Sometimes we wonder why we do what we do, particularly in this challenging world we live in, yet from little acorns grow mighty oaks and that’s why we keep going and sometimes, just sometimes, it all works out for the best. Today, Slow Food’s International Terra Madre Day, is a good time for reflection, amidst the pre-Christmas crowds of consumerism, on what is important to us, both day to day for family and friends and in the longer term for a healthy planet.
Pre-covid, I donated a Slow Food Ark of Taste day for four persons to the RHET charity auction: to spend a day at our studio sampling heritage foods, discovering and tasting, discussing and sharing. The charity dinner took place, the auction held and the bid won. Then covid hit. Three years on, the world opened up as did our diaries and the original bidder decided to present his voucher at another auction, this time for Maggie’s Cancer Care where he raised a further £500. That little acorn raised over a thousand pounds for charities all told and a few weeks ago the recipients came along for their grand day out. There were three other participants who had booked online: a lovely young couple and a cheery gentleman who turned out to be food writer Tom Johnston. After a highly enjoyable time with a merry band of folk we had the added pleasure of super reviews from Tom. This one on the Heritage Foods experience a book review and a recipe feature Thanks so much for coming along Tom.
It’s been a while since my last newsletter. No sooner had we returned from Terra Madre in October than I was off to Menorca at the invitation of the Centre of Gastronomic Studies of Menorca to speak at their 1st Congress of Gastronomic Journalism in their year as European Region of Gastronomy, awarded by IGCAT https://igcat.org
Menorca is a glorious isle. Its strategic positioning – east of big brother Majorca and with open sea over to France northwards – gives it a microclimate bringing moisture and warmth for olive groves, vineyards, vegetables, pastures…and famous dairy herds. Known as the ‘green’ Balearic isle due to its gentle rainfall creating fertile soils, it is unspoilt and more peaceful than its party neighbours. Having been occupied and invaded on numerous occasions, it is steeped in fascinating history with culinary influences from many quarters – and famously the home of “mayonnaise.” Yes, mayonnaise has its origins in Mahón, the island’s capital, and from there was brought to France around 1756. Another famous delicacy is Mahón cheese, a delicious and fragrant hard cheese made locally from cows’ milk.
With delegates and presenters from across the world, the experience was both lively and inspiring, with an atmosphere of sharing and learning, all of which took place over platefuls of wonderful island produce skilfully prepared and presented. Among the many presentations, mine was entitled “The Proof is in the Pudding: quality is judged on direct experience,“ presenting my views on the pearls and pitfalls in gastronomic tourism. Throughout my stay the warmth and hospitality I received was second to none; the Congress was fascinating and the food sublime. All the speakers can be viewed on YouTube along with the full story via this newslink to Mindful Journalism on Menorca.
Back in Scotland, and still only October, another acorn becoming a mighty oak was the Scottish Smallholders Festival held in Forfar. Opened by Mairi Gougeon MSP with Martin Beard of RBST taking the lead on this event, it was a super day out: goats, North Ronaldsay sheep and Dartmoor ponies, hanging out with alpacas and pigs. Elsewhere one could have a go making corn dollies with Elaine or pop into one of my cookery shows, check out smallholders’ equipment and buy homemade produce. We are already looking forward to next year.
Meanwhile we have had signings of our book “Meadows: The Swedish Farmer & The Scottish Cook” at Boyndie, Stromness Bookshop, Orcadian Bookshop, Sheila Fleet Kirk Café & Gallery and Aberdour’s Post & Pantry Other stockists can be found here. It was a joy to be back on Orkney but we shall keep that for another day and look forward to more Scottish stories in 2023.
With artisan cheese (our visitors were agog at the range and quality they tasted) and hygge experiences, trips northwards and Orkney, Dumfries and Galloway and Border Country visiting SFG members, it has been an exhilarating autumn: meeting old friends and making new acquaintances. Add in my voluntary cook-in day at Kirkcaldy High, a fabulous Kelso Farmers’ Market, an Edinburgh Bakers’ Trustees meeting and our Christmas mailing safely dispatched and suddenly we are in December with new members to welcome and many more updates over Christmas.
There will be a pre-New Year round up of 2022 and in the meantime we wish you good fortune, low heating bills and fine health to you and yours. And whether you are a chef or producer, a customer or foodie, a tourist or local, we are all consumers – we all eat so let’s eat well and support our independent family restaurants, farms and retail by buying vouchers and food gifts, fruit wines and spirits… or maybe that book we mentioned!
Festive cheer from Wendy & Bosse