CHEF (naked or otherwise), food activist and writer Jamie Oliver has blogged Slow Food Perth’s kids’ ‘food-finders’ programme in his website report of the Mundaring truffle festival 2010. You can also read our food-finders report. Since the truffle festival, we’ve run components of the programme at the Corrigin agricultural show on 11 Sep and at St Luke’s primary school in Perth’s suburban Woodvale on 21 Sep 2010.
SLOW Food Perth co-ordinated children’s food education and tasting activities – called ‘Food finders’ – at the 2010 Mundaring truffle festival in the Perth hills on Saturday 31 July and Sunday 1 August.
Kids discovered the history of the apple and tasted and identified different varieties, the story of wheat, ending in pasta-making, and became Spudhunters, digging up, identifying and replanting more than 600 potatoes.
Spudhunters was supported Gary Thomas, a Victorian Slow Food member and chef who devised the activity, Slow Food Melbourne convivium leader Alison Peake, Twigz kids’ gardening tool supplier Chris Hajos, and Western Potatoes’ Anne Kirou, Georgia Thomas and Rick Amos.
Slow Food Perth chose apples, wheat and spuds because they are common foods with uncommon histories. All are key Western Australian horticultural or agricultural food crops and the varieties grown today reflect significant changes in food diversity and availability.
A catalogue of fruit trees growing at the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria’s Richmond experimental farm in 1863 – in what is now suburban Melbourne – listed more than 280 varieties of apple. These included adam’s permain, cornish gilliflower, duke of gloucester, kentish fillbasket, mank’s codlin, pomme grise, reinette jaune hative and sack-and-sugar, all absent from greengrocers and supermarkets almost a century and a half later. What we can buy today is limited to red delicious, fuji, granny smith, golden delicious, jonathan, pink lady, lady william and a handful of others, reflecting a huge gap in our food heritage.
The big ‘mother’ – actually both mother and father, a hermaphrodite – of all apples is thought to be Malus sieversii, native to northern Tibet, north-western China, southern Kazakhstan and north-eastern Kyrgyzstan. The former capital of Kazakhstan, in the northern lee of the Tien Shan mountains, is named Almaty, which translates as ‘grandfather of apples’.
Sieversii, which grows at between 1200 and 1300 metres and often is the dominant tree in endemic forest, is thought to have cross-pollinated with M. sylvestris – the European wild apple – to parent today’s common apple species, M. domestica, in eastern Turkey.
The United States’ Agricultural Research Service is continuing with studies which began in 2006 to collect and document genetic material from M. sieversii. The research has found that the species has an extraordinary disease resistance. Material from among the 949 apple tree accessions made in central Asia has been used to grow out 1600 M. sieversii trees at the US National Germplasm Repository in Geneva, near New York. Using genes from sieversii with modern apple varieties has displayed an ability to resist apple scab fungus and fire blight. From this work, researchers have also found an increased tolerance to growing apples at altitude and in dry and near-desert areas.
‘Food finders’ at Mundaring told the story of M. sieversii and its descendants, using modern winter-fruiting varieties including pink lady, red delicious, gala, sundowner and granny smith to encourage kids’ interest.
SLOW Food Perth will be at the forefront of the Mundaring truffle festival in the Perth hills this weekend – Saturday 31 July and Sunday 1 August. The convivium’s ‘food-finders’ marquee will host a range of children’s food discovery activities and tastings, from hunting for spuds and identifying apples to making pasta dough. Led by chef and double-Terra Madre delegate Vincenzo Velletri, Slow Food Perth will also be fundraising by selling five truffle-themed local food dishes in the festival’s licenced food piazza.
Participating chefs in the Slow Food piazza stall will include Taste of Balingup’s Katrina Lane, Meal-up Dunsborough’s Adam Lane and Perth’s Valerio Fantinelli, all of whom have been selected as West Australian delegates to Slow Food’s Terra Madre world meeting of food communities in Italy later this year. They will be assisted by Pemberton chef and Slow Food Southern Forests’ leader Sophie Zalokar.
On offer will be hand-made pizza, Blackwood Valley organic beef baguette, vialone nano risotto, Pinjarra lamb spezzatino with polenta, and delicious Perth mushrooms – all featuring truffle – ranging in price from $5 to $15.
More than 35 volunteers are supporting food-finders, together with enterprises ranging from Western Potatoes to Growing Free, from kids’ gardening tools business Twigz to organically-grown food seedlings nursery Heirloom Farm. Slow Food Melbourne convivium leader Alison Peake is attending to help us to co-ordinate ‘spudhunters’, an activity in which children dig for potatoes, identify them, taste them and get to take one home to grow or to eat.
