Thanks to Heleen Prince from YFM for providing us with this report about their experiences of visiting Edinburgh.
The academics have returned from the academy trip. The trip went to Edinburgh, Scotland, a destination with an obesity epidemic and food banks, but also with top chefs, organic farms and a government that the country wants to make a Good Food Nation. Remco, Catrinus and Marieke reflect on the different food themes that we encountered.
The first day is about the role of food in reducing the differences between rich and poor. In the morning we are guests at the St. James church for a lecture by Robin Gourlay on Scottish food policy. What does the Scottish government do to make Scotland a Good Food Nation? We also meet the Slow Food Youth Network of Edinburgh, that has been active since last year, and contributes greatly to this academy trip.
Academician Remco, a general practitioner, reflects on Dutch hospital food and wonder how it is with public food in Scotland:
‘When I’m up at 5 o’clock in the morning (to get the flight to Scotland) and these kinds of unsightly times, I always wonder whether it’s all worth it, but by 11 am I am hanging off the words of Robin Gourlay and I’m back to knowing what I do it for. He is one of the chosen ones to make a GOOD FOOD NATION from Scotland and prior to that, worked on the Food & Drink Policy drafted a comprehensive policy containing processed ‘Recipe for Success’. On behalf of the government he speaks of the ‘food paradox’ in Scotland, where the nation’s reputation for obesity and poor health sit opposite Scotland’s typical quality products, such as Scottish salmon and Angus beef. Most Scots see food today purely as a fuel and thus charm and romance is hard to find at the dinner table. The hospitality industry is trying to distinguish itself in the fryer, with everything from Mars bars to pizza, thrown in the deep fat fryer! In Scotland, there is a real obesity crisis, but the government is trying to do something about it.
The main ingredients for Robin Gourlay’s Recipe for Success are social justice, health, longevity, prosperity in the field of nutrition and knowledge. His team includes people from all professions. The root domain is the public sector, starting with the youth. In schools children may even have a say in what they want to eat and that is important to prevent it happening too pedantic. It’s extremely progressive if you ask me. I also look forward to the healthy living award that is handed out to the most healthy prison.
From the moment I first set foot in the canteen of the hospital where I ran a lot of my internships I wanted to take over the kitchen and bring tasty and healthy things to the public. I now understand how difficult that is the huge small profit margins and the larger volumes where you have to deal with it in such a big industry, not to mention the strict hygiene rules. Former chef de cuisine of the world’s best restaurant Noma, however, dares on it and go to the other side of the lake to seek to improve the lunch at school. In the United States begins improvement from the business world and in Scotland by the government. In the Netherlands we still seem to rest on our laurels. However, today there was an article in the NRC that the government really has to interfere even with this problem.’
Next we have lunch at Punjabi Junction, a social enterprise community café which, besides serving delicious food, inspires and empowers Sikh and other Minority Ethnic women to advance their own life opportunities, through the building of skills, confidence and social inclusion.
After lunch we visit Edinburgh Community Food, which promotes healthy eating in the Edinburgh population by organizing food coops. We hear more about this project and listen to a presentation about a food bank operated by Trussell Trust. Who visit the food bank and what do they take home?
The day ends at the Scran Salon, the monthly meet-up of the Edinburgh food scene. As we enjoy locally brewed beer, Scottish gin and home-made cake we look back on an interesting first day in food Scotland.
On day two it’s all about Scottish gastronomy. The group takes a walk to Café St. Honoré, Scottish Chef of the Year 2014 Neil Forbes’ restaurant. He personally introduces us to the topic of the day. After an introduction in Scottish gastronomy by Neil we have a conversation with three experts on an unavoidable topic: export. Kirsty George of Scotland Food & Drink presents the current situation, after which we have a discussion with her and the other two experts: Alison Morton (Scottish Whisky Association) and Iain McDonald (Quality Meat Scotland). Who benefits from the export of 38 bottles of whisky per second? Does it benefit the whole population, or only a few? And what about environmental aspects?
After the panel discussion it is time for a delicious lunch from Neil Forbe’s kitchen, prepared with local products that are served in high tempo.
In the afternoon SFYN Scotland takes us on a food tour through the city of Edinburgh. The group is divided in five and discovers what the Scottish capital has to offer. We drink filter coffee and whine, cheese from Orkney and Mull and pet the baby goats on Gorgie City Farm.
In the evening the group comes together at the Edinburgh Food Studio, the restaurant and food research hub that Ben Reade and his partner Sashana Zanella started a year ago. We enjoy a long evening of eight courses full of surprises, such as a dessert with illegal raw sheep milk and flowers from the cemetery around the corner.
Marieke, storyteller, looks back on the Scottish gastronomy in a poem:
It was a chilly afternoon on Scotland’s bonnie hills
When YFM with sacred food and food that slowly kills.
There, at the bar, our maidens asked the jolly Scottish lad
‘What is the food you love the most, what gets you out of bed? ‘
“Well!” Said The docker, look around, it’s all here in the street!
The Indian, Chinese fast food, that’s what we like to eat.
For lunch, some mash and bangers and the haggis Granny brought`
It’s just our bellies we must fill, as time and cash run out. “
The maidens drink Their whiskey and walked five yards north again
To find out more ’bout Scottish food and measurable chefs Neil and Ben.
“A story hides in every part of every love-cooked meal
About the season, region, source, and care, ‘so overstated Neil.
‘To feed the people, “added Ben,’ make them enjoy Their meal,
That is the sacred part of food, a part you’re ’bout to feel.”
And as the night continued, They we’re right in many ways :
With every of eight courses served, we felt the need to praise.
The bread we stroked, the cheese we hugged, the Skirlie we rejoiced,
we ate the handpicked ivy, drink the wine of our Chef’s
And oh, that peelham ham hock, and the rhubarb That We ate
A feast of Scotland’s finest food … dilemmas on a plate.
Axis while we celebrated food, the best we ever had
Downhill the Scottish menu Means obesity and dead.
Good food for all: a noble goal, to keep high on the chart
axis ways and hopes of life are close – but yet so far apart.
On Saturday the theme is food production and the farm. Henri de Ruiter, researcher at the University of Aberdeen, describes in a lecture what the ecological consequences are of a globalised food system and the role of regional food. Next, we move to the Farmer’s Market where we get to know local producers and their products in the shadows of Edinburgh Castle.
We spend the rest of the day at Whitmuir Farm, an organic farm about twenty miles south from Edinburgh. Pete Ritchie and Heather Anderson show us around the farm and tell the group about their vision on food production. At Bread Matters, across the road, we see how Andrew Whitley grows various old and new cereals in an agroforestry system to preserve biodiversity and ecological heritage and promote a healthy bread culture.
Catrinus, aspiring farmer: “Fantastic to see how Andrew and Veronica work together to make the whole grain chain from grain to consumer. In every step of the chain, the unique feature of the grain and the bread is both stored and used. “
Late afternoon we join a plenary session at Whitmuir Café where speakers from Scotland, YFM academy participants and Severine von Tscharner Fleming founder of the Greenhorns, US contribute to a discussion on the link between producers and consumers. Then it is, of course, time for dinner again, prepared by The Edinburgh Larder with local and organic ingredients.
On Sunday morning we conclude the academy trip with a brunch at the Edinburgh Larder Café, where we reflect on our experiences in Scotland.
//PhotographerPhotographer: Jelmer Jeuring
// Illustration: Beatrice Voorneman
// Report: Heleen Prince