When given the opportunity to have a Member Sponsored Exhibition, thanks to the support of Annabelle Ewing MSP, I enthusiastically accepted then the planning commenced! The Heritage Foods of Alba Exhibition at The Scottish Parliament ran from March 5th– 7thin the Members’ Lobby, the perfect place to be. This was to be the ideal opportunity to showcase Scotland’s rare heritage foods, to highlight why they are so special and to be valued.
I selected foods that would best express the range and quality of Scottish produce: breeds and varietals that have been accepted onto Slow Food’s Ark of Taste – alongside North Ronaldsay Sheep, now Scotland’s First Presidium. It was a wonderful opportunity to present photos I had taken over several years in pursuit of the rare and the fascinating in our food heritage. (For the record, we paid all expenses and printing of display boards from our own pocket so this was self-funded.)
Currently Scotland has 59 entries on this international Ark, a virtual vessel of real foods on a website for all to see. Some so rare they are almost unobtainable whilst others are in the marketplace, albeit not in huge quantities. Some may surprise you such as the Original Fresh Blood Scots Black Pudding and the Native Bred Aberdeen Angus. Others like Guga from Lewis or Native Scottish Goat are intriguing and relatively unknown. Scotland has some beautiful varieties of heritage apples and a range of colourful and flavoursome potatoes too. We have traditional cheeses, are famed for baking and for the first time in over a century, heritage grains are growing in Scotland!
Whilst entertaining and absorbing there is a very serious side to this as every day animals become extinct across the world. Scotland lost its only native pig, the Grice, in the 1930’s and it is vital for our health and that of our earth to support biodiversity. We cannot and must not trust our food system to a few multinationals, vast monocultures and mass production. For a Good Food Nation we need diversity and sustainable agriculture. For the Scottish Tourism Strategy we need great food stories such as these. Over the week there were serious discussions regarding the support of heritage breeds, curious smiles at pink and purple potatoes and valuable time spent on issues such as raw milk cheesemakers and local abattoirs.
Every product has a fascinating story to tell and every MSP knew of some of them but none knew all of them – there was always a surprise! It was a tremendous insight into the workings of our Parliament and we were given a warm welcome – with life full of Brexit I like to think we provided a pleasant, enriching – and nourishing – diversion, plus we had delicious tasty morsels thanks to the generosity of Campbell Bakery’s Ark of Taste Selkirk Bannocks https://www.campbellsbakery.comand sips of Birch sap (heading for the Ark) from Birken Tree https://www.birkentree.co.uk. Both went down a treat. Many had not tried birch water and were very pleasantly surprised – and ordered online that evening. The Bannocks were baby versions – incredibly endearing and very popular.
I would like to sincerely thank Annabelle Ewing MSP once more and all the MSPs and staff who took the time to come by and chat to us, and last but by no means least, it was an honour to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for the first time.
Information on all the produce on display is at www.scottishfoodguide.scotalong with where to source it. We can even be spotted on the Parliament website, Members Lobby section on https://www.visitparliament.scot/immersive-tour/ Ark produce from around the world can be seen at https://www.fondazioneslowfood.com/en/ark-of-taste-slow-food/
Many thanks to Bosse for taking most of the photographs!