Monday, November 30, 2009

April 2008: "Introducing Slow Food"

As recent articles in The Voice demonstrate, the Slow Food movement has come to Pelham. An introductory session at De La Terre Café in Fonthill attracted an overflow crowd to find out about Slow Food and to sample a variety of cheeses from Chez Fromage Etc. and eight apple varieties from De Vries apple farm in Fenwick. More recently, Wolfgang Sterr closed out the Wildflower Restaurant (it has now re-opened as a market-café) with a Slow Food venison dinner for about 35.

What’s the Slow Food movement all about? Obviously, it’s a reaction to the Fast Food culture of mass produced food, eaten on the run in uncomfortable plastic assembly lines. It’s an organization that promotes the idea of high quality, well prepared food, and taking the time to enjoy eating it. It recognizes and celebrates the close connection between the food we eat and both the land and the farmers who produce it. In the words of The Slow Food Companion, “The food we eat should be good; it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare, or human health; and its producers should receive fair compensation for their work.” These aren’t exactly new ideas. In the past, Canadians had a much closer relationship with the farmers and producers of their food, and we tended to sit down as families and friends in a convivial atmosphere to enjoy our food. In a real sense, the Slow Food movement is an attempt to revive the spirit of those times while recognizing the realities of the 21st century.

With over 80,000 members in more than 850 chapters (called, appropriately enough, “convivia”), the Slow Food movement is not really ground-breaking news for its recent arrival in Pelham. But, with our agricultural roots and the increasingly noticeable presence of quality restaurants, bakeries, and specialty food producers and retailers, Pelham is clearly ready for an organization that emphasizes the enjoyment of good food through recognizing where it comes from, who produced it, and how it was prepared.

For example, at a recent event hosted by a Slow Food convivium at Niagara College, participants were introduced to the differences in the ways chicken comes to our tables. Two chicken dishes were presented, one cooked with air-chilled birds, the other with water-chilled chickens. Once a chicken is slaughtered, it must be cooled quickly; by far the most common way that this is done is through dunking the chicken into a cold water bath. In this process, the chicken absorbs liquid, adding weight that simply evaporates during cooking. (Some producers add salt to the water to increase absorption, so the consumer pays for water… up to 15% by weight.) Air cooled chickens are chilled by blasts of cold air. It’s a more expensive process because it isn’t as efficient, but it produces chickens that are firmer, tastier, and, with up to 80% less bacteria than water-chilled birds, longer-lasting. In our tasting, the air-chilled chicken was noticeably more appealing-looking, firmer textured, and tastier than the water-bathed variety. Who knew? Armed with this knowledge, we now consciously seek out the air-chilled label on the poultry we buy.
For more information about the Slow Food movement, look at and to learn about the Pelham Convivium, write to Renée Girard at

Garlic Chicken
There are dozens of variations on this ancient recipe from the south of France. The number of garlic cloves doesn’t matter, but Julia Childs’ famous recipe called for 40.
One air-chilled chicken quartered
40 (or so) cloves of garlic, unpeeled
½ C white wine or chicken stock
Several sprigs of rosemary
In a roasting pan, brown the chicken pieces in a little olive oil, then add the other ingredients and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in a slow oven (300 degrees F.) for an hour, then remove the foil and cook until done (about another 30 – 40 min. until juices run clear). Either squeeze the garlic from the skins (being careful not to burn your fingers) and stir into the pan juices, or serve the cloves beside the chicken on the plate for diners to peel themselves. Delicious with quartered potatoes roasted in the same pan. Serve with a VQA Sauvignon Blanc or off-dry Riesling.

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