On a sunny Sunday afternoon I went to Summerhall to a room full of chefs and producers, inviting us to taste their food and learn how to cook at an event sponsored by Highland Park and Lavazza that signalled the beginning of Slow Food week.
We’ve mentioned Slow Food UK here before: as foodies it’s difficult not to applaud not just their ethos but also their various initiatives. The Chef Alliance sees chefs that share Slow Food’s ethos work with them to include forgotten foods on their menus. Several of the Edinburgh members were there to share dishes and do cookery demonstrations and I was pleased to see some of my favourite restaurants there.
I spoke to The Edinburgh Larder owner Eleanor Cunningham and told her how much I enjoyed her restaurant. It’s great to be able to tell people how much you enjoy their work, face-to-face.
And in that vein, I had a quick chat with chef Jason Gallagher from The Stockbridge Restaurant while trying some very good mackerel, and a chunk of cheese with their home-made bread crackers. Soon after, I had a rather longer chat with Neil Forbes, from Café St Honore, and tried their home-made oat cakes (they had a different name, but I forget), crumbly and rich, with sharp cheese and a lovely, home-made chutney. And, to round off, I had some tablet. Mmm. Must learn how to make tablet.
Carina Contini and Suzanne O’Connor, from Centotre and The Scottish Café, and I talked about (and tasted) tomatoes and lemons. It was all delicious and I really enjoyed seeing the chef’s enthusiasm when they talked about the producers and ingredients that they use.
Because I had a busy day, I couldn’t stay for very long so I didn’t have time to talk to the other chefs: Tom Lewis from Monachyle MHOR, Tony Borthwick from Plumed Horse, Craig McKend from The Cumberland Bar, Tim Dover from The Roost, and Graeme Pallister from 63 Tay Street. I have some catching up to do.
The Forgotten Foods initiative is deeply exciting. The project has successfully brought back over 60 products (from potato varieties to cheeses) that were on the brink of extinction. When most food was grown and eaten locally, each area had its own varieties of vegetables, animals and produce. Mass production has made it easier for us to access a wide range of products, but it has also evened out production. Forgotten Food wants to bring back niche products and make them profitable. It all helps give us diversity – not just on our plates, but in our fields too.
Slow Food week is over for this year, but there are still ways of getting involved with the organisation. Support the chefs in the Chef Alliance, become a member and volunteer. Or simply follow Slow Food’s advice and “stop. think. eat.” Allow your food to take a little more of your time: look for local producers and eat from sustainable sources. If your nearest shop is a supermarket, as is the case for me, it takes a little more effort. I like good food and I like interesting, flavoursome ingredients and am willing to make an effort to go to shops and markets. I’m determined to make even more of an effort in future: Slow Food needs our support to continue bringing threatened products back to our tables.
Image of the chefs and The Stockbridge spread with kind permission of The Big Partnership. All other photos Edinburgh Foody.