Kids will also find out about the history of the apple and the heritage of wheat, hear and read stories, and participate in a range of learning and hands-on painting, food-making and tasting events.
The ‘food-finders’ marquee is number six, just inside the main festival entrance. Slow Food’s piazza stall is next to the wine-bar.
Slow Food Perth’s Vincenzo Velletri is also contributing to the world’s longest truffle lunch – now sold out – by cooking a pair of Linley Valley pigs in a wood-fired oven for the main course.
Dates: Sat 31 July and Sun 1 Aug 2010
Time: 10:00am – 5:00pm both days
Fee: $10 adults, children under 16 free
Tickets: book on-line by Fri 30 July
Public transport: Shuttle bus from Midland railway station on the hour every hour during the two days of the festival, but you must book a ticket through the link above
Bus return fare: $6 adult, $3 child, $16 family [2 adults, 3 children]
A SLURP of real milk – do different white milks taste different? Try your palate at Slow Food Perth’s good, clean and fair food marquee at this year’s Mundaring truffle festival on Sun 09 Aug. Can you taste the difference between supermarket home-brand milk and the real thing? Like a calf, suckle up and test your tasting skills against our panel’s – including a wine judge, an olive oil judge and a cheesemaker.
This is just one of Slow Food Perth’s activities at the 2009 festival. There will also be kids’ blindfold food tastings, our ‘brainfood’ memory tunnel, the Country Women’s Association’s classic sponge cakes, wood-fired pizza, wonderful coffee, and fascinating Slow Food information. Do you know what an ‘ort’ is?
Or come and participate in a debate: ‘Is it smarter for us to eat an organic orange from Spain or a conventionally-farmed orange from Chittering?’ Hear a discussion on food miles, genetic modification and what we eat. Participants will include Slow Food Perth co-leaders Pauline Tresise and Jamie Kronborg, organic farmer Annie Kavanagh and author Jude Bleureau in Mundaring old hall on Sun 09 Aug at 12:30pm.
JUST as Jorge Luis Borges wrote of the roots of language in his prologue to El otro, el mismo, so it is with the truffle: ‘irrational, and of a magical nature’. Slow Food Perth invites you to join us for all that is irrational and magical about the truffle – with good food, wine, local community and conviviality at its heart – at our Mundaring truffle festival down-the-road lunch in Sculpture Park, Mundaring, on Saturday 08 August 2009. The menu, prepared by Terra Madre chef-delegate Vincenzo Velletri, is still being plotted on a tabletop, yet we can hint that it will most likely celebrate the renowned hunter-of-truffle – the pig – with rice, capsicum, rucola and other seasonal, edible wonders. Wine will come from Hills vineyards, with its selection arranged by Maxinne and Anto Sclanders of Cosham Wines and Patrick Bertola of Lion Mill.
On Sunday 09 August we encourage you to visit the Slow Food Perth’s ‘good, clean and fair food’ marquee at the festival and explore our ‘brainfood’ tunnel of food memories, participate in blindfold food tastings, enjoy exceptional wood-fired pizza and wonderful coffee, and learn more about ‘small, slow food’.
French author Alexandre Dumas [1802-1870], of The Three Musketeers’ fame, wrote of them: ‘The most learned men have been questioned as to the nature of this tuber, and after two thousand years of argument and discussion their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated, and have answered simply: eat us and praise the Lord.’
SLOW Food Perth enjoyed a highly rewarding collaboration with the Mundaring Truffle Festival, which was held in the Darling Range east of Perth, Western Australia, on Sat 02-Sun 03 Aug 2008.
Mundaring is a small hills’ community above and away from Perth’s suburban sprawl down on ‘the flat’, as the city is called. One of the Perth region’s better restaurants – The Loose Box, owned by French-born and trained chef Alain Fabreques – operates here. Alain was an inaugural investor in the Manjimup Wine & Truffle Company, based at Manjimup in Western Australia’s south west, and as a result of this investment and his use of truffles at The Loose Box, he proposed the idea of an annual festival to celebrate the black perigord truffle. The Mundaring shire council picked up this proposal and held an inaugural festival in 2007 which attracted about 2000 people to a series of masterclasses, a fine food market, and associated art events.
In May 2008 Slow Food Perth was approached by Jane Cornes, Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine correspondent in Western Australia – and a member of the truffle festival organising crew – to host a Slow Food ‘long table luncheon’ as part of the 2008 festival. As we talked, our participation evolved from a luncheon on the Saturday to a Slow Food information, education, promotion and Terra Madre fundraising event on the Sunday.
