Let’s talk about Slow Food
Petr Jiskra from Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) Prague shared some of his thoughts with us about the Slow Food movement, a return to traditional methods of growing, processing, preparing and eating food that strives for greater enjoyment, health and sustainability of our food future. The Italian-born movement, while not vegetarian, favors a pesticide, preservative and above all waste-free approach to eating, advocating the eating entire parts of fresh ingredients – organs, scraps, peels and all – grown close to home.
Slow Food Youth Network in Prague
By Petr Jiskra
Our current food system is facing a large number of challenges to which no one-solves-all solution exists. Rather, it is a sum of partial steps needed to achieve a more sustainable future for us all. From agriculture, the largest pollutant in the world, to disappearing tradition and knowledge, we can always trace the roots of many of the world’s problems back to food. It should be food acting as an engine to pull us back on track from our malfunctioning economies, unequal distribution of resources and numb taste buds.
Back to using logic
When it comes to the production of our food, it very often comes to nonsense in terms of the quality, size, colour, origin and price of the food we eat. Sourcing food through direct and transparent channels, together with making informative choices about our meals, is the way forward. In the processing and eating stage we are facing the biggest loss of knowledge about our food and also a loss of resources throughout our conventional supply chains.
By using the less popular cuts from animals or parts of plants that are not commonly used, we can greatly enhance our food experience. For farmers, one of the hardest tasks today is to sell the parts of animals that do not read „sirloin“, „rib“ or „cutlet“ on the shelf of the butcher. But it is often that these other parts can hold even more taste due to the distinct structure of their fat content – which by the way is the carrier of taste in meat.
It goes without saying that the current trend of reducing food waste through a cooking style like “nose to tail” or “root to leaf” is a simple expression of rational behaviour. For chefs, the logical move to focus on this approach is also economical. Instead of buying pre portioned meats, already peeled vegetables or frozen products, it is better to use the vegetable peels and other discarded parts to create a great stock as a base to any sauce. It also makes sense to purchase chilled instead of frozen fish, as the structure of the fish meat is destroyed by freezing and most of the weight chefs are paying for is water anyway. Utilising every possible part of the plants and animals we eat should not be a trend but a norm.
More knowledge from the side of the customer is also required on how to prepare food. Quick and easy preparation „a la minute“ is hassle free but in many cases is not suitable for those parts of meat which need more time to cook, stew or roast. Those are the alternative techniques that help to utilize all parts of the animal: it starts all the way from the slaughterhouse, with a skillful butcher, an enlightened shop or restaurant owner and ends with a open minded customer.
What can we do?
We have to admit that acquiring knowledge is not an easy task, especially with a lot of contradicting information. But the trick is rather simple: go to the source. Whenever possible, make an attempt to talk to the people that produce your food, because probably those are the ones with the most reliable source of information.
Try to bypass most of middlemen in terms of retail and visit your producer on the market. Pay them a visit or support farmers’ joint cooperatives. By choosing raw ingredients and fewer processed food products you will start to appreciate the real taste of ingredients and understand the aspects of composing a flavourful dish. It is not the packaging or the shop determining what gets to our plate, but us as customers. At this moment you might also realise that it is worth investing time to search for and cook more nutritious food instead of choosing the convenience of empty food in paper boxes, just leading to overeating and spending more – both in terms of your wallet and health.
At this moment you might also realise that it is worth investing time to search for and cook more nutritious food instead of choosing the convenience of empty food in paper boxes, just leading to overeating and spending more – both in terms of your wallet and health.
With Slow Food Youth Network we have organised on many occasions an event called Disco Soup, whose main purpose is to inform and alert people about perfectly edible foods that have been, due to some defect, considered unfit to be sold through conventional food channels. SFYN collected food from retailers that was “defective” in either colour or size, or at the best before date. During the Disco Soup, all participants are brought together to cut the vegetables to the rhythm of disco music. After chopping, all the food is served either in the form of a salad or simply cooked together in a large pot as a soup. The food is then freely distributed to all participants, but also people who pass by and are attracted by the aroma. Towards the end, whatever food has not been used for cooking is free to be taken home and eaten later.
The environment we live in
The food we eat not only shapes us in terms of how we look and feel, but also the environment we live in. Each one of us has at least three votes every day to choose what world we want to live in. With every breakfast, lunch and dinner we have the option to choose what we want to eat and how that food was produced.
Each one of us has at least three votes every day to choose what world we want to live in.
With SFYN we have participate in educational events either open to the public in the form of food markets or fairs, but also at the academic level delivering part of the programme on sustainable food production and consumption. We do this mainly by raising awareness but also with specific examples where everyone has the chance to test their own senses to identify food and the differences between how they were made.
Slow Food network itself has created a list of the most endangered species that need our attention. In other words, we need more protection or need to eat in a way that allows nature preservation to go hand in hand with economic rationale. Therefore Slow Food had developed Ark of Taste as an ultimate almanac for protection of of our biodiversity. At the moment, in the Czech Republic the only product listed is Oskeruše (service tree), but surely more in the future will follow; anyone can nominate products to be listed. Worldwide there are about 3700 products listed.
Every two years, Slow Food’s “Terra Madre Salone del Gusto” brings together thousands of farmers and food producers from over 150 countries to Turin, Italy. Around 250,000 chefs, scientists, food producers, students, designers, farmers and politicians gather, all working towards a food system where good, clean and fair food is available for everyone.
2016 is a special year, marking the 20th anniversary of the first edition of Salone del Gusto and Slow Food Italy’s 30th birthday. Salone is a celebration of diversity and taste, bringing together key elements for future sustainable development. Anyone can join between the 22nd to 26th of September.