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Slow food

An organisation that celebrates time-honoured traditions and customs associated with food is at the vanguard of opposition to the ‘fast-food lifestyle’, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.

MOST of us are guilty of incorporating time-saving measures into our lives, from the obvious motor car and remote control devices to food and drink.

Included among the latter would be a plethora of fast food options, from drive-through burgers to two-minute pasta sauce.

An international movement aiming to get back to the basics while at the same time incorporating modern life has been operating in Europe for more than a decade. In recent times the movement has spread from the continent and can now be found in our own backyard.

Slow Food promotes the value of traditional food and cooking by sharing, educating, and bringing together people.

Founded by Carol Pertrnii in protest at the opening of the first McDonald’s store in Rome in 1986, and the threat of standardisation by multinational companies, the movement essentially denounces the ease with which we purchase and eat fast food.

While half of the 65,000 members are located in Italy, there is a small group in Perth who are enjoying the benefits of learning and appreciating food fundamentals.

Known as a convivia, it operates as a not-for-profit organisation and has 35 members from all walks of life, including biochemists, wine club members, bookshop owners, and restaurateurs.

The convivium leader Elena Aniere says regular meetings are aimed at satisfying member interest.

“The meetings are a gathering of people with the same philosophy to discuss where we want to take it and what they would like to do,” she says

“It works slightly different here in Perth. Slow Food is traditionally set up for the European way of life, so we have to adapt it to suit us. What members want here is an urban perspective.”

Events organised have covered aspects from Greek cuisine to cheese.

“Because it was going into Lent we decided to look at Greek traditions and what and why food is consumed,” Elena says.

“We have also had a cheese comparison between French and Italian cheese.”

Perth’s Slow Food group also breaks the retail shopfront barrier between the consumer and the producer.

“What we are trying to do is facilitate communication between the producer and the consumer,” Elena says.

“For our next event we are getting an olive oil producer from Margaret River to come up and give an educated taste testing explaining the taste of fresh olive oil to the not so fresh.”

Elena says that, in today’s fast-paced society, we are losing the family aspect of time invested in cooking and the passing down of information from one generation to the next.

“Time dictates everything and we lose sight of the basic fundamentals. The cooking process brings families together and facilitates the education process.”

It is the disdain at the ease with which we constrict the time devoted to traditional tasks such as cooking that can be found in the Slow Food organisation’s official manifesto: “We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus – Fast Life – which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat fast foods.”

The official manifesto, which is located on the Slow Food website www.slowfood.com

Also important to members of Slow Food is the conservation of recipes and produce that have been left behind in the globalisation process. Known as The Ark of Taste, this aspect aims to describe and promote almost-forgotten flavours. Some of these included violino di capra, the plum tomato of Corbara, and mullet roe, which have been identified as having productive and commercial potential. It is the craving for past flavours that is contributing to the fast uptake of this movement.

Events coming up in Perth include an indigenous bush tucker tour, Slow Food Perth dinner, and an olive oil tasting. If you are interested in joining Slow Food Perth, email elenaa68@hotmail.com

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