“The pace at which a snail goes through life holds a valuable health lesson. Its unhurried existence and sensitivity to the environment have become the symbol of a crusade against the pervasive fast-food culture. Slow Food, which is represented by a red snail, is a movement that began in Italy 24 years ago. It has since expanded to 150 countries, where advocates push to preserve culinary traditions and promote awareness about local, clean and fair produce that is full of flavour.”
Of course, you’ve heard of fast food! Well let’s focus on the positive:
Have you heard of “Slow Food”?
Slow Food is a movement that first started in Piedmont, Italy in 1986. As a practical response of the Italian foodie Carlo Petrini to the McDonaldisation of his homeplace in 1986. You see following a move to open a branch of McDonald’s at The Spanish Steps in Rome in the 1980s, ordinary citizen Carlo Petrini was appalled by the idea and began a campaign to stop this development. He felt it was an insult to Italy’s great food culture. We all know how proud Italians are of their cuisine, produce and food culture. Furthermore, there is a famous dish from the Piedmont region, called peperonata, which Carlo went to eat at a restaurant in Piedmont, where he had eaten it for years. This time however it tasted different, not quite right! When he asked the restaurant why, they explained that they had made it with peppers from Holland. He was shocked and said: “But we grow such wonderful peppers here in Italy.” The restaurant explained that the local crop had become too expensive for them to buy.
These incidents provoked Carlo to find a way of offering more support to Italy’s local farming community, and in turn to protect and promote the nation’s own food culture. But instead of hurling slogans, Petrini, decided to counter what he considered ‘the destruction of the local food culture’ by spearheading an educative movement.
“Let us defend ourselves against the universal madness of ‘the fast life’ with tranquil material pleasure … Appropriately, we will start in the kitchen, with Slow Food. To escape the tediousness of ‘fast food’, let us rediscover the rich varieties and aromas of local cuisines.” Reads the Slow Food Manifesto, launched by Pertini, the author, and founder of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.
As the Slow Food outfit started in Italy, other nations gradually followed its example, with outfits launching in Germany in 1992, Switzerland in 1993 and US in 2000, before expanding across the globe. Slow food now has over 100 000 members, in 1500 countries across the globe from Paraguay to Iran.
The principles of Slow Food, the group declares, are ‘good, clean and fair’ food, promoting dishes that are good for our health, the environment and also local economies. This has involved a committed effort to promote concerns as diverse as supporting artisanal cheese makers in Brazil, to encouraging consumers to make sustainable, local and organic choices in their everyday lives.
Last spring (April 2013) Slow Food Dubai has begun finding its feet, with the first Slow Food Convivium to reach the Arabian Peninsula: Slow Food Dubai. Laura Allais-Mare, An Italian-South African, is the leader of the Dubai convivium and the group are always looking to meet like-minded foodies in the city who share the same passion and who care about preserving the traditional food culture and local foods of the Emirates. Slow Food Dubai are planning a plethora of events and food festivals, including a planned collaboration with the Sheik Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. They are already active with some projects and are present at The Farmers Market on The Terrace every season, as they support the local farmers and are also there to swap plants and share experiences for home and balcony gardening through their Balcony & Urban gardening group.
“We’re keen to get more Emirati members,” Laura says, although she adds that she is proud to already have some high-profile nationals on the books. The aim for Slow Food Dubai she explains is not only to promote ethical and environmental food choices, but also to support and promote longevity to the local culture. “At the Terra Madre festival, each nation brings their food to showcase. There hasn’t been a representative from the Arab Peninsula yet, because its food is not yet known, but why shouldn’t we have dates and luqaimat represented at the next festival?”
Watch Laura in the video below and listen to her tell you what slow food is all about, and how Slow Food Dubai had started. You will be surprised to see that the Emirates are greener than you know and that farming does in fact exist here in the UAE!
Laura Allais-Mare is a trained Chef (she was trained in Italy) and a restaurant owner in South Africa. Her passion for food came from her mother, who was herself involved in Slow Food in South Africa and even started her own edible snail farm. Back in South Africa, Laura worked closely with the local farming communities, working with an organisation that empowered farmers to sustain their business by providing them with heirloom varieties of seeds. By doing this, Laura explains, farmers are able to dry out the seeds from one harvest and re-use them the next year, according to old-fashioned farming principles, rather than buying the seeds each year (necessary for genetically modified varieties), which can be a bankrupting expense for small-scale farmers.
Today Laura is the leader of the Dubai Convivium of Slow Food and is the founder of the Balcony & Urban Gardening Group. Her mission is to empower people to think about sustainable ways to live and empower locals to reserve their cultural food and local cuisine.
Facebook Pages: Slow Food Dubai ,
Twitter: DubaiSlow, Laura Allais-Mare
Now, this is a group worth supporting, learn more about slow food and their activities. Check out your home town, be it London, Mumbai or Cape Town and you’ll probably find Slow Food chapters promoting the local food scene there. Become a member and help preserve local cuisines and the local foods of your area.You can also find all the information on their website.
If you live in the UAE, get in touch with Laura (all the links are above) and find out more about Slow Food Dubai, their activities and projects.
The aim for Slow Food Dubai she explains is not only to promote ethical and environmental food choices, but also to support and promote longevity to the local culture.
another “Learn From The Masters” Episode on this link, with Lafayette Gourmet’s Culinary Director of Food & Beverages, Chef Russell Impiazzi as he redefines impressive entertaining! Yes, when in comes to entertaining with flying colors Russell is the go to Chef.