Scotland should embrace the slow food movement, writes Stephen Jardine

Back in 1986, Carlo Petrini decided the opening of a branch of McDonald’s in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome was the final straw. To try to halt the advance of the fast-food culture, he founded Slow Food and today it is the world’s leading campaign group for local and seasonal food with more than 100,000 members in 150 countries.

Petrini was on a rare visit to Scotland recently, meeting the Slow Food faithful and looking for new converts too. He gave a lecture about our increasing disconnection from what we eat before heading to Edinburgh Farmers’ Market where he met producers and shoppers. Cannonball restaurant then held a special lunch celebrating his visit. On the menu was the best food Scotland had to offer at this time of the year.

“Scotland’s food and drink revolution has been built on local produce and eating in season and we owe all that to the Slow Food movement”, said Cannonball owner Carina Contini. “Fast food had severed our connection to farmers and the land but Carlo Petrini and Slow Food are restoring it”.

It has not been an easy road to follow. We’ve been conditioned to believe quick is good. From speedy broadband to fast cars, swift equals better.

So asking people to slow down is a tough ask. The key to Slow Food’s success has been the pleasure it brings. Hair shirts are absent from the movement and unlike some other food campaign groups, the emphasis is on pleasure rather than pain.

The Slow Food launch manifesto makes that abundantly clear. “Against the universal madness of the fast life, we need to choose the defence of tranquil material pleasure”, it states.

So instead of doing without, Slow Food is all about finding and enjoying the very best and freshest local food. In that sense, Petrini’s visit could not really be more timely.

With the Scottish Government demanding Scottish produce should dominate supermarket shelves by the end of the decade, change is taking place. It has never been easier to get local and seasonal food and yet we’re still just scratching the surface of its potential. We just need to keep up the momentum. The Year of Food and Drink will help, but we need passionate campaigners who will push for change and not settle for second best.
The appointment of Three Chimneys’ proprietor Shirley Spear as chair of the Scottish Food Commission is a step in the right direction. Instead of a predictable suit who will fill the post but not cause trouble, the job has gone to someone who is not afraid to rock the boat. Carlo Petrini’s visit this weekend is a reminder that people power can make a difference when it comes to what we eat. That should be an inspiration for us all.

About The Author

Stephen Jardine

Stephen Jardine is a journalist and presenter and has previously worked for Scottish Television, GMTV and Radio Tay. He now writes a weekly food column for the Scotsman.

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