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Slow & Steady

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kumud Dadlani & Arina Suchde are the proprietors of the Slow Food Movement in Mumbai. Sara Shah spoke to them to find out more about the interesting concept

Making good food choices in a fast-paced city can be difficult, especially since most of us don’t even have the time to prepare our own meals. With this setback in mind, Kumud Dadlani and Arina Suchde decided to introduce the Slow Food Movement in Mumbai. The international concept began in Rome and has spread to various countries across the world. It involves making good food choices and promotes clean, locally produced food. If you think that this is impossible in a city like ours where people love indulging in vada pavs and pav bhajis, read on to find exactly how you can make better food choices.

What is the Mumbai chapter of the  Slow Food Movement about?
As a city, Mumbai is a melting pot of communities. We want to incorporate the city’s personality into the activities for Slow Food. We will organise activities to educate consumers about the value of local food and producers through tasting workshops, farm visits, school gardens, documentary screenings, community meals and farmers markets that encourage producer-to-consumer interactions. The Slow Food Mumbai Earth Market will be a farmer-driven chapter, consisting of numerous taste education workshops.

How will you work to incorporate this movement in India?
Although Slow Food in India is a relatively new concept, a concentrated effort has been made over the last few years to work on a rural grassroots network of small scale producers and an urban network of responsible consumers, including chefs. Slow Food projects on biodiversity such as Presidia, Ark of Taste and Gardens have also taken root, as has work on indigenous communities. The Slow Food local chapters are a hub of Slow Food members who are interested in the food that they procure and consume, and who participate in the philosophy of Slow Food and other related activities.

How did the idea of this movement come about?
The Slow Food Movement first began in Piazza di Spagna (Rome) in 1986. Its birth is related to a certain anti-establishment attitude, in open opposition to the Americanisation of Europe. When Carlo Petrini, a journalist, witnessed the opening of a well-known fast food restaurant in the historical enclave of the Italian capital, he was shaken. The boundaries of what is acceptable had been crossed, and he understood the dangers lying ahead for the dietary habits of the population in the old continent. This sparked the creation of the Slow Food Movement. The idea was to protect seasonal, fresh and local products from fast food harassment, to defend the interest of local producers, to maintain sustainability as well as to respect bio-diversity and to warn consumers about the evident dangers of over-exploitation of the soil for financial reasons.

Why did you choose Mumbai as the city to launch this movement?
The question that is being asked is how we’re going to feed cities, because, according to statistics, 80% of the population will be migrating to cities. The load will be huge as most farmers don’t want to continue to work on farms and their children would rather come to cities to do odd jobs. So, we’re in dire need of alternative food systems.

What are the ideal steps that one needs to take in order to make better food choices?
You need to be as informed as possible. Speak to your vegetable vendor to find out what produce is seasonal. If you don’t know how to prepare a vegetable, look at how native communities prepare it. They posses traditional knowledge, which must not be lost. Consume imported fruits, vegetables and food products on a smaller scale and focus on produce that is grown here including millets, rice and grains.

Could you suggest a few good places that the people in Mumbai could visit to source this food from?
Navdanya Shop, Conscious Food, The Farmer’s Market, Down to Earth and Vrindavan Farm are some ventures that are helping to spread the concept of good, clean and fair food.

Does this movement have anything to do with organic food?
There was a time when all the food in India was organic. Now, when the term organic is used, you can’t be sure if it’s a marketing gimmick or if it’s genuine. Our main aim is to use natural farming methods as much as possible, just like we used to. Our main philosophy is Good, Clean & Fair.

Good: For Slow Food, the idea of good food means enjoying delicious food made with care from healthy plants and animals. The pleasures of good food can also help to build a community and celebrate cultural and regional diversity.

Clean: When we talk about clean food, we’re talking about nutritious food that is as good for the planet as it is for your body. It’s grown and harvested with methods that have a positive impact on our local ecosystems and which also promote biodiversity.

Fair: We believe that food is a universal right. Food that is fair should be accessible to all, regardless of your income, and should be produced by people who are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labour.

What has the response in Mumbai been like so far?
Mumbai is now ready to have a conversation about food. People are keen to understand it and are beginning to ask the right questions about it.
Slow Food has gained momentum abroad and people who work in the food industry have been waiting for the movement to enter India. There is a definite interest, as people want to witness a change and help Mumbai become a mega food city.

Kaboom & The Slow Food Movement
In June this year, The Slow Food Movement picked Kaboom as the place to introduce its Mumbai chapter. We spoke to owner, Yohaan Dattoobhai to find out more about Kaboom’s association with the cause.

  • The idea of the Slow Food Mumbai Movement is to make good food choices. Why do you think Kaboom was the perfect place to introduce it?Mumbai. Kaboom’s food is made using exceptional products of good quality, which are sourced responsibly and prepared authentically — inculcating many of the Slow Food values. The proof of any pudding is in the eating, as they say. So, what better way to launch the Mumbai chapter than by demonstrating how the philosophies of the Slow Food Movement are brought to life at a popular community eatery.
     
  • How do you incorporate this movement at Kaboom?
    Our culinary philosophies have been influenced by the great work that the Slow Food Movement has done in Europe, so hosting the launch of the Slow Food Movement was a way to acknowledge it. Specifically, our efforts to promote farms that use natural techniques and work with local artisans are some examples of how Kaboom incorporates the  principals of the Slow Food Movement in its operations. We also hope to collaborate on more joint events in the future that will help Slow Food Mumbai become a strong platform for awareness and education of the important food issues in our city.
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