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Christmas 2012

12:51 pm, November 23, 2012

Phew, here we go, on that hurtle down the mulled wine and mince pie laden trudge towards Christmas. Every year I get myself all in a tizz about it and lose sight of whats important. It’s a chance to have a few days off and spend some time with family & friends. And cook and eat some delicious food. The food bit I love and if I could spend as much time making mince pies and stuffing poultry as I did thinking of original, interesting gifts that people actually want or need I’d look forward to December with a happy heart.

So, I have decided this year, I’m going to embrace Christmas food and its spice laden joys, and inflict my efforts on a few people I care about, as presents. I know its cheesy but I love receiving those gifts. Its about giving the gift of time. A friend makes me a Christmas cake each year, and its a splendid thing. I will very much enjoy taking a day off work and making batches of jams and mincemeat rather than trudging the length of my local high street in the rain buying average tat.

My gifts may or may not be well received, but then the second copy of the latest Ian Rankin book may not be either. At least you can spread my jammy present on your Boxing day toast. There may even be orange vodka as I missed the sloes this year.

Anyone out there got a recipe?


Terra Madre & Salone Del Gusto: 2012

8:28 am, November 8, 2012

Last week I went to Terra Madre. This international meeting of the Slow Food organisation is held every 2 years in Turin. There were 2 events run together: Terra Madre and Salone Del Gusto. Salone Del Gusto was astonishing. Imagine the best food show possible and thats the Italian region of Piedmont alone, then multiply up all the regions of Italy. Then add an International hall of artisan produce from all over the world, and that the producer is there to sell their product. Like a huge international farmers market. Then layer on the Terra Madre conferences where the big food issues of our times were being discussed by the world’s innovators in their fields.

If a food show can have a vibe then this meeting has it in spades. My sensors were twanging on overdrive as I met person after person who understood what we do, had comments to make, advice to offer and interesting ideas of their own to contribute to the International Food debate. And what a debate it was. All those big issues being talked about calmly, and solutions shared with quiet determination by rational hard working people. Impressive.
In our Scottish corner of the British Pub, we had an impressive range of award-winning pies, microbrewery ales, Reestit Mutton and our Home Bred Lamb, Fish, our Aberdeen Angus Beef and Chutney, 5 types of oatcakes, beautiful Rye Sourdough bread, artisan cheeses, a range of single malts, and possibly the most popular exhibit, men in kilts. Slow Food kindly provided us with an interpreter and we found the Italian public interested, exited and knowledgeable about what we had to offer. Every British person attending found their way over to us. There were impromptu meetings of chefs and producers, farmers and cheesemakers, food writers and activists. Beer was had, bread, beef and cheese shared, and there was a lot of love & laughter about.

And that is one of the big messages that Slow Food has for us. Carlo Petrini, the organisations founder and guiding light is clear that the pleasure to be found in food is a source of joy and a basic human right. He is spot on. Without it, our meals become fuel only and then its hard to care about what goes on to get that produce to the table.

I have my local convivia in Perth and Edinburgh and a little help from the Scottish Government to thank for their support in helping me to get there. Our delegation is tasked with bringing the Slow Food Culture of “Good Clean and Fair” back to Scotland. Its a great culture and has joy and conviviality at its heart: what ‘s not to like about that?