The sleepy Irish contingent, well, what was left of us
Some very interesting cheeses
Working at the raw milk cheese stand
Not so yummy
Slow Food is a name that needs some introduction. It has been associated with fancy dinners in posh restaurants, understandably so as that’s where many slow food events were held here in Limerick. These were good nights that brought local producers together with talented chefs and food lovers to celebrate the best of local, handmade or organically grown food from the region. Slow Food has a basic ethic, the movement was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy back in 1988 as a direct response to fast food. The Italians are known for their love of food. Their food is simple, unadulterated and the lack of fast food outlets in the cities is glaringly in contrast to what we have here in Ireland. Slow Food is about fairness in food production, it brings to light injustices like farmers being forced to use GM seeds and enduring failed crops and unfair working conditions. It is about everybody haveibg access to land which should not belong to authorities to call the shots on how is gets used. Mostly it’s about food being good and honest.
I was lucky enought to get invited as a delagate to attend the Terre madre Slow Food Confernece in Turin just last weekend. I had no idea what to expect, but the overall experience was staggering. It’s a huge logistical exercise to organise where 10,000 people are going, staying and transportimg them around but it was done. The conference was made up of many parts, Terre Madre laid on endless workshops in food education in schools, the life and work of bees, growing food with biodynamics and growing food on a small scale in the community. The Irish seminars were all held on one afternoon and we were joined by Ciaran Cuffe, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Trevor Sargent, Green Party Whip. Both had much to say on the endeavors of Ireland as a food producing nation. Jim Mcnamara from an t’Ionad Gals was vociferous in his points that food growers should be able to enjoy a decent life and fair income from their outputs while Darina Allen, leader of Slow Food Ireland took many notes and invited people to contribute to the meetings. Yours truly took the stand as a common theme kept coming up all weekend, the teaching of children about food and the importance of it. While this is true and worthy I felt that one group was being left out; the elderly. Darina has written a beautiful and lauded book on Forgotten Skills, who is more likely to have some of these skills but our own elderly relatives, friends and neighbours. Isn’t an older person more likely to know about making jam and soda bread, more inclined to enjoy the delights of packet and tripe and thrifty ways in the kitchen. When it comes to growing food people who have done it since their early years are the ones with the knowledege. Older people have skills and ways that we will lose, and their expereinces and knowledge are valuable, interesting and deserve a paltform to be shared on. For more developments on this area, watch this space and a new slow food Ireland blog in the making.
When we weren’t throwing out ideas we were busy trawling the isles of the Salon de Gusto, the rooms of taste. If you can imagine the RDS times 5, filled with endless stands showcaseing the best of food from all over the world. Folks from Madagascar had their famous vanilla, a lady from Ghana brought pure shea butter in plastic bags, olive oils from every part of Europe were tasted with tasty tapenades, men in suits sliced wafer thin slives of Parma ham and a whole conference room was given to Parmesan cheese. Turin is famous for chocolate too. I volunteered to work at the Irish Raw Milk Cheese satnd for a couple of hours which was fun, handing samples to Italain food lovers, many of whom bought entire rolls of St. Tola sheeps cheeses from Co.Clare.
At the closing ceremony it was re-assuring to hear that the fight or good food and fairness of land sharing is a global one. “Your family and friends may think you are crazy” Petrini said form the stage “But what is crazy about planting seeds, growing food, making good food and giving producers a fair price for it?”. Not much , in fairness.