Cooking at a snail’s pace lifestyle
Slow, that’s the idea, not only when choosing between the greengrocer and the hypermarket, but also in cooking, fashion, tourism, trade, exercise, sex and even in cities that claim to be in favour of this trend. But what does this philosophy, whose logo is an orange snail, really consist of?
Slow emerged in the 1980s, at a demonstration in Rome, supported by Carlo Petrini, a journalist and gourmet from Turin, linked to a concept of food as a reaction against the opening of a McDonald’s and other fast food businesses that threatened to destroy gastronomy, people’s stomachs and local cuisine, apart from causing a wave of obesity, with everything that implied.
The first area on which the Slow Movement focused was that of food, contrasting slow food with fast food: quality food, with a designation of origin, well cooked and accompanied by good wine, carefully and attractively presented.
Over the years, the Slow Food phenomenon has grown to over 100,000 associates in more than 160 countries. The movement distinguishes producers, processors, traders and gastronomes who work to market food and dishes from what they have called the “Ark of Taste”, and who have drawn up a list of products in danger of disappearing due to their strong connections with very specific local communities or cultures.
The associations in the movement organise gastronomic fairs, the most important being the Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy, the cradle of the movement. A number of other events that prioritise this trend have also been created.
Since 2018, Relais & Châteaux, one of the world’s most prestigious hotel associations, has been promoting the Food for Change campaign, together with the international Slow Food movement. The event combines the pleasure of fine food with a social and environmental commitment through a series of events led by experts in the fight against climate change and some of the world’s best chefs. The third edition will take place from 1 to 4 October in virtual format and will be the prelude to the great Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, which will be held from 8 October 2020 to April 2021 in Turin.
We are therefore talking to one of our most international chefs, who has a lot to say on the subject. Quique Dacosta (1972), born in Extremadura but Valencian in spirit, has three Michelin stars, is director and gastronomic creator of the Hotel Mandarín Oriental Ritz Madrid and the founder of ArrozQD, his latest success in London, and six more restaurants. He is also an ambassador for Action Against Hunger and holds an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts.
Porcelanosa Lifestyle: What do you think of the Slow movement?
Quique Dacosta: It has to do with the way you look at life, not just cooking. When I started, I wasn’t drawn to haute cuisine because I was more familiar with traditional rural cooking. Just think, at that time, 32 years ago, 90% of the products I use in my kitchen were not in the best-known books about high class gastronomy. As a result, today, Quique Dacosta represents constant change. The Slow movement is not dogmatic and people come to it because they feel it’s right. I don’t like doctrines that prevent me from going beyond my immediate surroundings. Our Mediterranean culture faces economic and social challenges and I can’t shut myself off from the world because, if I do, the world will shut itself off from me. We’ve been around for 40 years and we want our products to be in New York, our oils, our wines, our salt-cured products, we want them to know what we do and how we prepare foodstuffs.
PL: How do you think Slow cooking affects a “fast” house?
QD: At home, in a family that moves quickly, lives quickly and has little time to spend on cooking, you can’t expect great changes but you can apply basic principles. The first thing is where you buy your vegetables, meat and fish. That’s where the revolution begins and that should also apply to how you cook. I think we need to look at four aspects. First: where the product comes from, for example a potato from Australia leaves a massive carbon footprint and you have potatoes right here nearby; second: the potato crop can be high production or traditional farming; third: the same potato can be steamed, fried in olive oil, or double-fried in animal fat, so the same product can end up in three different ways; and finally, you can eat that food and sit in front of the computer or go out and do some exercise. All these sides of the food pyramid are important and they always start with the shopping basket, with food that is not necessarily more expensive, but is more select.
Being a gourmet doesn’t have to increase your cost of living. Making the right decision about quality probably only increases the price by 15 cents.
PL: What do you think of “tupperware cuisine”?
QD: In the middle of the pandemic, we launched the “cool delivery” service with Quique Dacosta concepts that could reach the consumer in 4 minutes. We are currently thinking about food for people at work, how to eat well in an office where you have a mini break. It’s all about nourishment, we’re talking about yogurt, a good slice of toast with ham, turkey or avocado, and tomato, a piece of fruit, which I’m very much in favour of. This is personal and I don’t want to be dogmatic, but I think it’s better to eat a nutritious diet than try to enjoy what you can’t have. If my daughter were to ask me what to take to work, I would advise her to take some cereals, some good ham and a piece of fruit. We need to find a solution and we are thinking about it because this meal can also be fun. There are different products on the market and there are companies that are doing a very good job with very varied products.
PL: Do you think that insects will save us?
QD: I take it you’re referring to protein. It’s a matter of sensibilities. I have been an Ambassador for Action Against Hunger for more than 3 years, I am a father, I am a cook and I cannot understand hunger in the world, especially when it has been shown that we are capable of producing more food than we need on the planet. However, there is very poor management and I think that we could solve many problems with what we have. For example, when in Europe we wanted to save the third world from hunger by imposing our ways of eating, our tastes and our methodologies. We have often run into difficulty and what we give doesn’t work in those countries, because their flavours are different, their customs and tastes are different and, whether they have more or less, you can’t impose the flavours you like in something as basic as food, and that’s where my thoughts on insects come in. Insects will be processed as flour, they’ll be made into protein milk-shakes that will feed us and taste of strawberry, coriander or peppermint. But the insect as such, the raw product, will be very difficult, because it doesn’t fit in with our tastes. We can eat a spider crab but not a spider. We can eat crayfish, which look like grasshoppers, but we won’t eat a grasshopper; it’s to do with our culture, just as we don’t give pork to Muslims, because it conflicts with their beliefs.
PL: What is the most essential tool in the kitchen for you?
QD: There are three: My knives, which are an extension of my hand. Of course, I don’t cook without fire, in that sense I’m a bit Neanderthal. And my mobile phone to say what I’m doing and communicate with my chefs. With a knife I can chop, with fire I can roast, and with my mobile phone I can tell others about it.
PL: And your favourite material, wood, stone, steel…?
QD: In my last restaurant in central London, I designed a kitchen with burners using different types of wood that I bring from Spain, wood from orange trees, olive trees. With a space to store it and cook paellas on an open fire. It’s a real spectacle.
As for working materials, we designed a wonderful kitchen in the Creative Studio, where I work with Porcelanosa. It uses natural materials combined with technology applied to a solution. The kitchen is a place where we create and give a soul to elements of all kinds. The powdered stone components the firm works with allow us to create a piece with two textures: below it is cold, robust and almost sculptural, while on top it looks like the same stone but it is ultra-resistant. Thanks to great design work, we have managed to create professional kitchens and take them into the home.