Slow Food Oxon - Annual Report 2006


Slow Food Oxon Annual Report January – December 2006

By Tamara Schiopu, Convivium Leader

Submitted to the Annual General Meeting, Sunday, 28 January 2007, Three Tuns Food House, Henley-on-Thames

The Slow Food Oxon Convivium was founded in July 2004 by a group of 5 members and registered with Slow Food according to the SF Convivia Protocol. Slow Food Oxon bank account was opened with the Co-operative Bank in July 2005. Copies of the Convivium Protocol, Minutes of meetings and original accounts are available by request from the Convivium Leader, Tamara Schiopu,

2006 Activity Report (January – December)

1. New Projects

  1. SF Oxon Book Club, organised by Liz Wilding since March 2006

A passion for food and a love of books led to the formation of our Slow Food Book Group in March 2006. The aim of the group is quite simply to discuss books related to food and the pleasures of eating. We usually meet in the Summertown Wine Café and sip drinks as we talk, although the venue sometimes changes to accommodate wider events involving food, such as our Bread evening in November 2006. The discussions are relaxed and very informal; reading the book is suggested but certainly not required. The books are chosen by the members of the group and as you can see from the titles that we have already read our tastes are quite far-ranging. New members are always welcome to join. The Book Club meets about every two months – check the events section of the website for details.

Books discussed:

    1. Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World by Gina Mallet
    2. The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser
    3. In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore
    4. Eating up Italy by Matthew Fort
    5. Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking your Own by Andrew Whitley
    6. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
  1. SF Students, organised by Committee and led by Ted Maxwell, since November 2006

Our Convivium may well go down in Slow Food history as the pioneers of a Slow Food Student movement. With the support of our Committee members and a grant from the Mid-counties CO-OP (£1,000), we have launched a new initiative aiming to get university undergraduates to learn about Slow Food, cooking, and food production. At the same time we will help them tackle their most stringent problem - having an average of just £4 a day to spend on food! (though not drink…) The launching event was held on 8 November, in Oxford and we got more than 50 Oxford University students to attend what may later become a new society and spread across the UK. SF Oxon member-producers ( Iain Tolhurst of Tolhurst Organic Produce, Geoffrey Whittle of Rangers Organic, Robert Pouget of Oxford Cheese) were invited to attend, display their produce and talk to students about real food cost. This initial event will be followed up with a cooking demonstration (31 January 2007, at Oxford Brookes Restaurant) and farm tours and more. Our members, Master Chef Raymond Blanc has expressed interest and will help grow the movement in the future. Ted Maxwell submitted a project proposal for future funding and support to SF UK headquarters and we are waiting for their decision.

2. Events

January, 22, 2006 – SF Oxon first AGM

February 2006 – SF Oxon Committee inception meeting, organising the 2006 Plan of Activities

March 30, 2006 Launch of the Slow Food Book Club at the Summertown Wine Café, by Liz Wilding (see above in New Projects)

April, 2 Visit to SF Bristol Market, organised by Jane Carlton-Smith

On arrival at the St Nicholas Market area in Corn Street, Bristol, everyone had to take refuge in Café Nero to warm up before inspecting the market. It's larger than Oxford Farmers' market and much more varied, with a great selection of cheeses, meats, cakes, bread and almost anything you can think of except fruit and vegetables (only one stall at this time of year). The market is distinctive because it is quality controlled by the volunteer organisers. The founder member is particularly concerned about animal welfare and all meat producers are inspected. Some produce is organic, but this is not the overriding theme. A waiting list for stalls means that the organisers can afford to be selective and the market is very busy even in bad weather, as we witnessed for ourselves. We heard that the November market was extremely busy even though floods of rainwater were running down the street. Particular highlights were salt marsh lamb from the Severn Estuary, a beautifully made fresh cheese and the chocolate workshop! The taramasalata was also brilliant but had sold out.

