the food we are familiar with.
Dr Sangma remarked that he was delighted to listen to the story of Joel Basumatary a foreign trained chef who now runs a restaurant in Dimapur, Nagaland.
Basumatary shared that he wanted to train abroad and return to his home town to run a western food joint but when he met with North East Slow Food and Biodiversity Society (NESFAS) his whole attitude towards food changed and he now prefers to serve indigenous cuisines.
Thanking NESFAS for the hard work involved in preparing for the international event Dr Sangma said the ITM is a positive story not just for Meghalaya or for the North East but for the entire nation since it will bring together about 600 visitors from nearly 52 countries of the world. “Thank you for giving the Government an opportunity to cooperate with NESFAS in this unique venture. But we need to aggressively sell this event and connect with our own people too,”  Dr Sangma added.
NESFAS, Chairman Phrang Roy while speaking at the function said that the nearly two years of preparation for the ITM has taught him and the team that collaboration is the rule of the universe and working together and listening to the voices of villagers is the key to sustainability. “There is a connectedness to land, nature and culture that we need to understand and respect,” Roy said adding that the ITM is an excellent example of collaboration that spans across continents, countries and peoples.
Meghalaya Chief Secretary, PBO Warjri lauded the NESFAS for putting together an event that “surpasses our dreams.”  Stating that North East India is different from the rest of the country, Warjri said it is important to showcase the strengths of the region.
Cautioning that the tendency today is towards a globalised and homogenised cuisine, Warjri remarked that is it time to awaken ourselves to what we are losing and redeem our health from what nature has abundantly given us.
Later, the chefs introduced their dishes to the audience and invited them to taste the assorted cuisines from all the nooks and corners of Meghalaya.

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