GOOD food is more than just macronutrients and flavours. It is something that nourishes our emotional wellbeing and connects us to our identity, our community and to Mother Earth. In these 3 stories from our global Slow Food network, you’ll hear about various aspects of GOOD food and how it brings taste, local culture and social change together.
Gísli Matthías Auðunsson (Iceland)
“I can’t say I have a favorite dish. I love and choose my ingredients and recipes with a sense of belonging. For me, a food is good when it’s unique. True luxury is being able to eat something that only exists in that place and at that time of the year. I’m not really interested in expensive foods that you can find all over the world.
Food is culture, an important part of our history, identity, consciousness. If we were to lose our gastronomic tradition, we’d be giving up on a part of ourselves. A good food, sure, is a delicious food that satisfies our senses, but to be good has to have meaning. It’s good if it doesn’t damage nature, if it’s seasonal, if (and only if) it respects both consumers and producers.
My name is Gísli Matthías Auðunsson, I’m a cook living and working in Heimaey, a small island of herders and fishers to the south of Iceland, in the remote Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Here, perhaps more than elsewhere, nature has a profound impact on our daily lives. We’re surrounded by the sea: it’s natural to use its fruits in the kitchen. For example, dulse seaweed, called söl in Icelandic, a red seaweed with a salty, spicy flavor, which is little known and underrated. Another food that represents Iceland and in particular this archipelago is harðfiskur, a fish dried in the winter winds: it’s hung up in special huts, protected from the snow but open to the wind. We eat it with bread and butter, a simple dish with a long history. I have a lot of respect for the sea and its fruits; we eat the whole fish, there’s a recipe for every part.
Anyone who comes here will taste strictly local and seasonal products; they certainly won’t find caviar or truffles, or other “luxury” foods. Because they can be bought anywhere in the world, but it’s only here that you can taste the skin or the head of a codfish frosted with honey and wild herbs, or our seaweed that I harvest in the summer personally and leave to dry in the sun. My menu speaks of Iceland and it’s connected to my small island. It changes every week: the availability of ingredients dictates the menu, not vice versa. We make great use of wild herbs; I’ve learned to know them well. When we opened the restaurant we gathered four or five types of aromatic herbs to use in our kitchen; today we use at least 50. Over time we’ve learned what grows on the island and then, gathered stories and recipes that detail the use of each herb, which are all known to be medicinal. I’ve learnt by doing. Yes, I’ve attended a cooking school, but at school you don’t learn local traditions. And I’d like to learn more about our culinary traditions.
I don’t think it makes much sense that in our cooking schools we learn about French cuisine, for example, but not our own. There’s nothing wrong with learning the techniques and the histories of great international cuisines, of course. But you can learn this in every corner of the world. Nobody will tell the story – if not we ourselves – of the story of Icelandic gastronomy. And that’s what I try to do every day.”
More about Gísli’s work at:
Antonuela Ariza (Colombia)
Soups are especially important for us – they’re some one of Colombia’s most important dishes we have them everywhere from North to South and from East to West, no matter what the weather is. We have vegetable, beef, chicken and fish soups and they all represent and nurture our gastronomic culture, our tradition and all of us Colombians.
To me, good food is a product or a dish that can talk about its quality on its own; you can just eat it from the garden and it’s just perfect. A product that was made or cultivated by someone who knows about his or her trade and that expresses, in the best way, where it comes from and how it was produced. Good food is also every product which comes from a place we can link to – a community, a farmer or a group of farmers and producers that we can establish a long-term relationship with and that we can work together to grow better food and exchange opinions.
It is a product or an ingredient that we can use to promote and to take care of our nature and biodiversity every time we use it and every time we put it on a plate.
We took the time to visit many places in Colombia, to visit communities, farmers and fishermen and after going through this extraordinarily diverse land, a question arose: Why are we a country that is so unaware of its cultural richness? So, we started looking for an answer to that question and then we found both the answer and the actions that we needed take, through food and cooking.
Each product we use each product we choose expresses the particularities of a territory, of a place and the spirit of a culture. Take this amazing ingredient, the black chili, made from the the poisonous cassava, which tells us about the philosophy of Amazonian peoples who understood how to live in balance in this ecosystem of extremely complex interactions, with fruits that grow everywhere that awaken our senses and teach us about flavor, sourness, sweetness and so many different tastes. The search for the geography of our food helped us to clarify what is our place in the world. Our premise, all these years, has been to cook food which surprises people and which makes them find themselves again in the richness of this territory, reminding them of the importance of taking care of it, promoting and sharing its amazing treasures.
My name is Antonuela Ariza and I am a Chef and entrepreneur, owner of MiniMal “Surprisingly Colombian Cooking” restaurant in Bogota whose menu is dedicated to products from different areas of Colombia (mainly Amazonia and Pacific Coast), and founder of high quality ice-cream factory “Selva Nevada”, with a focus on the origin of ingredients.
More about Antonuela’s work at:
Sara El Sayed (Egypt)
My name is Sara El Sayed and I’m PhD Student and co-founder of Nawaya, a social enterprise working as a catalyst to transition small scale farmer communities in Egypt into more sustainable ones. I’m Egyptian-Italian so I’m influenced by both cultures in my food. I think that on my plate right now there would be an assortment of lots of fermented things: some lightly fermented cheese, maybe a slice of fermented sourdough pizza and a couple of pickles. So basically a fermented feast!
What is good food for me personally? Well, it’s really important that it’s true to culture and traditions. There is a big movement right now to say that good food has to be vegetarian or has to be vegan and that that’s more sustainable, which is true in many different respects, but good food cannot just be about calories or carbon footprints. For me good food also blends a modern-day understanding with tradition and culture; so the flavors, the stories behind it are really valuable. We need to dig a little bit deeper than just filling our bellies and eating a meal that is nutritionally or sustainably good; there’s more nuances to good food.
In my opinion, small-scale farmers and traditional food producers are key to ensuring we have good food in our world. They have been providing food for a large majority of us for centuries, using traditional technologies that they are usually not given credit for. Polycultures and having mulch on the soil are both simple examples of technologies that create a rich ecosystem and soil structure that will ultimately produce better quality and tastier food, while being more resilient in the face of climate change! We should support these kinds of innovations and use today’s science and technology to better understand all the different traditions that exit, and bring them to center stage.
More about Sara’s work at: