‘What is Slow Food and what does the Slow Food movement stand for ?’ It is a question I continually struggle to answer with a soundbite.
But then good food, like good journalism, should be savoured at leisure. Not gobbled down on the hoof, or rammed up against the window on the Metro with barely enough room to raise your stottie to your lips (or skim the front page of The Journal, come to that).
Maybe it’s perfectly reasonable to take a little time to explain. To be slow. Slow Food is about preserving and promoting food that is both good to taste and good for you; food produced in a way that is good to the planet, from animals that are kept in good conditions and by farmers who are fairly rewarded for their efforts. In a nutshell, food that is good, clean and fair.
The recent food chain scandals exemplify what this really means. Tesco was so shaken by the PR disaster stemming from contamination of its meat supply chain that its chief executive addressed the NFU conference to apologise in person and pledge to do better in the future. Similarly, double-page spreads in many of the Sunday papers were commissioned to restore trust in the Tesco brand. Why this dramatic intervention? Simply, because what Tesco were selling in their beef burgers was neither good (unadulterated), clean (uncontaminated with veterinary drugs) or fair to the farmers that produced it or the customers that trusted the label.
If Tesco buyers insist on paying too low a price for your beef burgers, then sooner or later someone is going to be tempted to use cheaper ingredients – be it lung, ear or indeed horse. Tesco has just woken up to these mistakes, but Slow Food has been proclaiming it since the eighties when fast food (in this case McDonalds) first hit Italy and long, convoluted, international food chains started.
Fast Food, in general, is not very good for us. McDonalds may now be assiduous about its supply chains, but the ‘meal deals’ on offer from them and other high street brands are high in fat, salt, sugar and carbs, have terribly addictive flavour combinations, and have made the US the most obese nation in the world, while the UK (with its relatively weak traditional food culture) is the fat man (and fat woman) of Europe.
So Slow Food is the antidote to fast food, favouring well balanced meals cooked fresh from good ingredients. But for slow, do not read complex, posh nosh or necessarily even slow! Slow Foodies enjoy the conviviality of dining with family and friends but not the exclusivity of the dining club.
We celebrate good, clean, honest food – mussels with crusty bread, a perfect pork pie, haggis with neeps.
Some of the simplest cuisine on the planet, purchased on street corners by people with little money, can be some of the most delicious.
Slow Food supports Street Food but opposes Fast Food. Street Food embodies Slow Food’s principles of good clean and fair, cooked on the spot from fresh ingredients in front of you and sold at a price that you can afford.
Visit the new Street Food Alley featured in our Food Festival at The Barracks this autumn to see what we mean. Or attend an evening of Indian Street Food on April 8 at The Maltings Kitchen.
For more than 30 years, Slow Food has been espousing and promoting values that Tesco only put its name to this month. Perhaps we are not so slow after all.