Then off to Quartier Vert (QV) for lunch, where most of us sampled the Italian School Dinner menu of simple, low salt, but nonetheless delicious dishes. Carrot & fennel salad with garlic mayonnaise, cheesy deep-fried risotto balls or white bean soup with ham stock to start; pasta with home-made pesto, grilled tuna with a red pepper and tomato stew or baked canelloni with Bolognese sauce to follow; almond, lemon and ricotta tart, cheese or affogato to finish. And the winners were soup, tuna and affogato (ice cream with espresso coffee poured on top). It was all delicious - just imagine food of this quality in our schools.

May, 18 – Fund Raising Dinner in support to SF UK office “Celebrate the Taste” at the Headington Hill Hall, Oxford, organised by Tamara Schiopu.

Slow Food launched a series of projects in UK to protect agricultural biodiversity. Through a series of dinners, Slow Food raised funds to defend the UK's agricultural heritage and gastronomic traditions.

Slow Food Oxon in partnership with the Oxfordshire Food Group based at Oxford Brookes University hosted the local fund raising dinner "Celebrate the Taste". The event was sponsored by Oxford City Council.

With kind support from sponsors - Grana Padano Cheese, Settesoli Wines and Artisan Cheddar Cheese, we offered a unique opportunity to enjoy a superb four course dinner with appropriate wines and at the same time help save endangered species of animals and types of crops. The meal featured the best of local produce as well as items listed in Slow Food's Ark of Taste and products Slow Food has brought back from the edge of extinction.

The Programme also featured a Slow and local produce raffle, tasting of Slow Food Presidia and Arc of Taste Products, Sicilian Wines & Huehuetenango Highland Coffee, guest speakers and gifts. £450 donated to SF UK.

June, 13 Chinese Banquet at the Oriental Condor Café, Oxford Central, organised by Geoffrey Whittle

To acknowledge that China does and will feature more prominently in our lives, we visited a modest, very busy and typical Chinese Restaurant in Oxford, which serves very authentic well prepared Cantonese food with some excellent regional dishes.

We, jointly with chef, chose a varied typical 5/8 small banquet menu with some interesting soup, fish and meat and vegetarian dishes. The chef told us a little about the logic behind the preparation of some of the sauces, and the reason that, for Chinese food to be slow, it is long in preparation, but cooked very quickly.

The Chinese as a nation, eat more regularly than Westerners, probably 5 or 6 times a day and rice or noodles generally, as a staple does not contain the long run energy of our grains and potato carbohydrates. The Westernisation of diet in China is increasing rapidly in the industrial cities and the long run outcome for their health, weight, size of the indigenous population is unknown.

July, 1 Fund raising dinner in support to Terra Madre, organised at Hardwick House by Leader, Ranger Organics and Tolhurst Organic Produce

That hot summer afternoon started with refreshments donated by Huehuetenango coffee, followed by a tour of the Hardwick Walled (organic) garden. Then there was the Cheese board & wine (all donated by Slow Food), and an introduction to Sarah Mcintire’s Esselle Organic skin care products. The new Terra Madre documentary was shown at 6pm, followed by a sumptuous 4-course dinner which lasted until late. £135 donated to Terra Madre 2006.

July, 10 Tea & Coffee tasting at The Kine Croft in Wallingford, organised by Sally and Jim Turnbull

Stephen Kitchin of Wallingford Tea and Coffee Co.Ltd led us through a tea tasting and talk about tea in general. He also talked about coffee and we had some samples of Ugandan coffee. We then went to his shop to buy and get more info and coffee and teas.

August, 10 Visit to Heath Farm, Cotswolds Brewing Co and pub dinner, organised by David & Nena Barbour

Blessed with a cool bright breezy day, a dozen or so of us walked David's farm, admiring the walnut and hazelnut trees, of which there must have been ten different varieties - all tasted, although not yet quite ripe. David grows many of the trees for timber, as selling nuts is not commercially viable on this scale and he runs a joinery and furniture making business. He is also growing several acres of hazel coppice, which is very popular for use as bean poles.

The tour ended with tea in a marquee (set up for a family occasion), where we enjoyed delicious cakes, made partly with home grown walnut oil and home made walnut liqueur. The oil was pressed and bottled in France, by some family friends, and we were given a generously sized bottle to take home. It's important to use walnut oil quickly.

