Intercontinental voyages of discovery in Canada, the United States, Cuba, China, India and Morocco for the UNISG students!

 

The latest destinations for students on the second year of the three-year undergraduate degree program are: Canada, the United States, Cuba, China (for the first time on the UNISG’s study trips abroad), India and Morocco.

Let’s see exactly where they are going and what they will be doing there.

Two groups will travel to North America.

The first will be bound for Vancouver in Canada to meet producers, restaurateurs, fishermen and local activists, as well as to attend lectures by professors Nancy Turner, Elder Joan Morris and Pamela Spalding at the University of Victoria on the subject of indigenous foods in the coastal region of British Columbia.

The students will visit, among others, Choice Kitchens and the Foodbank, the UBC Farm, Home On the Range Farms, David Asher-Rotsztain, Guerrilla Cheese, Philip Soleman of Edible Vancouver, Ryan Johnson and Tanya Sutcliffe of Eco-Trust, Granville Island Market, Sooke Harbour House, Finest at Sea, Ottavio Bakery and Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm.

A second group is travelling round New England, in the United States, with a packed program of meetings and activities. The trip will commence at Burlington in Vermont with a discussion at the New England Culinary Institute. This will be followed by a talk on “The Food Hub: Models for Regional Agriculture”, a bout of voluntary work at the community Food Shelf in Burlington and, finally, a tour of farms in the region. The group will then move on to Portland, Massachusetts, for a tour of the city and its main food producers and enterprises, which will be followed by a day in the company of farmers and fishers in Harpswell. The trip will conclude in Boston, where the students will meet their “colleagues” on the Boston University Food & Senses course and enjoy a tour of the city.

A third group is bound for Cuba to find out about the island’s agriculture and food production. A fascinating program will kick off with a meeting with Dr. Rafael Suárez Ojeda, followed by a series of introductory lectures on Cuba, its agriculture and the history of its food by Madelaine Vázquez Galvez, Ofelia Menéndez and Niurka Pérez. The students will then go to see La Maqueta de la Habana Vieia, a scale model of the city, which serves as an urban planning tool, and visit the Museum of the Revolution, Havana old town and the Parque Histórico Militar Morro Cabaña. The day will come to an end with a dinner among the stalls in the park.

The tour will continue with a visit to the Alamar nursery, an Unidad Básica de Producción Cooperativa (UBPC), or Basic Cooperative Production Unit, and attend a lecture by Professor Isis Salcines and the director Miguel Angel Salcines on the development of UBPCs and community food production.

Later in the day the students will meet Vilda and José Antonio Lamas, two old-age pensioners who manage a community project for the artisan production and preservation of medicinal foods and plants.

In the course of the following days, the group will visit the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve, the Orchidario Soroa orchid garden and the El Romero eco-restaurant run by Tito Armando Nuñez Gudás. The next stops will be San Cristobal for a visit to Vilda and Pepe Lamas’ food preservation business and Pinar del Río for a tour of a tobacco company, where the students will find out more about the tobacco supply chain.

The tour will continue with visits to the Federación de Asociaciones culinarias de la Republica da Cuba for a lecture by chef Eddy Fernandez Monte on culinary culture in Cuba, and the CubaSolar association, which has been developing technology of the use of renewable energy for decades.

At Santo Suárez the students will find out about the “Vida Sana, Aire Puro” project, supervised by Yeikel Santos Pérez, a member of the Slow Food youth network. This community scheme, which involves people of all ages, seeks to promote healthy eating and courses on subjects such as permaculture, renewable energies and animal husbandry. At the end of this meeting, the UNISG group will move on to the Finca El Vigia far near San Francisco de Paula, where Ernest Hemingway lived before returning to the USA in 1960, before visiting the Restaurante DiVino and its botanical garden with the owner Marco De Luca.

The crammed schedule will continue with a day of study with Dr Aurelia María Castellanos Quintero, president of ACPA, Asociación Cubana de Producción Animal, on the denominations and hierarchies of production institutions in Cuba, followed by a tour of ACPA companies in Havana and lunch at one of them.

At San José de las Lajas, the students will visit the Agrarian University of Havana and meet farming families of the local community. They will then make a stop at a rum distillery to find out about the production, marketing and distribution of the spirit.

At Campo Florido they will meet more community producers in the company of Aurelia María Castellanos.

The trip will be rounded off by a visit to INIFAT, Instituto de Investigaciones Fundamentales en Agricultura Tropica, once directed by the father of the writer Italo Calvino, who spent his early years here. For more than a hundred years, the institute has worked on research into and sustainable development of Cuban agriculture, as well as the conservation, control and improvement of plant protection resources.

Two student groups will travel to Morocco, one touring the north of the country, the other the south.

After arriving in Casablanca, both will go on to Azemmour to meet the celebrity chef and authority on Moroccan cuisine, visit the set of her TV food show and attend a demonstration on the use of spices. They will then visit the Maison du Foie Gras, which produces halal foie gras, for lunch.