The luncheon was relatively easy! With the very generous assistance of stalwart Slow Food Perth member and Terra Madre 2006 chef-delegate Vincenzo Velletri, we developed a Terra Madre ‘down-the-road’ menu – Mundaring itself not being a farming area from which we could readily source local, seasonal produce to any extent in mid-winter. Slow Food Perth co-leader Pauline Tresise devised an appetiser of marinated zucchini, goat milk feta and sun-dried tomatoes; the latter being the ‘leftovers’ from a highly-successful passata workshop held by Slow Food Perth on ‘the flat’ in February 2008, when case-loads of beautiful roma tomatoes were in season.
For the entrÃ©e, Vincenzo created wood-fired bread from flour produced from wheat grown by Terra Madre 2006 producer-delegate Terri Lloyd. This was transformed into a bruschetta trio using fresh, local chicken livers from The Naked Butcher in Mundaring – a fantastic source of nitrate-free organic bacon, too – local field mushrooms, and roma tomatoes from a grocer-donor. From Hillside Meats, a specialist sheep butchery at Narrogin in the Upper Great Southern, which had previously supported the convivium at another event in March, we sourced Stirling Range lamb produced by a farmers’ co-operative in the lower Great Southern. This became a spezzatina finished in Vincenzo’s mobile wood-fired oven in front of the luncheon guests. While this was cooking, we prepared polenta in a an old galvanised copper. For dessert, Vincenzo created a vanilla pannacotta from cream produced by another Slow Food Perth supporter – Bannister Downs cow-milk dairy at Northcliffe. Each course was topped with fresh, shaved, black Manjimup truffle.
The food was wonderfully complemented by Hills’ wines from three selected vignerons – sparkling pinot noir, semillon, rose, cabernet merlot, shiraz and shiraz liqueur – with generous assistance given by Slow Food Perth members and Cosham Wines’ principals Maxinne and Rod Sclanders. With 15 Slow Food members and friends as volunteer ‘platers’ and waiters, we served lunch to 124 guests in a marquee – hung with Terra Madre banners – at the festival site. It was fantastic co-operative work by which people learned about Terra Madre, good, clean and fair food, truffles, the significance of small producers in rural communities and the wider world, and conviviality.
The following day – Sunday – we transformed the marquee into a Slow Food Perth information and food market and cafÃ©. This coincided with the truffle festival’s fine food market involving 40 stallholders in Mundaring’s Sculpture Park. The Slow Food Perth marquee hosted blind-fold food tastings for children, with help from nutritionist Stephanie McFaull, the making and cooking of persian sweetmeats by an Iranian Ã©migrÃ© cook Farengeez Ahmadi, a static promotion for the 2008 international year of the potato, and a ‘brain food’ tunnel of 60 metres of black fabric hung with 40 printed ‘food memories’ – from recollections of eating English boarding school blanc mange (!) to barbequed king brown snake.
We sought to highlight food traditions by inviting the Mount Helena and Mundaring-Parkerville branches of the Country Women’s Association to make and sell the classic sponge for which the CWA in Australia is famous, and to promote the CWA cookery book, a source of inspiration and knowledge in many Australian country kitchens. Irene Verteramo from the food distribution charity Foodbank demonstrated the preparation of good food with just a handful of fresh ingredients. Terra Madre 2006 delegates Bruce and Jane Wilde drove 300km to milk sheep and show children one source of real food – much to the consternation of the local environmental health inspector – and Jane made and sold fresh sheep milk cheese. Baristas Fiori Coffee – whose principals are Slow Food members – made and sold copious, fabulous specialist coffee, from which the proceeds are to be donated to Slow Food Perth’s participating Wembley Downs primary school kitchen garden project. Slow Food committee members made and sold biscuits and Vincenzo Velletri created fresh pizza to raise funds for Western Australia’s Terra Madre 2008 delegate airfares. And the spirit of making good food accessible was encapsulated by one small boy’s question – ‘Why are you trying to shave a stone onto my pizza?’ – when we used fresh Manjimup truffle left over from the Saturday Terra Madre luncheon on pizza for anyone who wanted to taste this extraordinary fungus.
Slow Food’s collaboration with this event was highly successful. It involved about 40 volunteers over two days and took three months of part-time planning. We raised $11,000, spent about $5000, and so contributed $6000 to the Terra Madre fundraising account. It was enormously rewarding, bringing together, voluntarily, people from disparate backgrounds to promote good, clean and fair food and to enable the community – we reckon nearly every one of the 10,000 people who attended the two-day event went through the Slow Food marquee; it certainly felt like it! – to celebrate and understand a little better those things which sustain us all – food, and the people to produce and prepare it.
We would also like to acknowledge the support of Slow Food Australia working group chairman Leonie Furber, and her husband James, at this event.