Photos by Toby Golus.
El Cafe Blueproject
The Slow Food movement is gaining ground in Barcelona, with many of the city’s markets and restaurants sourcing their food from the large network of nearby farms and providers. Locally sourcing food—a concept that has come to be known as kilometre zero (Km 0)—has become a growing international trend and the very definition of the Slow Food movement. The term slow food is familiar to many people, even if they can’t quite define what it means. Its iconic snail logo graces the doors of many restaurants in Barcelona and is synonymous with the project’s goal of living and eating slower, of finding an amenable alternative to the pace of modern life.
The Slow Food movement was founded in Italy in 1986 by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists who wanted to protect regional traditions and celebrate good food and a slower, more pleasurable life. It was created after a demonstration took place against McDonald’s at its intended site by the Spanish Steps in Rome, to counter the fast food culture which was gaining ground in Europe. The Slow Food manifesto, which was signed in 1989, three years after the movement’s birth, states that it is a reaction against industrialisation and its discontents, particularly fast culture and the ensuing fast food culture that developed. The Slow Food movement vowed to advance its own cause by ‘advocating historical food culture and by defending old-fashioned food traditions’, a cause which has flourished since its inception almost 30 years ago.
El Cafe Blueproject
The movement touched on something powerful for both producers and consumers, and it soon gained enough momentum to reach an international audience. The first Slow Food International Congress was held in Venice in 1990 and branches of the movement began popping up in other European countries, with Germany being the first. Biennial events such as the Ark of Taste project held in Turin, which identifies and catalogues products that are at risk of extinction, and the dairy-focused Slow Cheese project in Bra, began as a way to draw attention to where our products come from and how best to care for the animals and earth that provide them. The focus on biodiversity and sustainability remains at the heart of the Slow Food project.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Slow Food International has...
- 1,000,000 supporters
- 100,000 members
- 2,600 Ark of Taste products
- 2,400 food communities
- 1,700 gardens in Africa
- 1,500 convivia
- 450 presidia
- 160 countries
Slow Food Restaurants in BCN. (*vegetarian)
- Allium (Gotic). Call 17
- Mam i Teca (Raval). Lluna 4
- El Cafe Blueproject* (Born). Princesa 57
- Rebelot (Barceloneta). Baluard 58
- Rasoterra* (Gotic). Palau 5. Run by current president of SF BCN.
- Cafe 1907 (Tibidabo). Císter 25
It’s no surprise that the Slow Food movement has made its way to Spain, where food continues to define different regions and local traditions while at the same time bringing people together. In Spain, there are currently 39 conviviums, or local chapters, involved in the Slow Food movement, nine of which are in Catalunya. These chapters work to bring the Slow Food philosophy to life through local events and activities, including shared meals, tastings, conferences, festivals, farm visits and more. In addition, Slow Food Spain is involved in several of the Slow Food initiatives, such as the Ark of Taste project, and it highlights specific regional producers who are working to ensure the survival of their products and traditions. Valentí Mongay Castro of La Salseta de Sitges restaurant has been an active Slow Food member since 2002, and founded the Slow Food Penedès i Garraf chapter in 2004. This promotes several projects including ‘pescado sin precio’, which highlights how to cook creatively with products that are more abundant because they are less in demand. He also helped develop the list of Km 0 restaurants for Spain. “The Slow Food movement has made my job more than just about making money,” he said. “We feel that our work is helping to keep small farmers nearby and protecting the biodiversity of our area and the environment.” Through his work, he has been able to enter several products from Garraf into the Ark of Taste, including greens called espigalls, perruqueta escarole, paperina cabbage, a local sweet wine known as Malvasia de Sitges and rooster from Penedès.
The local Barcelona chapter of Slow Food is named ‘Slow Food Barcelona Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’ in honour of the writer who was an active member of Slow Food Italy and who published various books about gastronomy. The chapter has worked for over 10 years to bring awareness to the cause, albeit from within the confines of its urban environment. Former president Rosa Solà has acknowledged that the lack of agricultural land in Barcelona provides its own unique challenges for the chapter. As member Èlia Varela Serra explains, “The best way to participate is by informing and educating [the public] about the principles of the movement.” They promote products and healthy food whose production does not harm the environment. In keeping with the original Slow Food manifesto, goods must be offered at accessible prices for consumers under fair conditions and pay for producers. Slow Food Barcelona also holds activities and workshops meant to draw attention to local, sustainable products. In addition, they protect certain flagship products, such as Ganxet beans or the Penedès rooster.
