Life in the slow lane: a Slow Food blog by Nathalie Nötzold

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th January 2014

This is the first of our blogs from Slow Food UK by Nathalie Nötzold, coordinator of Slow Food’s Chef Alliance scheme. Slow Food is a charity championing healthy, environmentally-friendly, ingredients with good provenance sourced locally and seasonally. Starter I am excited to welcome you to my first blog, introducing you to Slow Food and the world of Britain’s forgotten culinary jewels. As a social scientist with a background in sustainable development my path into the food industry was rather accidental. When I stumbled into the Slow Food office more than a year ago, I was less attracted by the focus on food and more intrigued by the combination of charitable organisation and global grassroots movement. As soon as I engaged in Slow Food’s efforts to change our current food system I realised that food was the missing link between my concerns for sustainability and my passion for good food and cooking. As a German I was equipped with the stereotypes that ‘British’ food equates to English breakfast and fish and chips. Boy was I wrong! Now I know more about British food heritage than my own food culture and have embarked on a path far more exciting than I had imagined… As Chef Alliance Coordinator at Slow Food UK, I am working with the brilliant and passionate chefs, who all have a responsibility in shaping our food culture and who support the Slow Food ethos of good, clean and fair: food that tastes good, is produced without harming the environment, human or animal welfare and pays a fair price to the producer. Slow Food tries to re-connect people with their food and promotes sustainable sourcing and consumption. While many of you might have heard something about Slow Food, less well- known is that everything started with the opening of a McDonalds in the tiny Italian village of Bra. The invasion of fast food caused a group to campaign for local farmers, regional food production and old traditions of gastronomy. Carlo Petrini was the main advocate to counter the growing influence of industrial agriculture, and by 1989 the Slow Food movement was officially born. Now present in over 150 countries, the overarching goals of our work are raising awareness about food issues, educating the public about making conscious food choices (through Slow Food Baby, Slow Food Kids and Slow Food on Campus) and preserving edible biodiversity while championing small-scale producers (through the Forgotten Foods and Chef Alliance programmes). Main As Chef Alliance Coordinator I work with our network of 100 plus chefs in the Slow Food UK Chef Alliance. Spokesperson Richard Corrigan and ambassadors like Francesco Mazzei, Giogrio Locatelli and Angela Hartnett have helped set up this network and we are thrilled to have their support. One of my major goals is to encourage chefs to use Forgotten Foods. We call a food ‘Forgotten’ when there is only a small quantity available or when only very few producers are left producing it the traditional way. Great examples are the Authentic Aylesbury Duck with a clean bloodline cultivated over six generations by Richard Waller or Good King Henry, a semi wild plant similar to spinach, usually known only by foragers. Our chef members of the Alliance are our true food ambassadors, championing Forgotten Foods and small scale producers. The network of foods, producers and Chef Alliance heroes is currently thriving: from the Shetland Islands, home to producer Richard Briggs and his rare breed Native Shetland Lamb to chef Marcello Tully’s Kinloch Lodge; from Robin Jones’ rare breed Badger Faced Welsh Mountain Sheep to chef Shaun Hill’s Walnut Tree Inn; from the home of Sea Lavender Honey, Bloaters and Grey Chicken in Norfolk to the doorsteps of Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume, the cause gains momentum with more endangered ingredients to be saved, more artisan food producers to be championed, and more chefs to use Forgotten Foods in menus and support our cause! How is this network of Forgotten Foods, producers and chefs linked? Special menus, events, Slow Food Week, national press coverage and stories, you name it. One of my favourite experiences has been assisting Stevie Parle with putting British Lop as well as ten other Forgotten Foods on the menu in Dock Kitchen for Slow Food Week. I spent an afternoon trying to get hold of 40 Lop ears, which at first seemed quite reasonable, but soon presented itself as a major challenge. Sourcing directly from the producer and cutting out middle men and retailers, I phoned up various Lop farmers and pig societies. Instead of finding what I was looking for I was met with surprise at the other end. Only ears?! Not possible. Eliciting laughter from my colleagues, a sleepless night for me and eventually a fond memory to look back on: it illustrates how small some producers in our network are. My experience is that smaller producers would much rather sell a whole or half carcass and are in fact delighted to supply chefs. Maybe the time is ripe to use all parts of the animal, following the likes of Brett Graham, James Golding or Tim Dover. On a different note, deep fried pig ear is rather tasty, as I recently discovered in Lukas Pfaff’s Forgotten Food menu which ran the whole of November. Our motto for bringing back these endangered foods is Eat It, Don’t Lose It – and thankfully other products are easier to get hold of: Three Counties Perry from the South West, Jersey Black Butter, Beremeal from Orkney or various raw milk cheeses such as Caerphilly are easily available throughout all seasons. It is great to see Julian Temperley’s artisan Somerset Cider Brandy is slowly finding its way into various kitchens, and being the first in line for new season Medlars or Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb enables us to quickly hook these products up with our chefs. Dessert Preserving Forgotten Foods means preserving our edible biodiversity and precious products that are in danger of becoming extinct. Protecting Forgotten Foods helps our food security by maintaining variety and reducing dependency, and their seasonality and sometimes low availability make us appreciate their flavours even more. We believe that consumers finally turn to the Slow Food way. It is never too late to stop before you consume food and think about where it comes from and what implications it may have, then eating with joy, appreciating the taste and time it took to be grown, raised, caught or harvested. You can find out more about the 71 Forgotten Foods products, the 107 phenomenal chefs in the Alliance and see what delicious Forgotten Foods recipes we already have on file. In my next blog in April I will tell you more about why chefs in the Alliance joined our cause, as well as about Hopshoots, Formby Asparagus and coffee week. Exciting times ahead, until then, keep your heads up in those busy kitchens and help us Eat It, Don’t Lose It! All the best, Nathalie   Nathalie Nötzold German-born Nathalie Nötzold is hyper-organised to the point of being ever so slightly OCD until it comes to the kitchen – Nathalie does not do recipes, preferring to wing it. But coordinating the Chef Alliance at Slow Food UK has brought out her woollier side. She never misses a chance to slip into chef’s kitchens, and is always ready to get her hands dirty, Nathalie is on a mission to experience the best cuisine her adopted homeland has to offer.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th January 2014

Life in the slow lane: a Slow Food blog by Nathalie Nötzold