We then moved on to the Cotswolds Brewing Company, set up in a barn in Foscot near the village of Churchill, using equipment acquired second-hand from the USA. Unusually, perhaps, for a rural traditional brewery, the product is lager, quite complex in its flavour and comparable only with the best Continental lagers, rather than the standard product encountered in most British pubs. The unbounded enthusiasm of Richard, the brewer/director who explained the process to us made this visit absolutely fascinating.

We finished the evening in the Chequers Inn in Churchill. The pub was heaving, it being a Saturday night, however the food was great, the lager was local and the service was both personal and highly professional.

October, Terra Madre, Turin, Italy

12 of our SF Oxon Members were at Terra Madre, under various “hats and umbrellas”. And we also supported 2 local organic beef producers (Ranger Organics and Duns Tew Organic Beef) and one local chef (Romain Alinat of Chef’s Table) to attend the event.

October 29, Fungi Foray organised by Ian Bird

This was almost the end of season, and not many edible mushrooms were left, but the more than 20 participants enjoyed greatly first of all Iain’s favourite home-made mushroom soup and stuffed Portabello mushrooms, before we went foraying guided by the City Council expert, on the Council’s Sandy Lane Farm off the Eastern Bypass, Oxford.

It was beautiful warm late autumn afternoon and those who did not find mushrooms, certainly found enough sloes to pick for their winter warming. Another foray in 2007 is highly recommended.

Sunday lunch at the local pub followed the foray.

November 8 Slow Food Student Launch Event

Organised with the aid of a grant from the Midcounties Co-op Community Dividend Programme, the Slow Food Student project aims to show students how they can improve their diets without breaking the bank.

It was launched at The Vaults & Garden in Oxford on 8 November. The Chef from The Vaults cooked local and seasonal food – with a limited budget – and talked to students about how much it costs and how long it takes to make.

In addition to sampling the food, students had the opportunity to meet local food producers and hear about how food is grown, processed and sold locally.

Rising levels of obesity have led to a growing interest in healthy eating in schools, championed by people like Jamie Oliver. Following on from this, it’s important for young people to learn how to cook healthy and tasty food themselves. We want to show them there’s more to food than just convenience.

November 13, Bread Tasting and book discussion at The Rose, in Oxford, organised by Liz Wilding and Tamara Schiopu

Originally planned as a book discussion meeting (Andrew Whitley’s “Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking your Own”), the event later developed into a bread education and tasting event, with members bringing their home made bread and/or their favourite bread from local bakeries and retailers. Marianne Bruel from The Rose hosted the event and provided a wonderful atmosphere, with wine, olive oils and butter for the bread tasting. We ate breads of all kinds, shapes and colours; tortillas, rye, wholemeal, spelt, to name just a few. In addition to bread, we also sampled a variety of cheeses, salsa, chutneys, meats and even (thanks to Ian) oysters. It was quite a feast. The highlight of the evening was Ian Bird’s “no knead” loaf, using a recipe from an American newspaper. Bread is such an important product and it should be put back on the table where it deserves to be as King of foods, so the group decided to develop in time a Bread Manifesto and seek support from all over the world for its institution. The general aims of such a manifesto would be to raise awareness of the poor state of much commercially produced bread and encourage individuals to both seek out better quality bread where possible and/or make their own. The idea will be further investigated and developed in 2007.

December, “Terra Madre in Oxford”, with an Italian pre-Christmas touch - was cancelled due to under-subscription.

