In 2002 I approached the State Library of Queensland’s Director Leah Giles-Peters to propose establishing a special collection at the State Library of Queensland of books on the subject of gastronomy. I requested that if the ‘library’ were to be established then I wished that it be formed in the name of ‘Slow Food Queensland’. Furthermore I proposed to them that I would bequeath my large collection of books on the subject.
Firstly to understand a little more – what is Slow Food?. It is now a widespread international movement that was formed by Italian journalist Carlo Petrini who organised a protest rally in Rome to raise awareness of the spread of fast food outlets in the world. The rally was held at the Piazza Navona where a branch of MacDonalds was planned to open. He received an overwhelming response to his campaign and hence the Slow Food movement was born soon after.
Slow Food maintains that the spread of fast food chains devalues culinary differences throughout the world and contributes toward homogenising our taste buds and lowers our expectations.
I relate an anecdote that illustrates this, many years ago I was once stopped by a desperately hungry American in Venice imploring me to tell him the whereabouts of a MacDonalds. If he only wanted something cheap and fast, Venice has many pizza outlets but he just wanted a burger and fries. No one denies him his right but if there are MacDonalds everywhere he will never be tempted to broaden his palate and truly understand the region or country he is in.
Slow Food is not about slow cooking, it can be as simple as putting out a plate of seasonal asparagus, add to that some creamy fresh goats cheese, add a swirl of aged balsamic vinegar and drizzle a pool of extra virgin olive oil. It is all about preserving authentic tastes and protecting the heritage and culture surrounding food and offering support for the producers and growers who wish to maintain standards and traditions. For more information about the Slow Food philosophy, its manifesto and how to join and make a difference – open the Slow Food website
The creation of a Slow Food Library of Gastronomy is actually a world first and in 2003 I attended the Slow Food International Congress in Naples where I was invited to give a presentation on its formation to delegates.
The Slow Food Library of Gastronomy is dedicated to collecting books containing recipes, books on its history and reference books. It is planned so that both parties involved in the partnership will continue to work toward providing this resource for it to become a comprehensive collection for the general public and anyone engaged in the study of all aspects of gastronomy around Australia.
To formalise the arrangement for this collection, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) exists between the
State Library of Queensland and the Slow Food Convivia of Queensland. It is updated every four years to reflect any new developments that require consideration.
The two organisations representatives, of which I am one, meet on a regular basis to discuss the collection and plan any programmes that enhance and lift the profile of Slow Food. Various events are planned regularly involving lecturers, historians, food writers and chefs who are invited to lecture or participate in forums and educational activities at the State Library. Information about these programmes are disseminated by the library through its publications and brochures.
The John Oxley Library (reference library) at the State Library of Queensland is the repository for Slow Food’s constitution, records and ephemera relating to its function and administration history. Regular deposits of information are lodged at the John Oxley Library so that the history of the movement in Queensland can be accessed in the future.
I have been roaming the world since 1969 and have been very closely involved in food culture, by attending cooking classes, eating at world restaurants of note, roaming street food markets, documenting, giving my own classes and leading people on food tours abroad. And it is this intense interest that led me to see a larger picture; for Australians to have access to the books that illustrate or represent the rapid development in this area. It is very timely as food has now been elevated to a whole new status worldwide.
My own collection to date has been catalogued by the State Library of Queensland and I have already released many books to the collection. In addition I have organised and lobbied for donations to be made by inviting authors and publishers to donate books to the Slow Food Library. The general public are also encouraged to donate books if they are in good condition. All donations are acknowledged.
If you have cookbooks you are no longer using and are ready to part with them, so they can have another life and purpose I would be pleased to hear from you. Just send me an email or a comment on this blog.
Roz MacAllan, Slow Food Library Liaison Officer (another hat I don)