Some of you may have heard of the Slowfood movement started by Carlo Petrini, in Bra, Italy. It is a brilliant concept especially in the worldly sense of a gourmet foodie. They have several key objectives expounded , for e.g. Terra Madre, help and educate communities to get back in touch with the agricultural roots in a sustainable way with fair trading practices to support them, encouraging bio-diversity and preserving food heritages around the world. That was the evolution of slow food.
Initially, it started with the aim to fight against the rise in popularity of fast food, the way we eat where most do not appreciate or care where their food comes from. The whole concept of going back to basics and eating simple but good food has lost its way in our fast paced lives. A sad phenomeneon. This is very much in line with my own personal beliefs of physical well being through wholesome food.
I considered to be a member of Slowfood for a while now, there is even a convivium here in Singapore http://slowfoodsingapore.com/?page_id=7 , whose theme appears to revolve only on enjoying good and fine food, not that it is all wrong. Quoting and unquoting their website ” dedicated to the enjoyment of fine dining and good company” which I felt fall short of addressing the social issues of eating well ( although rather a good idea to rediscover and encourage slow cooking and the finer art of dining).
Singapore being dependent on imported raw ingredients I truly believe can play a big role in demanding their suppliers to farm ethically, clean and with fair working conditions. Singapore is a wealthy nation , it can afford to be more socially conscious as a foodie society. Everyone here claims they love to eat, and live to eat – imagine the influence they could have in instilling Slowfood’s true principals of clean, organic, preserving tradition and eating sustainably to their neighbouring countries and of their suppliers?
I did not join this convivium as it did not really appeal to my beliefs, but I did finally become a member of Slowfood Italy. Let’s eat with conscience and know and demand quality food that is sustainable and clean. It is not easy, but if it helps heal the earth and promote better lifes, I think that is worth it. So check this out : http://www.simplesteps.org/food
The latest newsletter had a personal editorial from Carlo Petrini, which I would like to share as it is timely what he is calling for:
The tradition of the “Virtù Teramane”, still celebrated in early May each year in Abruzzo, central Italy, is one of those popular rituals from the past that pushes us to think about our present and our future. The peasant society around Teramo that created this virtù, a kind of stew, no longer exists, but it still offers many lessons for these wasteful and careless times we live in. If back then they had to “make a virtue of necessity,” today it is virtue that has become a necessity.
This dish was skillfully prepared by local women who created a complex soup from the bits and pieces left in the store cupboard from the winter months, like dried beans, different pasta shapes and scraps of pork, which were not always easy to incorporate into regular dishes. The first spring vegetables from the garden were then added, along with fresh legumes, fresh pasta and other meat such as pieces of ham and fried meatballs. There is no single recipe for virtù. The skill lies in turning an endless list of ingredients into something more than just a simple soup, something balanced and delicious.
Virtù is illuminating because it teaches us the value of saving, of reuse and recycling. It is a hymn against waste, but also a symbol of sharing and belonging to a community. In fact, families would traditionally offer their virtù to their neighbors and relatives. Forgetting someone often led to quarrels and even the deterioration of relationships.
When someone tells me that good food is expensive, I like to tell them about Virtù Teramane, because first and foremost it is a dish of rare quality. And if once it was truly a zero-cost dish, even now its ingredients are not going to break the bank. But rather than trying to replicate it perfectly, let’s grasp the meaning behind this tradition. We need to go back to cooking that incorporates leftovers, to being thrifty with the food that we have and being prepared to pay a fair price to farmers. Virtù teaches us that food is precious and that we can create wonderful meals from what’s left over. It also takes us back to the social significance of food, to a reciprocity that in times of global crisis becomes a revolutionary economic force. In our own small way, let’s seek to recreate virtù at home, and let’s start now. Let’s begin the fight against food waste. Do it for yourself, for the planet and for those in great need. Let’s renew tradition and show just how modern it can be.
I would like those great creative chefs out there to think for a moment about cooking with leftovers and come up with some new recipes for us for reusing the ingredients we have at home. But most of all I would like the Terra Madre communities to tell us about their traditional recipes using leftovers so we can share them with the whole network. This is how to move from making a virtue out of necessity to understanding that virtue (and virtù) is a necessity.
Slow Food President