Slow Food & Wine


Slow Food Canada logo

Back in February, #ONWineChat was luck enough to host Kari Macknight Dearborn (aka @Whitbyfoodie) and her husband Paul Dearborn (aka @Whitbywino) to talk about the Slow Food Movement, of which they are active members.

Kari Macknight Dearborn & Paul Dearborn at Norman Hardie winery in Prince Edward County.

Kari Macknight Dearborn & Paul Dearborn at Norman Hardie winery in Prince Edward County. (Photo provided by Kari Macknight Dearborn)

From the Slow Food Canada website:
Kari has been an active member of the Prince Edward County convivium for more than five years and serving on its board for three of those years.

A delegate to Terra Madre last year and a founding member and marketing director of the Prince Edward County Chapter of the Ontario Wine Society, Kari is a recognized local food and wine champion with skills in writing, advertising and organization.

I sent Kari questions ahead of the chat – below are the full answers. If you’re interested in the questions that came up on the chat, the entire #ONWineChat is captured here:
Q1: So tell us, what exactly is Slow Food?

It’s the antithesis of fast food in everything that it represents. You can think of it in terms of the interconnected principles of good, clean and fair.

Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization with supporters in 150 countries around the world who are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment.

Q2: Does it extend to Slow Wine as well?

Absolutely. It’s about wine quality, typicity & adherence to terroir, value, environmental sensitivity & sustainable viticultural practices. It’s a bit different than here where we’re still figuring out what some of our traditions are as our industry is very young by comparison – but respect for the environment and sound viticultural practices… that part we can do now.

Q3: What drives folks like yourselves to get involved with the Slow Food Movement?

Because eating is a political and agricultural act, really. So is drinking – every time you choose an Ontario wine, for example, you are paying an Ontario winemaker and supporting their future.

When you care about your food and the community where you live, strengthening the growth of both simultaneously makes obvious sense. Connecting with producers, protecting biodiversity and preserving artisanal production, supporting the local economy and preparing the next generation of farmers and eaters – that’s why we do it.

Wine, food, education – it’s how we celebrate family, friendships and the future.

Q4: Where do Slow Food events take place?

Farms, wineries, restaurants, schools, conference centres, bingo halls, private homes – wherever like-minded people feel like getting together.

Q5: Are there lots of members from Ontario’s wine community involved with Slow Food?

Not a particularly large number, no. We have work to do here.

We know of a small few in the County, but many offer generous support to our events.

Q6: If yes to Q5, what is it about Slow Food that resonates with our winemakers?

I’m actually surprised more of them aren’t involved.

Q7: How does ON fit into the larger international slow food movement?

If you think about what Slow Food is all about – every place where there are food consumers has a part to play. We are fortunate to have such an amazing abundance of everything here – we could be world leaders in good, clean and fair if everyone played their part. When we create a market for slow food, slow food happens.

Q8: When and where are the regional events?

Those vary as each chapter is autonomous to organize their own events that make sense for them. In Ontario there are nine convivia. A convivium is what a Slow Food chapter is called.

Q9: Are there national and/or international events?

There is a national meeting that moves locations each year. It was in Tatamagouche, NS, last year and this year it’s taking place in Montreal, coinciding with a Terra Madre St-Laurent event that Slow Food Montreal is organizing.

Also, biennially in even years is Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy. It’s a HUGE event with people from every Slow Food nation represented.

In odd years, the Cheese event takes place in Bra, Italy and surrounding area – about an hour south of Turin.

Also biennially in odd years, Slow Fish takes place in Genoa, Italy.

Slow Wine holds several events per year, all over the place.

Q10: Which parts of the world have the strongest representation in Slow Food?

Without question – Italy.

Q11: Why do you think those from Q10 are so engrossed with Slow Food?

It’s where it all began and where there is a long tradition of preserving and protecting traditional foods. They cherish their regional delicacies and celebrate them – their gastronomic tradition is amazing. Even young Italian children understand its importance.

Q12: You recently were in Italy doing something with Slow Food – can you tell us more about it?

We attended Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto in October, as delegates from Canada. Imagine food, food producers, and education about that food from nearly every country on earth, all in one place for a week. Overwhelming. Incredible. It changed us on so many levels.

Q13: More recently you were in Montreal with Slow Food – what was that event about?

Slow Wine on Feb 4 was an event that brought together 35 Italian wine producers, from all regions. Events in New York, LA and San Francisco on this two-week four-city tour were larger events than Montreal.

Slow Wine critiques wine through the perspective of the Slow Food philosophy, believing that wine, just as with food, must be good, clean, and fair – not just good. Prominence is given to small-scale winemakers who are using traditional techniques, working with respect for the environment and terroir, and safeguarding the incredible biodiversity of grape varieties that are part of Italy’s heritage.

Q14: What’s next for Slow Food in Ontario?

Increasing awareness and promoting the very best of our regions and our collective heritage.

One of Kari’s particular passions with relation to Slow Food is the Ark of Taste:

There are nearly 2300 products that have been added to the Ark and are protected and promoted by Slow Food. Currently there are 25 from Canada – how many have you tried?

It might interest our #ONWineChat folks to know that Ice Cider from Cryoextraction is on the Ark of Taste since 2012. We helped sample this in Turin last year, along with a few other Ark products.

Here are some excellent links that talk about the organization and the passion of people involved with Slow Food.

Q15: Why do you think #ONWineChat’ers should get involved with slow food?

We think it’s important to know not only where you food is coming from, but who is producing it and how they view the future of their product. With the school programs, you educate the next generation of consumers to make better choices.

Q16: How does one get involved in the Slow Food movement?

Find the group closest to you here:

If there is no convivium in your area, info on starting one is here. From my perspective, Sudbury, Ottawa, Durham Region are very populated areas that are underrepresented in Slow Food, as is Niagara and LENS.

The email for the leader of each group is listed.

Attend their events and learn about how they’re making a difference, in schools, food banks, and in the community at large. Slow Food is even active in changing government policy on everything from animal welfare to school lunches.

Q17: Where can we find out more about Slow Food?

You can talk to someone in Slow Food (like one of us!), attend an event in your area, visit the Slow Food in Canada or Slow Food International websites.

Q18: Slow Food matters because____________?

Everyone should actively participate in where their food (and drink) comes from, from a biodiversity standpoint and from the view of protecting our environment and our control over the food system. We all have a role to play in creating the food system that serves us. Eating shouldn’t be a passive act and we shouldn’t let a handful of companies make these important choices for us.

Q19: What should be the one takeaway for us tonight about Slow Food?

That you should be active in choosing what’s offered up for you to eat and take action to make that choice every time you spend a food dollar. That even small changes like switching to a small-scale producer for your eggs, or your vegetables, can make a huge difference – and have a ripple effect in your local economy and community.

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