Forget fast food, Slow Food is the future. Deeba Hasan talks to the nutritionist trying to bring the movement to the Sultanate
Next time you bite into a burger, stop and think for a second. Where did it come from? Not the shop from which you bought it, but the actual meat itself.
Oman-based nutritionist Samira Rengert has made it her mission to change our eating habits, preserve regional cuisine and traditional farming methods, all to ensure we can answer this question without hesitation. In her view, modern life should be about Slow Food, not fast. “In an era of many health risks due to our unhealthy diets and many unnecessary stress factors, people are beginning to return to their roots and lead slower, healthier lives,” Samira says.
Carlo Petrini introduced the Slow Food movement in Italy back in 1989 to counter fast food culture. Over the years, the message has spread to more than 150 countries amid growing concerns over the rise of fast food outlets and the disappearance of traditional gastronomic delights. It’s a global, grassroots organisation that believes everyone has the right to access good, clean and fair food.
Central to Slow Food’s philosophy is the firm belief that by understanding where our food comes from, how it was produced and by whom, adults and children can learn how to combine pleasure and responsibility in daily choices and appreciate the cultural and social importance of food. “Consuming foods in their original form is often the best way for our bodies to extract the energy and nutrients they contain. However, many modern diets are based on processed foods and this, combined with other lifestyle factors, can result in unwanted health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” says Samira. “The Slow Food movement as a whole is an attempt to educate people of these ill effects in the hope of encouraging widespread use of organic produce.”
The Slow Food movement is already present in several countries across the region, including Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE and Samira is trying her hardest to bring it to Oman. “Slow Food is already present in Oman in the form of traditional farming, but our job is to document everything and preserve it for future generations. We need to create awareness when it comes to eating locally produced foods and supporting the farmers.”
As a nutritionist specialising in children’s nutrition, Samira feels that food education should be a key part of a child’s upbringing, both at school and at home. One of the things that the Slow Food movement does is to connect young people through a youth network to raise awareness. It also looks to preserve endangered foods through biodiversity projects and defends animal welfare, in addition to a number of activities organised by members in their own
Slow Food celebrates its anniversary on December 10. The event is marked with the Terra Madre Day, used to celebrate the local food of member nations. Samira plans to mark the occasion by bringing together a collection of Omani family recipes, in collaboration with the Oman Tourism College. The intention of president and founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini, is to unite the pleasure of food with responsibility and sustainability with nature and there is no reason that Slow Food cannot work in Oman, just as it has done in other parts of the world.
The Slow Food diet:
● The ideal breakfast would be an organic egg, ideally from a backyard chicken coop, along with Omani honey or dates with fresh laban.
● A typical lunch would be maleh – salted fish cooked in lemon water and served with khubz rakhal and a rocca salad on the side. Light and very healthy.
● For an Omani dinner, try traditional bread with dal, cooked vegetables and maybe some grilled chicken if available.
Recipe: Maleh soup
Maleh is an Omani dish made of tuna or other types of fish preserved in sea salt. It’s available in fish markets in large barrels, but you can also make your own.
§ 1 large piece of tuna
§ 1 large onion
§ Juice of 1 lemon
§ Green chili
● Rinse the fish under running water and place in a pot with water. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for a few minutes.
● Discard the water and remove the skin from the fish. Peel and cut the onion into large pieces.
● Place the fish and onion pieces in a pot with fresh water and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for some time until
the fish is soft; add the lemon juice and a few pieces of green chili.
● Let it simmer for a few more minutes and serve.