Discovering the Diversity of Scottish Food

02 Mar 2015

Carlo Petrini’s first day in Scotland began with an example of tradition and local food, and a lunch at Cafè St Honore in Edinburgh. Cafè St Honore is run by chef Neil Forbes, one of the chefs who took part in Terra Madre in 2006 alongside 999 other chefs from around the world. It was an experience that changed his life. On returning home, he decided to align his cooking with the principles of Slow Food, using local ingredients  and incorporating traditional products.


Petrini’s visit was a chance to taste different products from the Scottish Ark of Taste, from mutton from the Shetland Islands, to peasemeal and beremeal. “We need to strengthen Slow Food in this country, opening the door for young people to strengthen their presence in every part of the nation”, commented Carlo Petrini. “Slow Food Scotland must find a way to use its own history, be proud of the heritage of biodiversity that Scotland enjoys, and promote it across the country.


Signaling the need to strengthen the commitment of local Slow Food groups in the network, Petrini launched an important challenge: to catalogue 100 Ark products in Scotland over the next year. This initiative will reinforce peoples’ pride in their local products and build a stronger Slow Food, passionate about the area’s unique characteristics.


On the evening of February 25, more than 200 people participated in a conference on the future of food in Scotland. The event was organised in collaboration with Queen Margaret University and Slow Food Scotland. Welcoming the guests was Charlotte Maberly, a former student of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, now leading the MSc Gastronomy programme at Queen Margaret University. 


There were several speakers at the event, including Mike Small, founder of the Fife Diet Project, who told the audience: “Scotland needs food sovereignty. We need an injection of ideas that can unite our food, environment and people”. 


Denise Walton, producer and breeder at Peelham farm, shared her vision from the point of view of those that produce and sell food. “It is fundamental that producers become aware and part of the process of promoting the true worth of their produce, to enable the change in mentality that sees food only in terms of price and not in terms of value.” 


Carlo Petrini’s words were very direct: “Make food sovereignty a central issue and strive to be modern, taking your history back into your own hands and communities. This is true modernity.”


The journey continued with a visit to producers and the food community in Ayrshire, and meetings with Slow Food West Scotland members. It was then back to Glasgow for a conference at the University Glasgow on the global fight to revert back to local agriculture.


After a visit to the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market hosted by Slow Food Edinburgh, the visit ended with a farewell meal at Cannonball Cafe, hosted by Chef Alliance member Carina Contini, and inspiring parting words from Carlo Petrini.


“This visit has made a huge impression on all those who heard from Carlo. He has inspired and challenged us all, and we have had many offers to get involved to take our ‘sweet revolution’ forward.” concluded John Cooke of Slow Food Scotland.


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