Food and Drink
Joanne Myram of Slow Food Dorset
Slow Food in Dorset
The worldwide Slow Food movement is extending into Dorset. BBC Dorset's Stephen Stafford found out about the group's ideas about what we eat and drink at the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival.
Slow food is exactly what it says on the tin (or biodegradable wrapping) - food which has been grown, prepared and sold over time with fresh ingredients from as nearby as possible - in short, fast food it ain't.
The movement started in 1986, founded by an Italian food and wine journalist called Carlo Petrini as a backlash to 'fast food' and the way we are consuming large quantities of what he saw as poorly produced, unhealthy junk food.
Joanne Myram is a member of the recently formed Slow Food Dorset group who were promoting their ideas at the Sturminster Cheese Festival.
Farmers' Markets are increasing in popularity
Joanne explained that the 50 members of the Dorset group are simply: "Passionate about food. We have producers, consumers, cafe owners who are all determined to protect certain foods so our tastes are not taken away from us."
It's certainly true that Dorset has a growing reputation for small scale, locally produced and undoubtedly high quality food products from Wimborne's Blueberries to Denhay Cured Hams and West Bexington's Chillis to name but three - all artisan products which take a great deal of time and labour to produce - and so have a price tag to match.
An expensive treat?
But with a hungry family to feed, the average consumer could be forgiven for treating such foods as, at best, an expensive treat, and, at worst the preserve of the well-off, dinner-party set.
It's something that Joanne is aware of: "I think that's true, we could be accused of being elitist, but what we need to look at is how much we used to spend on food as a proportion of our income, compared to what we do now - it's now an awful lot less.
"We've been driven into thinking that buying a chicken for £1.99 is okay. In fact, what we should be thinking about is 'how has that chicken been produced so cheaply?'.
"So we should perhaps eat less meat or cheese, but eat better quality food. Over the years the amount we spend on food has been literally nibbled away, and that has been driven by the low, low prices at the supermarkets."
There may well have been an upsurge in popularity for local foods, but with the UK's supermarkets increasing sales and profits - with Tescos now accounting for one third of all UK grocery sales, for example - has the Slow Food movement bitten off more than it can chew?
"Today at the cheese festival we've had loads of people saying they are determined to not to shop the way they've been shopping for years, and not just go into the supermarkets and fill up their baskets. I've been amazed at the numbers of people who are waking up to alternative ways of shopping, so we are going back to the high street and independent shops.
"But on the other hand, producers have to realise that consumers have been used to buying food cheaply for years and to be realistic with their prices, but also to still get a fair price for their food which is really, really important."
last updated: 29/05/2008 at 13:53
Have Your Say
Have you changed your shopping habits or do you find supermarkets cheap and convenient? Is Slow Food over-priced and over-rated?
MISS JANET C.D.HALL
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