As a city Glasgow has a reputation for an inherent love of unhealthy food. It is a reputation it might even be said to take pride in; carb-laden, deep fried foods (usually washed down with a huge quantity of ‘ginger’, as we call fizzy drinks) is the Glasgow diet that many an outsider envisages as they approach this beautiful city. Certainly twenty-first century Scotland – and Glasgow in particular – faces many dietary challenges, and numerous studies are aimed at redressing this unhealthy balance that plagues the country. However for me, growing up in the 1980s just outside a city that still relied on heavy industry, this wasn’t the case at all. Food then was usually wholesome, homemade and locally sourced; dishes like mince and tatties, lentil soup and Scotch broth were the staples, made with meat from the local butcher and seasonal vegetables from the greengrocer or farm shop. In the summer we would pick raspberries and strawberries from the local fruit farm with the promise of jam that would last through to the following year: living from locally sourced, seasonal food was the only way of life, not by choice but by necessity.
However, into the midst of those days came a food revolution; microwaves and convenience food started to sweep the world, and fast food outlets became more and more prevalent in our cities as free time became shorter and disposable cash seemed to increase. Into this new fast paced, convenience food-obsessed world stepped a man called Carlo Petrini. In 1986 when McDonald's wanted to open their first branch on the Spanish Steps in Rome he decided he had to act – to Carlo, this was neither aesthetically nor gastronomically pleasing. With the same look and flavours the world over, there had to be a way to protect local cuisine from becoming lost. Therefore, with a group of friends he passed out plates of pasta – a symbol of Italian food – as an act of protest against the homogenisation of food culture. While the McDonald's still opened, it made several concessions and from this a movement was born. That movement was Slow Food, with the goal of preserving traditional tastes and products and a belief that everyone on the planet should have the right and access to good, clean and fair food.
By the mid-nineties the organisation expanded across Europe and two of the most important projects for what was now a multi-faceted organisation had started; Ark of Taste, which seeks to preserve the culinary diversity of the planet by preserving foods threatened by industrial agriculture, loss of environment or simply through loss to mass produced generic alternatives, and Salone de Gusto, a biennial international food fair dedicated to artisanal, sustainable food, and the small-scale producers that safeguard local traditions and high quality products.