Looking forward to a Slow Food summer.

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As the morning’s are starting to get a little lighter my thoughts are turning to the summer. Don’t get me wrong I actually love winter, although you can keep the ice! But I miss daylight, sunshine and being able to cycle my bike without having to wrap up so much.

After yesterdays blogging on Marmalade and Slow Food I thought I would post an article I had published in the paper last summer. Thinking of picnics how can your thoughts not turn to summer…….

Picnic with Paddington

Looking forward to my first picnic of the year I was happy to see the daily weather forecasts move from rain to beautiful warm sunshine. I had been invited to join a group picnic and I was eager to share in the communal foods, always a great way to try new dishes.  It felt like a children’s story book as I approached the destination; Goldilocks and the three bears as I saw the lovely house tucked next to the woodland. Little red riding hood as I walked into woods with my basket containing a ‘Famous Five’ style lunch. Carrying Paddington Bear under my arm I started to notice bears everywhere in the trees and I knew I had arrived at the teddy bears picnic.

There was a very good turn out for the picnic, people as delighted as myself to be picnicking in the sun. This made me think, in a country notorious for its changeable weather why are we a nation of Picnic lovers? My childhood memories are filled with picnics, from iconic children’s stories to fond memories of packing a picnic into the boot of the family’s ancient Hilman Imp car. I think for me it was the combination of the excitement of an adventure, travelling somewhere new, combined with the chance to sit down as a family and enjoy favourite foods.

The picnic is the ultimate moveable feast. Throughout human history people have needed to travel with food from nomadic travellers, to workers taking food into the field or down the mine. With this need have come classic foods, like Cornish pasties and the ploughman’s lunch. But now most of us have settled lives and desk based jobs. We often skip lunch or eat it at our desks due to the pressures of work. We eat dinner alone as increasing families eat at separate times. Is then the picnic our chance to regain a bit of freedom? To re connect with our environment through enjoying the British countryside. To take time to eat with family and friends, enjoying foods we have made ourselves. To slow down?

Well slow was definitely the ethos of my first summer picnic as it was organised by the Berkshire and Wiltshire Slow Food group. Slow Food is an international organisation founded in Italy, established on the belief that everyone has the right to the pleasures of good food. Slow Food also sees that we have a responsibility to protect food traditions and local food culture.  UK Slow Food has a culture all of its own with a strong focus on food communities through connecting consumers to producers. There is also an emphasis on taste education for children with events like the ‘Taste Adventure’ being held this month in South Oxfordshire and the project ‘Slow Food Baby’.

A picnic is a great time for children to learn about foods in a fun way, sharing the enjoyment with family and friends. At the Slow Food picnic children and over grown children (like myself) got the chance to try a range of home made classic British picnic favourites alongside Italian breads and foraged foods. We had the time to talk about and share our foods, swapping recipes and stories.

There are many Slow Food groups  or ‘convivum’s’ across the UK from Cornwall to the Highland’s and Islands of Scotland. The convivum’s visit local growers and producers, local restaurant’s and eateries, brewery’s and vineyards all to celebrate, enjoy and protect local food cultures. Being part of a Slow Food group has really helped me learn about the foods of Berkshire and Wiltshire and importantly the people behind them; British farmers, Berkshire businesses and Wiltshire Producers. It’s been fun and delicious and there is still so much yet to see!

Of course being the Porridge Lady my picnic had to include oats somewhere! So I made classic Rock Buns but the Porridge Lady way, including oatmeal to make Oatmeal Rock Buns!

I hope you get the opportunity this summer to picnic. To enjoy not only the glorious countryside of the county but also it’s bounty of food.

Orginally published in Get Reading June 2010

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