Slow Food: conserving bio-diversity, traditional food habits

By Ibankyntiew Mawrie

SHILLONG: Clinging on to the roots and basics of indigenous cuisines by means of reviving and revitalising it all through the country and globally, North East Slow Food and Agrobio-diversity Society, (NESFAS) is trying to reverse the craze for fast food globally by promoting ecologically and culturally sustainable food and agriculture system and re-valuing the local food of the state as with the rest of the country. Slow Food believes in clean, just and fair practices in the food business.

Thoughtful food or food for thought for a healthier life and promotion of local cuisines is what NESFAS is aiming at and for which a workshop was organised on ‘Role of Youth In International Indigenous Terra Madre at NESFAS’ head office Laitumukhrah on Tuesday.

Recognising the huge prospects for promotion of slow food which includes not just slow cooking as some might interpret but which includes the promotion and conservation of traditional foods like millet and other crops which have retained the bio-diversity of Meghalaya, NESFAS is contemplating to hold the International Indigenous Terra Madre (IITM) in the state in 2015 which will also be co-hosted by NESFAS communities in the region.

“There are tremendous prospects for spreading the message of slow food in the north east and the state as the food scenario is not engulfed by European and foreign food totally,” said Representative of the International Slow Food Youth Network, (ISFYN) in the Slow Food Executive Committee Joris Lohman.

Lohman mentioned that the transition from local food to fast food is something that happened so rapidly in the western countries. “It is on this basis that the slow food movement started in Italy 25 years ago,” he said adding that as a young man, he was keenly interested in the efforts of many stalwarts in this field to preserve the local food habits.

“When this movement came to Holland 4 years ago, I was ever ready to join and contribute towards a better world,” Lohman said adding that at present, the food habit has slowly witnessed a change where people were seen shifting back to the local delicacies.

“A big movement is going on in the western countries and people are starting to revalue local food and I believe that this is something that Slow Food has been crusading for in the last 25 years,” he said.

Coming to Meghalaya, Lohman said that the people here are at the cross- roads trying to decide which trend to follow, “But it would be interesting to learn about the local food habits here and take it along with us to our respective countries,” he added.

Giving an insight about Slow Food, Lohman said that it is more about giving value back to food adding that “Getting a new diet and trying to adopt to modern ways of feeding is a part of development, but it is very important to connect to one’s roots as far as food habits are concerned so that we do not lose out on the health benefits which many countries have already lost and which is a shame,” he said.

Elaborating more on the healthier and promotional aspects of the indigenous food, Lohman said “Knowing where you are from and staying connected to the food you eat keeps you attached to the territory you are from which is something that should be valued.”

Calling upon the youth of the state to promote this kind of food habit, he emphasised on inter connectivity and exchange of ideas for enhancement of knowledge which can be attained through social networking sites like facebook and twitter.

The young promoter of the Slow Food movement from the Netherlands impressed on the need to value one’s tradition and culture stating that in process of globalisation and development, “Tradition is something which we should preserve.”

Lohman will be in staying here for 5 days and during his stay, he will visit the rural areas to learn about the culture and food habits and interact with the rural populace.