30 years ago Italian journalist and food enthusiast Carlo Petrini decided something had to change. He’d just found out that McDonald’s were going to build one of their fast food outlets on Rome’s Spanish Steps and the prospect of Big Macs being served in one of the Eternal City’s most treasured spaces was just too much.
His response was to form the Slow Food movement, a nonprofit organisation he founded in 1986 in his home town of Bra, Piedmont, to champion traditional artisanal methods of producing good foods, and the simple, slow pleasures of eating them.
Since then the movement has spread worldwide and unsurprisingly given Wales’ reputation for lamb, beef and seafood it has found a happy home in the principality where Slow Food Cymru Wales continue to campaign to preserve ‘Forgotten Foods’ that are in danger of being lost and, through the Chef’s Alliance, work with local chefs to promote sustainable food and local producers.
Here in North East Wales, Ruthin woman Trine Hughes leads the area’s Slow Food group and she is keen to spread the word.
“The start of a Slow Food group in any area is exciting,” she said.
“We are particularly excited about North East Wales, with its lush pasture and number of artisan producers, there will be so many opportunities to learn together we may not be able to fit it all in.
“We have already had an amazing amount of enthusiasm shown for the start up of our group, and we are genuinely excited about the possibilities for taking this forward.”
To tie in with the group’s aims, Trine and her fellow members have begun the Heritage Recipe Project which is seeking to collect traditional recipes from across the region.
“This is a year-long project which will evolve as our research progresses,” said Trine.
“Our aim is to catalogue the culinary history of the area of North East Wales through recipes.
“During the course of the year we will be inviting people to contribute local, heritage and family recipes and any other content that people think would be valuable to document the history of our area’s culinary heritage.
“We thought it would be a good idea to start mapping this heritage and we will be collating the recipes as the year goes on.”
This week the group held an open meeting at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop encouraging visitors to contribute to the research which they are hoping turns into a book.
“We will be holding events across the year,” said Trine.
“We’ll be dropping into libraries and community projects because we don’t want it all to be online and we want older people to engage with us.”
With its commitment to food that is local, sustainable and good for the community, the environment and their customer’s health, Hawarden Estate Farm Shop was an obvious choice as a venue to launch the project.
“We’ve been talking to the chefs here about their culinary heritage and we were also at the Good Life Experience last year so they’re proving to be a strong supporter,” said Trine.
“Anyone who has stories about food production in the area or indeed anyone who wants to volunteer and help us is more than welcome to get in touch.
“It’s all about interacting with the community and that’s what I find very nourishing.”
In terms of discovering what the area’s ‘national dish’ might be, Trine is open to suggestions with the many outside influences that have come into the region in the 20th century bound to play their part.
“There’ll be traditional family recipes that have been handed down the generations but each person might have put their own twist on things,” she said.
“We want to engage people about their history and how they view their food – do people still go to their local butcher or farm shop for example?
“We’ve had a really positive response so far and people seem to love telling us their memories.
“It’s such a fertile area with so many small-scale producers that it’s the perfect place to bring people together.
“Heritage is about looking at where you have come from and what informs your history.
“We want to look at the culinary history of this area of North East Wales, using recipes, articles, newspaper clippings and other content that builds a picture. We also want to bring the story up to date, detailing the current cuisine of the region.”
With supporters in more than 150 countries around the world and a pledge to link the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and the environment, the Slow Food has grown into a global movement involving millions of people.
“It’s changed the way I eat, the way I cook for my family, the people I meet and my life overall,” added Trine.
“It’s not some middle class dining club it’s about getting everyone involved in the discussion about food.”
l For more information email: email@example.com or direct message the group on Twitter @SlowFoodNEWales
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