Friday, October 26, 2012

Slow Food: Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands Convivium

In the past few months I have had a crash course in the 'slow food movement' through joining the board of our local chapter of Slow Food. The values I have in writing this blog match up pretty closely to the values of slow food, but prior to joining I was unaware of just how massive and internationally powerful the organization is, or how much exciting activity is taking place right here on the island!

Slow Food was founded in Italy in the 1980s by Carlo Petrini. While on the surface the Slow Food movement has the functions in a fairly grassroots way locally, it is also quite formal and organized on the international scale. Italy remains the International hub for Slow Food, but there are National and local chapters (called 'conviviums') all over the world that all work towards the global goals of Slow Food: food that is good, clean and fair. Typical Slow Food events centre around the sharing and enjoyment of good food in groups while disseminating some 'seed' of Slow Food knowledge and wisdom.

I think what attracts me to this movement in particular (aside from what I just said about enjoying & sharing food!) is that it is working on both micro and macro levels towards the same goals. Conviviums work on the local and national levels to protect foods that are unique to a food culture. In Canada, Red Fife Wheat is an example of a food that is unique to Canada, but until a few years ago it had almost become 'extinct' as a variety. Thanks to the work of Slow Food activists, the wheat is widely available in niche and mass-market grocery stores across the country.

On a International scale, Slow Food supports projects like assisting third-world communities by developing food security initiatives based on local and traditional farming practices, such as the Thousand Gardens in Africa project. They also organize the Salone de Gusto, a massive food festival held in Torino, Italy every year that features food produces from around the world.

The Slow Food concept has expended into other 'slow' concepts. This includes the idea of
'Citta Slow'  when whole region/city that has a sustainability & people-centered mentality to its design, including resisting mass-food production. What's really exciting is that the first Citta Slow community in North America is right here on the Island - the Cowichan Valley!

At our local level here on the island, the Slow Food Vancouver Islands & Gulf Islands convivium (different from Citta Slow Cowichan) is particularly active in increasing the awareness and celebration of our local food producers here on the Islands, as well as providing opportunities to learn about food production in a hands-on way.

The most recent event was a mushroom foraging event, where we explored the forests of Sooke to learn to identify edible (and non-edible) mushrooms that grow in our region.  A few months ago there was a lamb roast fundraiser to send Chef Cory Pelan to Italy to participate in the Salone de Gusto as a Canadian representative. Both Chef Cory and the farmers whose land the event were on site to talk about about their passion for creating amazing food. Cory is currently in Italy, and is reporting back that he is having an amazing time connecting to food producers from all over the world (jealous yet?).

The Slow Food events are definitely worth checking out if you are a food-enthusiast. You don't have to be a member to attend the events (although discount rates apply!). Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to stay in the loop.

For more information on becoming a member of our local convivium, or staying in touch with upcoming events, visit