By Charlotte Okonji
The Slow Food movement, which emerged in the 1980’s with the aim of preserving regional culinary traditions, promoting gastronomic pleasure and as a backlash against the proliferation of fast -food eateries, has finally begun to make its mark north of the border. Saturday the 8th of October will see the city of Derry host Northern Irelands very first Slow Food festival, with the aim of championing the areas unique culinary heritage. Although largely overlooked, this part of the country boasts a number of well-known local specialities, such as a sizeable list of breads, cider, whiskey, and the famed Yellowman, a honeycomb type candy. This is, of course, in addition to the wonderful local produce that is typical of the island that we call home: high quality meat and fish, cheeses, fruit and veg.
The 2 day event will be centred around the city’s Guildhall Square, with festivities kicking off at noon. This free, family-friendly occasion will see a number of elements combined to create a true celebration of the joy of of food. A Slow Food Harvest Fayre, Slow Food Street Food Zone, Family Fun Zone, a Made in Derry Slow Food Walking Tour and cycling tours around the city, tours of Butterlope Social Farm and an eco-tourism experience at St Columba’s Heritage Centre, are designed to engage, entertain and encourage us to think about what we eat and where it comes from.
The Slow Food philosophy is based on the principle that food should be good quality and flavoursome, eco-friendly and fair, both pricewise and in terms of the producers working conditions. Despite the simplicity of the movements ambitions, in today’s fast paced, globalised world, local traditions and customs are facing extinction at a rate that would have been unthinkable just a handful of decades ago. Regional specialities that have been eaten since time immemorial are vanishing from the dining table at a worrying pace. If you asked the person sitting directly to your right what exactly he or she consumed over the last 3 days, chances are it would be almost identical to the diet of the person to your left: a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast perhaps? A Subway roll for lunch, or maybe a Big Mac? A frozen Goodfellas pizza for dinner, because its edible, and preparing something from scratch is just too much effort? Of course, we can’t be whipping up Bouillabaisse, or making our own ravioli every night of the week, but letting go of simple, culturally significant fare (think Boxty, Coddle, Colcannon or good old Irish Stew) would be a travesty, and that’s no understatement. However, I suppose we can take some comfort in the fact that red lemonade, pints of the dark stuff and the obligatory full Irish the next morning are here to stay.