In the Midlands there are plenty of folk who are perfectly happy to do without eggs for a few weeks while hens follow their natural Spring cycle and sit around broodily all day hoping to hatch their eggs. Others will wait patiently for Piccolo the cow to finish weaning her new calf Cello, forgoing the extra milk which would be just perfect for making yoghurt. This is really what slow food is all about; not making unreasonable demands – being mindful of the entire process.
The International Slow Food movement, formed in Italy in 1989 to safeguard gastronomic resources, is concerned with the disappearance of local food traditions and works towards promoting the diverse heritage of regional food and drink. Distressed that their traditional foods might be smothered by a wave of fast food and convinced that the concept of fast food disrupts our lives, they work to banish the degrading effects of a fast food culture and thereby not only improve the quality of life but simultaneously address important environmental issues. One of the biggest causes of loss of biodiversity on our planet is modern commercial mono-agriculture which eradicates genetic diversity by only growing select, vigorous plants. Genetic diversity in our food crops is estimated to have reduced by 80% in cultivated populations during the last century. It is now widely accepted that small farm cultivation protects species’ genetic diversity.
With the issue of ‘food miles’ becoming important, we in the Midlands are fortunate to have a wide range of good quality produce available close by. Many restaurants aim to celebrate local abundance and the creativity of chefs who produce interesting meals with local produce.
We advise visitors to relax and remember that we pick our own herbs, make our own sweet chilli chutney and bake fresh scones every morning. We believe that the positive energy which goes into unhurried food preparation has an effect on the taste. So pour a glass of local wine while you wait for your meal (which will be a little slower than in the city – obviously) and afterwards, lie on the lawn and watch the clouds before you order a decadent dessert to accompany your coffee.
Supporters of the Slow Food concept, La Lampara uses seasonal ingredients and are fortunate that a neighbour grows unusual vegetables – radicchio, artichokes, black radish- in small quantities, just perfect for their style of cooking. Pino Canderle is so passionate about great food, that he dreams of importing a herd of Water Buffalo to make his own mozzarella cheese. “What on earth is more delicious than freshly-torn bufala (buffalo) mozzarella with slices of sun ripened tomatoes and a few basil leaves?” Food doesn’t get any better than the ingredients.
“Many people don’t seem to understand what slow food is really about. At La Lampara we go to great lengths to ensure that what ends up on your plate has been slowly produced every day. We make our own pasta, bread, sauces and stock. We are very concerned about sustainability and do our best to use only fish varieties which appear in the Green List of the WWF South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative.” emphasises Caroline Canderle.
At Lastingham Guest House, Lynn Holder also believes that the good energy which goes into producing authentic food has an enormous impact on the taste. “In our kitchen we do things from scratch. For our Brown Onion Soup, we begin by roasting bones to make the stock and use just picked herbs and vegetables grown next door.”
Fran Vermaak of Swissland Cheese, who supplies top Midlands restaurants Hartford House, La Lampara and Granny Mouse, concurs “My goats are free to roam in the grasslands eating a variety of herbs and grasses which gives the milk a great flavour to make our cheeses.” And Fran ensures they have a comfortable retirement once their milking days are over.
Great produce is available to everyone at the Karkloof Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning. Organic vegetables from Dovehouse Farm, fragrant Wild Bread, free range chicken and herbs abound. Everyone has a right to good, wholesome food and to know where it comes from.
Animal Voice, the official mouthpiece for Compassion in World Farming in South Africa has produced a Kind Food Guide to help consumers make informed choices about what they eat. When they began in 1989 there were no free range eggs commercially available in South Africa – nowadays we take them for granted.
In the Midlands we take pride in living in harmony with the natural environment and local communities. Stroke a goat, crush a sprig of fragrant rosemary and tantalise your tastebuds in gentle surroundings with beautiful views and soothing country sounds. Whatever your taste in food… if you prefer it slow, the Midlands is the place to be.