3. Publicity & Information

We have approached various avenues in promoting the Convivium and our activities, as it follows:

February: Local Food Guide for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, 50,000 copies ¼ page advert

April: Berkshire & Chilterns Life Magazine, 10,000 print run, April 2006, 3 pages “Slowly but Surely: Slow Food Gathers Pace” by Lynda Brown

May; Oxford Brookes University On-stream, 3,000 copies “Oxford brookes brings the best local produce to “Celebrate the Taste”, by Tamara Schiopu

November: Berkshire & Chilterns Life Magazine, 10,000 print run, 3 pages “Dreaming of a Green Christmas” by Bernice Hurst

November, 14: The Guardian “Making a (healthy) meal of it, by Lucy Tobin

December: Christmas Guide for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, 5,000 copies, 1 page in Farmers’ Markets card

Oxfordshire Green Pages Directory, 10,000 print run – ¼ page advert

SF Snail Mail Newsletter – quarterly updates on SF Oxon activities by Liz Wilding

SF Oxon Website – continuously updated and maintained by Jeremy Rowntree

Press releases by Wendy Knerr

· November , 2006

· January, 2007

Monthly updates by email to all members, by Tamara Schiopu

4. Membership

Graph of Membership figures

Extract from SF Convivia Protocol: “Slow Food International considers that a Convivium’s activities can be best performed with no more than 100 active members. A Convivium with more than 100 members is strongly recommended to share responsibilities within the Committee following the procedures suggested in the present regulations (see “The Convivium Committee” in this section of the Protocol) by selecting a Treasurer, a Secretary and one or more Vice-Convivium leaders. A Convivium with over 250 members should consider creating a new Convivium within the same territorial area.

5. Fundraising & Support

Celebrate the Taste , May - Out of the £1,825 raised at the dinner (including £120 in the raflle), £450 were donated to SF UK for their Biodiversity projects.

Terra Madre Dinner, July 1 – we collected £390 from guests and sent a cheque of £135 in support to Terra Madre 2006. A Certificate of Appreciation will be displayed at the AGM.

Grants - the application to the Midcounties CO-OP “Community Dividend Programme” was sent by Ian Bird and approved in September. The £1,000 has been used to launch and implement the Slow Food Student project, including launching the special website for the movement

Sponsoring Food Communities for Terra Madre 2006

SF Oxon recommended for sponsorship three local businesses to attend TM 2006:

1. Ranger Organics, Geoffrey Whittle (SF Oxon member and Treasurer) – producer of award winning organic beef reared slowly on chalk downland and Thames meadows. High standard of butchery. TM testimonial: Terra Madre was fantastic, and I had a good companion in Caroline who was positive and very 'joined in ' with it all and put up with me very well!! Met many producers and the event is a must for all those committed to the cause.

2. Duns Tew Organic Beef, Caroline Landless – producer of Joints, sirloin/rump/fillet steak, braising and stewing stake, beef burgers, sausages, steak pies, ready meals and salt beef. Says Caroline : Terra Madre was a fascinating experience and I am so glad to have been able to attend. Just to be part of a 7,000 strong world wide meeting was incredible. I enjoyed the work shops and met a lot of farmers! It was interesting to discover that we all face similar problems with our farming! The main speakers at the opening and closing meetings were inspiring and spoke a lot of practical common sense which we could all identify with. Our accommodation at a covent in Avigliana was excellent - we were looked after so well. The food was delicious. Salone del Gusto was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed looking round it and trying endless samples! Thank you very much for asking me to go to the Terra Madre - it was a memorable experience.”

3. Chef’s Table, Romain Alinat - a unique new farm ready meal and personal chef service inviting Oxfordshire to eat better. TM testimonial: I enjoyed it thoroughly and found it a really inspiring experience. I am now looking for ways to become more involved with Slow Food and would like very much to participate in the upcoming Slow Fish conference. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

6. Administration - Committee & Officers

The current Members of the Management Committee and Officers are as follows:

  1. Tamara Schiopu, Founder & Leader
  2. Geoffrey Whittle, Treasurer
  3. Liz Wilding, Secretary and Web editor
  4. Ann Parsons, Founder & Member
  5. Ian Bird, Member
  6. Jeremy Rowntree, Member and Web master
  7. Geraldene Holt, Founder & Member

In accordance with the SF Oxon Constitution, all Committee places are vacant at the AGM, with all current members eligible to nominate themselves for the following term (January-December 2007). All members are not eligible to serve their positions for a period greater than 4 consecutive years. Please find the Nomination Form attached and email it back NO LATER than Saturday, 20 January 2007. ENDS