The New Gastronomy

  • 30/09/08
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Thanks to ‘Kinghorn Christine’ for pointing us back to last weeks Food Programme’s on the (re) politicisation of the Slow Food Movement. Listen Again here.

This is something we’ve been banging on about here for a while, how the Slow Food Movement in the UK needs to redefine itself as something inclusive, dynamic and affordable rather than something that seems bourgeois.

This is what they seem to be trying to do. The new motto is according to Carlo Pettrini: ‘good clean and fair’. Visit Slow Food here or listen to President of Ireland Mary McAleese’s closing address from last years event or to the Terra Madre Conference – here.

Skye Gingell reporting on this years Terra Madre from Turin wrote:

The Slow Food movement believes the solution is to re-localise agriculture and support local communities in order to enable the growth of sustainable development. Much of the food on offer at Salone del Gusto is known as presidia (or fortress) products, which means that they have protection orders on them. These are foods made by artisan producers, just as they were hundreds of years ago, so now are of historical importance and need to be prevented from becoming extinct.

If all this sounds depressingly serious, the festival wasn’t. It was a joyful celebration of the world and those who inhabit it. I experienced a colourful, noisy and hopelessly crowded five days, full of like-minded people, proud and hopeful for the future. I made new friends, ate delicious and not-so-delicious food and learnt how lovely it felt to be enveloped by people who feel as passionately about produce as I do.

I tried hundreds of amazing cannoli pastries filled with ricotta and candied fruits. I tried yak cheese which was a little like pecorino but very dry. I tried beautiful dried thyme from the Lebanon, amazing sheep’s milk gelatia from Sicily and incredible cured meats from all over Europe. I overdosed on food.

I also tried some things that weren’t so nice. The extraordinary Slovakian sausages, for example, which were made from this really, really rare pig breed but then completely slathered in hot paprika. I didn’t understand why you’d do that, but I suppose that’s just their palate. I also tried dried salmon skin from Alaska. They preserve the skin and then chew on it. It can last up to six months. It made me understand why some foods just don’t travel.

I met some extraordinary people as well. My hero Alice Waters did the inaugural speech. Darina Allen from the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland gave a powerful talk, as did Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of Slow Food in Lebanon was there too. They only have four members and two farmers’ markets in the entire country. He spoke about how, since the war, their land is riddled with landmines. Apparently there are more than a million cluster bombs in the farming land of Lebanon at the moment. And Aminata Traore from Mali talked passionately about how there’s now no food and no farming communities in her country, as they have had to grow cotton to pay off the interest on their debt from the World Bank. As a result there has been a mass exodus of young people, who have been forced to move abroad to be somewhere that food is available.