Friday, 25 April 2014

Slow Food West Scotland Supper

Good, clean and fair in the West: A trip across country reveals some of Ayrshire's local delights

Earlier this month I was delighted to attend a recent supper organised by the Slow Food West Scotland convivium. After various Slow Food groups setting up across the area over the years they have now joined forces to grow the Slow Food movement in Glasgow and more rural areas. With the long standing Ayrshire Food Network and Glasgow's varied and expanding food scene, there is plenty of potential for Slow Food in the west.

The dinner had been organised to celebrate some of Ayrshire's finest producers and raise money for Slow Food. A wiggly but beautiful two hour drive from Edinburgh on the back roads, we arrived at the village hall in Dunlop for the dinner, the village associated with the traditional hard cheese of the same name. It really is incredible countryside once you leave the M8 behind and looked stunning on a warm spring evening.

Nearly 50  local producers, friends and supporters were there, with some making the train journey from Glasgow. With the support of the aforementioned Ayrshire Food Network we enjoyed a delicious meal starting with cheese canapes from Dunlop Dairy and Barwheys Dairy, with Haggis Scotch Eggs from Aye Love Real Food. Wines were provided by wine expert Pieter Rosenthal.

 The meal continued with onion soup and delicious sourdough bread from a baker in Oban. We then helped ourselves to a buffet-style meal of wonderful cold meats, raised pies and colourful salads. The emphasis was on local and on taste. The meats and pies from Nethergate Larder were incredible, with the pies full of herbs and a good crust.

The danger of a buffet!

For dessert we tried ice creams from two different producers, Lime Tree Larder and Wester Highgate Ice Cream. One more vanilla-ry, the other contained the spice of black pepper. They were served with a pipette of balsamic reduction - I haven't used a pipette since school! We relaxed with coffee from new Ayrshire artisans Roundsquare Roastery, and handmade chocolates. There was also a showing of short films about Ayrshire's many wonderful producers, which can be found on the Ayrshire Food Network website.

What really impressed me on the night though was Slow Food West Scotland's hard work to make the supper happen. They did everything themselves to organise the evening, including devising and cooking the menu and serving it. With generous help from suppliers and supporters, a raffle to raise funds included prizes such as whisky, coffee, Easter eggs and even artwork from a local artist. I came away empty handed from the raffle but delighted to meet so many inspiring food producers making good, clean and fair food happen on the other side...

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A Slow but Busy Time

It's been a bit quiet on here recently, but that's not the case in the offline world! As well as my recent projects, I've recently taken over as the Chair of Slow Food Edinburgh. The Edinburgh convivium is one of the largest and most active in the UK, and it's a privilege to take it on. We here in Edinburgh are very fortunate to have some of the country's best producers on our doorstep, not to mention the many great chefs and restaurants that have made Edinburgh a city with a world-class restaurant scene.


On top of that, we have a thriving community of foodies, bloggers and the like, but more importantly a vast network of people and organisations campaigning for a better food system in Edinburgh and beyond. To name a few... Nourish and Edible Edinburgh (with whom Slow Food worked with on last year's Feeding the 5000), Edinburgh Garden Partners, Abundance, Transition groups, Soil Association Scotland, Greener Leith, Pilton Community Food, Shandon Food Group, The Engine Shed, FEDEGA, Federation of Community Gardens and Farms, Edinburgh Community Food Initiative, Bridgend Allotments.... and there's more out there, if you have a similar group or project to tell me about, do let me know!

London Calling

It's an exciting time to be campaigning for good, clean and fair food, for a better way to eat here in Edinburgh. Not only do we have all this activity going on in Edinburgh but for Slow Food itself. One of my first actions as Chair was to attend the Slow Food UK AGM in March. A quick flight down to London and along with some fellow Slow Food members from north of the border I was there to vote on some important proposals which would shape the future of Slow Food in the UK. Armed with my proxy votes from fellow members I arrived at the University of West London in leafy Ealing, all daffodils and English quaintness as the city sprawl gives way to the suburbs.

After meeting many of my fellow convivia leaders and members of the Slow Food UK board and team, it was time to get down to business. The big vote for the future of Slow Food UK rested on a proposal to set up Slow Foods Scotland, England and Wales/Cymru, and then a vote for representatives from each to sit on the UK board. The aim is for the devolved groups to be able to campaign more effectively and have a real voice at a local level. The new structure will also help revive old convivia, grow existing ones and help new groups get started. The votes were passed nearly unanimously and everyone was positive about a new future for Slow Food in the U.K.


Following the voting, we were treated to a cookery demonstration by young chefs at the university, and then talks from Slow producers, including our own Richard Briggs. Finally we were inspired by a speech from Paulo Di Croce, Secretary of Slow Food International. Listening to Paulo's experiences in Africa about Slow Food in action was really thought provoking and insightful. In it he takes the example of the cost per 100g of raw potatoes, straight from the land being sold at a market trader's stall. He then compares it to the cost per 100g of potato crisps being sold in a western-style supermarket. It's a simple but ingenious way to explain the differences between Slow Food and 'fast food' and why what we grow, how we grow and how we eat matters.

For us up here the formation of Slow Food Scotland should mean good things for the people that make, buy and eat the food we care about. The next steps will see the formation of a regional body that will see other convivia grow and bring producer and co-producer closer together. For Slow Food Edinburgh, we're committed to growing our membership to 100 members this year, to working closer with food communities, to promoting Ark of Taste products and of course telling everyone about upcoming progress on our 10,000 Gardens Garden in Africa, which we successfully raised funds for in 2013/14.


Of course Slow Food is also all about the pleasure of eating, enjoying and appreciating good food. To this end we've been enjoying the Slow Food Big Table Dinners this year, the second Monday of every month. we've had some great producers, speakers and dishes so far, and these are set to continue in 2014. To get a flavour of the Big Table and what it's all about, see a previous post from me or check out food blogger Sophie's review here.

We've also got plenty going on with upcoming Farmers' Markets, Slow Food Week in June, Film Nights as well as visiting Terra Madre in October. For me, as Chair and leader, I see my role to inspire new people to get involved with Slow Food, and help to make those connections between us that can strengthen a better food system.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a dinner organised by Slow Food West of Scotland and Glasgow last week, a gathering of food lovers and producers in a tiny village in the heart of Ayrshire. I'll be posting an piece about it here shortly, but in the meantime read about it here.

If you'd like to get involved with Slow Food Edinburgh, don't hesitate to visit the website!