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28 October 2014

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You are in: Dorset > Entertainment > Food and Drink > Slow Food in Dorset

Joanne Myram of Slow Food Dorset

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

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
created: 11/09/2005

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?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

I have changed my habits but would like to change them more. In particular I try and always take a shopping list to the supermarket (still have to use them, working full-time means a drop into the supermarket on the way home is basically when I shop although I do now limit my visits asking whether I really need something before I go and buy it). I am very concerned about the pet food on offer (I have two cats). Before the advent of dried feeding obesity did not seem to be a problem in the pet community. I basically feed the cats fresh fish (frozen) and canned tuna in spring water. It may sound expensive but in the long run no food is wasted as I am left with clean dishes after each meal. I do feed Burns dried for a snack but there is very little information about what actually goes in to these dried foods, one has to be a scientist to understand the formaulas printed on the bags.I feel I was fortunate in attending school cookery was taught (I am now 61) but also imbibed a great deal from my mother's budgeting and cooking too and as I understand it none of these things are considered important now. I am looking at growing more in my small garden too.

Simon Willett
Supermarkets are cheap and convenient but if you want an eating experience rather than just fill yourself up I would go for the Slow Food optoin every day.

mary finlay
we have put so little importance for too long on what we put into our mouths. Abroad, where i now live, the big slice of income used to go on foodstuffs, but even here in Spain one can see the cracks starting to form, nevertheless, housewives are very particular when choosing their fruit and veg, meat and especially fish, something I think this new generation reared on fast foods has never been taught. Bring back 3 hour cookery classes in school. Praise be to Jamie Oliver, can we start a campaign for teaching cookery again? I shall never forget Mrs. Garside at Oakmead, who instilled in us girls such a high standard - even weighing our potato peelings!

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