The work of the Slow Food organisation is not focused solely on farmers, providers and restaurants but also on the importance of the consumer in the process. In fact, Slow Food has coined the term ‘co-producer’ to highlight the essential role of the consumer in protecting the environment and culinary heritage. They suggest a number of small but meaningful ways to get involved which don’t require membership or a donation. Those who have the interest and inclination might consider growing some of their own food, even if it means just enough for a windowsill planter. Yet, for those of us who don’t have a green thumb, buying local, seasonal, whole ingredients in small quantities and not letting them go to waste is an easy first step to being a responsible co-producer. Avoiding processed food with long lists of ingredients is another. Buying locally-grown products helps to reduce the carbon footprint of your meals, while reducing the amount of meat you eat not only benefits personal health but also the ecological health of the planet by reducing the clear-cutting needed to provide grazing land for cattle. According to The Guardian, “The popular red meat requires 28 times more land to be produced than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions.” Learning about local foods and cultural dishes, as well as the region’s gastronomic history, can put consumers more in tune with fresh, seasonal foods and dishes. The fact that Spain consumes six times more pork than cattle, for example, makes adjusting eating habits to local tastes an obvious benefit.
Perhaps most importantly, knowing the story behind the food you buy and shaking the hand that feeds you is an excellent way to get to know your local providers and to make a more meaningful connection to the area in which you live. Of course, in Barcelona this isn’t always as easy as it seems, given that farmers’ markets are not as prevalent here as in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, many local, seasonal products can be found at the neighbourhood markets around town. La Boqueria market has its fair share of local products, although many more are flown in from different parts of the world. Luckily, Slow Food Barcelona has made it a mission to make green markets a way of life here in the city. The most recent Slow Food green market took place in July with a focus on sustainable fishing, and featured a wealth of local products ranging from tomatoes from Girona, broccoli from Maresme, local honeys, handmade mató cheese and many others. They have strategically chosen Poble Sec as the location since there is no local market there, and in 2016 there will be a market held each Sunday.
Buying local may be getting easier, but restaurants are still notoriously un-Slow Food-friendly, and understandably so, from an economic point of view. Choosing where to eat out may prove to be a challenge for those planning to embrace the philosophy, so Slow Food Spain has created a compendium of Km 0 restaurants to get interested participants started. Restaurants that earn the Km 0 certification have certain requirements that they must follow. Primarily, they must embody and promote the Slow Food mission and use local, regional, and seasonal products in their dishes, with 40 percent of the ingredients being locally sourced, directly from the provider to the restaurant. The remaining 60 percent must either be part of the Ark of Taste or be organically certified, and all products must be completely GMO-free. While these guidelines may reshape the way chefs would normally approach menu development, those who join the network find their personal philosophies outweigh the inconvenience.
Núria Lucas, head chef at El Dinou in Vilanova i Geltrú, part of the Km 0 network, explains, “My grandparents were farmers, and so I have always seen the cream of the crop at home, both seasonal and Km 0, and that is what I want to give my clients. It isn’t natural to find melon or aubergine all year round, and if I find it shipped in off-season and then transport it to my kitchen, this has a large impact on the pollution of the planet. I believe it’s not only unnecessary but indulgent to eat products out of season.”
Luckily, with the growth of the Slow Food movement in Barcelona and invested chefs and proprietors, it is possible to eat both well and conscientiously. Between the network of Km 0 restaurants, the Slow Food movement’s guidelines and the new monthly Slow Food green markets, it has never been so easy to eat good, clean and fair in Barcelona.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Terra Madre: Forging a New Global Network of Sustainable Food Communities (2010). By Carlo Petrini.
Slow Food Revolution: A New Culture for Eating and Living (2006). By Carlo Petrini.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2007). By Michael Pollan.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2009). By Michael Pollan.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (2008). By Barbara Kingsolver.
A Taula amb km 0. Guia de restaurants km 0 de Catalunya. By Rosa Solà i Daniele Rossi (This is written by the former and current presidents of Slow Food BCN and the edition is bi-ligual in Catalan and English).