Slow Food: An unrealistic goal?

by hannahb21

I recently went to ‘Pig and Pint Night’* at Oxford Brookes; an event run by the University Slow Food Society. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about food and, of course, eating it.

Slow Food on campus at Brookes is an initiative which encourages students to think about local food systems in the local community. This is far more than supporting your local producer; the Slow Food movement is a worldwide cause particularly in Italy where it is a political movement. Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. It strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and promotes farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristics of the local ecosystem.

I arrived late (the buses fault not mine) got my pint of Hook Norton’s finest and then immediately tried, but failed, to quietly take my seat mid way through the presentation without drawing attention to myself. Despite this rocky start I soon became enthralled by the student’s talk about the group’s recent trip to Turin, where the slow food movement all started. This included footage of them enjoying the local Italian beer showing that slow food is not all about eating but drinking too.

'Now how can I sneak in without causing a scene???'

After the talk we were treated to a Kelmscott pork roll which was no less than delicious! Kelmscott Country Farm is situated between Clanfield, Faringdon and Lechlade. The pig farmer was at the talk and assured us that the pigs led a happy, free life, the taste of the pork left no room for doubt. To accompany the pork, was an apple sauce made from apples that were picked from one of the Chefs garden that day! We also had a delightful salad, the leaves of which were picked that morning from another Oxfordshire producer. Even the bread rolls were made fresh that day!


When's it Ready?

Once we had all sufficiently stuffed our faces, we were treated to 2 short talks by Charles Campion (highly acclaimed food critic) and Mark Hix (restaurateur and food writer). I am not going to lie I had no idea who these two gentlemen were and could not understand why all these students were taking photographs of them but it’s fair to say they definitely made an impression.

'what lovely local beer!'

Charles Campion is one of the wittiest most knowledgeable food critics I have ever met, ok I haven’t actually met any other food critics but if I did they would have a tough job trying to beat Charles off of the top spot! He highlighted the importance of educating young people about where food comes from and cookery. He stated that:

‘It’s criminal that home economics has basically been taken off the curriculum’ .

He furthered this by noting that if he had left school with: a driving license; a foreign language; typing, shorthand; and cooking it would have been far more useful than his 13 O levels. He also believes that food seasonality should also be taught in schools, each item of fruit and veg has its moment and when that moment has gone its gone, time to move onto the next one. I mean who wants asparagus with their Christmas dinner???

Mark Hix is a realistic Slow Food follower. Whilst he aims to fill his restaurants with local food he understands there are certain limitations to the search for good quality local ingredients. He drew attention to the fact that different restaurants have different budgets for example if a chicken is £4 cheaper 10 miles outside of what is termed as ‘local area’ then that is the best option for that restaurant. Mark points out that cost is not the only factor, said chicken might be of better quality at this farm outside the set ‘local area’. Thus putting quality over quantity.

I agree with both Charles and Mark. It is important to buy the best value and best quality local ingredients available but there has to be a limit to this locality when supporting the Slow Food movement. At the end of the day what’s best for you might not be the best for me. However, Slow Food is far from an unrealistic goal!

For more information on Slow Food Oxford Brookes please visit James Green’s Blog

*please note that although I have now written two consecutive pork related blogs I am not a ‘porker’. Although……. I am partial to the odd hot pork roll and bacon sarnie!