One group will proceed for Safi to meet Salaheddine Sahraoui of Slow Food Morocco, then to Chemaia to visit a mint nursery and a dinner featuring sardines, a fish typical of this coastal area. The next day the students will travel to Agadir stopping en route to meet the cumin producers of Jnane Bouih and the women of the argan oil cooperative in Tighanimine. The trip will then visit the cooperative that produces Taliouine Saffron, a Slow Food presidium, and join the peasants in the fields to pick the crocus flowers. The following day the group will move on to the Drâa Valley to discover Berber culture. The last stage on the journey will be Marrakesh, where the students will visit a typical weekly market accompanied by Fatiha El Jazouli, president of Coopérative Féminine Agricole Amasnighrem.

The second group will travel to Shoul, near the capital Rabat in the north of the country. Here the students will hear a lecture on organic agriculture by Zineb Benrahmoune at his educational farm. They will then travel further north to Asjen in the Rif mountain region to visit a women’s couscous cooperative. Here they will stay at Gîte Hommar, a traditional family-run holiday farm. The following day they will go on a walk round the Bouhachem national park to discover local medicinal plants and aromatic herbs. They will then travel to Brikcha to meet the El Azzouzi family, who will hold a workshop on traditional J’bala cooking.

The tour will continue with a visit to the Al Wifaq’s women’s cooperative, which produces Zerradoun salt, then with a meeting with members of the ATED Talassemtane environmental association in Chefchaouen and a lecture on Jebdie culture and the indigenous tribes of the Rif mountains. Next stop will be Aghram, where the students will stay with the Ben Said family. Here they will watch Samet, a typical cooked grape must and future Slow Food presidium, being produced and medicinal and aromatic herbs being distilled. They will then proceed to Rhafsai, where they will stay at the Azennoud family’s holiday farm, Gîte Kissane, and find out about its activities, such as olive oil production and honey-making.

The students will then make a tour of Fès, the cultural capital of Morocco, before returning to Casablanca for a meeting with chef Meryem Cherkaoui, who will take them to the city’s main market for a traditional street food lunch.

 

From Africa to Asia. Another group, in fact, will be travelling to India, more precisely to Shillong in the northeast of the country for a visit to the Martin Luther Christian University and a talk on biodiversity and the cultural diversity of the tribes of the Meghalaya. They will then visit the Don Bosco Ethnographic Museum in Mawlai to find out more about the culture, art and language of the local tribes and enjoy a walk round the traditional Bara Bazaar market.

The group will also have the chance to meet former UNISG students Rahul Antao and Annelie Bernhardt to talk about the Meghalaya Gastronomy Festival and visit the William Lewis Boys Home in Mawphlang. The students will then enjoy an interesting full immersion in local culture with visits to a sacred wood, to farms, to a traditional healer and to tribal chiefs.

In the days following they will make a trip to Nongtraw, where they will stay with the families of local chiefs and find out more about millet cultivation and honey-making. They will then travel to Delhi, where they will meet chef Gunjan Goela and eat at the Embassy Restaurant in Connaught Place, before learning to prepare Indian dishes in the ITC Hotel kitchens. All this will be followed by a tour of the old city and its principal sights, such as the Red Fort and the Moti Masjid mosque, and a guided walk round the Chawri bazaar and the Dilli Haat market with chef Gunjan Goela. The trip will come to an end with a gala dinner presented by chef Lambert Chiang at the Dakshin Restaurant.

 

For the first time ever, a UNISG group will travel to China. After arriving in Beijing, the students will proceed to Mutianyu for a walk along the Great Wall. Then they will literally “have a finger in the pie” with a practical lesson on the preparation of noodles and dumplings at the Xiaolumian pasta shop in the village of Yingbeigou, where they will also visit a local school to find out about sustainable agriculture projects. Next stop will be the village of Beigou, in the Huairou district to meet Jim Spear and speak once more about sustainability. After a tour of the village, they will meet first Dr Liu, a “barefoot doctor” and expert on medicinal plants, then Mrs Wang, who will teach them how to make sorghum flour dumplings.

In the evening the UNISG delegation will return to Beijing to watch Peking Duck being made and dine at the Li Qun Roast Duck Restaurant. The students will spend the whole of the following day visiting China’s largest tea market at Maliandao. In the evening they will attend a traditional acrobatics show at the Chaoyang Theater, after which they will dine at the Makye Tibetan Restaurant.

The next day they will visit the local farmers’ market and attend a lecture on Chinese traditional medicine with special reference to diet and nutrition.

The party will then have a taste of work in the fields at the God’s Grace Garden, China’s first sustainable farm, after which they will move on to the Phoenix Hills biodynamic agriculture commune and the Little Donkey farm, the most-important example of community-supported agriculture in China.

Afterwards the students will have plenty of time to discover Beijing on foot and by bike before saying goodbye to China with a typical dinner in the capital.