Writer Natasha Geary believes we should all slow down when it comes to food.
The wheels of Northern Irish politics are not the only ones to turn slowly these days.
A Slow Food revolution is quietly taking place, and it’s beginning to shape how local people shop and eat. In a world where Instagram continually encourages us to love ourselves, you’d think it would be obvious to nourish ourselves too.
Laura Bradley, of Indie Füde in Comber County Down, recently voted ‘Slow Food Person NI 2019’ keeps it simple, “the most important thing we do is eat.”
Laura is passionate about the Slow Food ethos. Via her greengrocer HQ at Indie Füde, Laura champions farmers that produce nutritious food without harming the environment, alongside traditional techniques that protect heritage and actively supports local producers in making ethical choices. Laura believes, “when love and care is taken to produce food, it should be valued and appreciated.”
It’s a bright autumn morning when I go to meet Laura at her award-winning Indie Füde. The sun is reflecting off the turquoise brick tiles that frame the shopfront, and an array of muddy autumnal vegetables are displayed in baskets outside.
Inside the shop is a treasure trove of hand-picked products. There’s everything from spices for the pantry, to locally produced buffalo salami. It is the antipathy to the modern-day ‘grab and go’ convenience store. It invites you to slow down, to discover something new and delight in a browse. Most products are adorned with gold award ‘taste’ stickers; champion artisans at the top of their game, not nameless conglomerates looking to cut corners for profits.
One of the more infamous products for sale is Abernethy Butter, crowned ‘Slow Food Champion Product 2019.’
In 2005 Alison and Will Abernethy decided to make their hobby into a business. Now, their hand-churned butter is served at some of the best restaurants and hotels throughout the UK. Laura wholeheartedly supports local farmers when they diversify away from intensive farming methods to incorporate a more traditional approach, “In the end, it’s better all-round, better for the environment, better for the animals and better for the supplier because it adds value to their product.”
The Abernethy experience begins even before you taste it. The sausage-shaped butter is wrapped deep within layers of thick paper. Unrolling the double paper packaging feels akin to a Christmas morning. If you diverge away from the traditional butter the colour of the paper packaging denotes the flavours: red for ‘smoked,’ black for ‘black garlic,’ green for ‘dulse’ (harvested from the north coast of Ireland.)
The butter’s distinctive ridged skin and curled snail-shell ends boast of its hand-made, small-batch production. Nigella says, “Abernethy’s black garlic may be the best thing I have ever eaten, or will ever eat.” The butter has a unique toffee colour due to the fermented garlic. It’s velvety smooth and needs to be savoured. (warning: once started it takes an iron-will to stop!) The only problem with Abernethy butter is it’s gone all too quickly, while its beautiful curled edges last in my fridge it demands, as Laura says, to be valued and appreciated.
As consumers, we should care more about where our food comes from.
In this fast-paced, instant world where convenience is king, we must re-learn how to be patient. After all, the best things in life always take time.
You can support Slow Food NI at www.slowfood.org.uk / on Facebook / @slowfoodni and by attending the slow food events curated by Laura and her team of Slow Food ambassadors.
Chatting Food Contributor: Natasha Geary
I am a freelance script-editor and writer from Northern Ireland. In May 2019 I completed my MA in Creative Writing at Queens University Belfast. I have completed two novels and am currently working on my third women’s literary fiction novel. I am a self-professed foodie and beekeeper, a hobby that has opened my eyes to the issues of biodiversity, environmental abuse in food production and the need to protect our pollinators. I blog at natashageary.com about being a ‘Mum. Wife. Writer. In that Order.’