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Clem Sandison is coming to Food Solutions to exhibit work from her tour of Scotland sharing recipes as part of the The Hidden Gardens’ Culture Kitchen Relay. We interviewed Clem ahead of the weekend …

You toured the country swapping recipes this summer in the Culture Kitchen Relay. Tell us your favourite bits?

Everything – it was such an experience!  I loved meeting with so many food producers, community gardeners, crofters, and cooks in different parts of Scotland.  Whitmuir Organic farm was a bit of a revelation to me because it brought back into focus how important organic farming methods are not only for consumers to ensure food is safe and pesticide free, but also if we want to protect our water, wildlife, and have healthy living soil, in addition to reducing our reliance on oil.  As Heather said when we spoke to her – “local food that’s not organic is simply soil degradation locally“.  This really stuck with me.  Other highlights included learning how to make Eileen’s Torta Pasqualina (a festive Italian pie adapted to make use of delicious Ayrshire produce), travelling around Fife collecting all the ingredients for Colin’s Chilli Cheese oatcakes, a lovely day spent on Toni’s croft in the Black Isle making beer-battered fritters, a fabulous time in South Uist cooking by the beach and learning how to make cheesecake with Carageen a local type of seaweed, the list could go on…

In your exhibition Handmade you document some of the tour and the cooking. What was your sense of this snap shoot of cooks? 
All the people we met are really passionate about food and most were not coming at it from a chef angle, but believed in good home cooking with simple seasonal ingredients.  I thought we’d find quite a few recipes that had been passed down through the generations but in fact all of the cooks were very creative at adapting recipes and experimenting to make best use of the local ingredients available, which shows that we can respect our cultural heritage while also being free to try new things from other parts of the world.  Everyone was very keen to learn from Najma (one of our Relay trio) who has a wealth of Pakistani recipes at her fingertips that work wonderfully with different Scottish vegetables and a few choice spices from warmer climes, such as the pakora we made with veg harvested at The Edible Gardening Project in Edinburgh.  Potatoes did figure quite highly in most of the dishes and I have to admit I was craving rice, pasta and other staples by the end of the Relay which is perhaps an illustration of how our food culture has changed in a globalised world.
How do you assess the local food revival?
The local food revival in Scotland is definitely underway and The Relay only scratched the surface of all the community projects and small businesses that are contributing towards this.  However I think distribution and supply chains are a big issue particularly for getting local food into our bigger towns and cities.  We could also do better to connect up local food activity, share ideas and improve the marketing of local food against the backdrop of supermarket dominance.  Blasda is a really great start and I hope that the connections and opportunities for exchange will grow in future years.  We need to make sure that the commercial and public sectors are involved in the local food revival and not only communities at a more grassroots level.
You helped organise the Glasgow Blasda. How would you say the Glasgow local food network is working?
Glasgow Local Food Network managed to pull off a pretty big Blasda event on a very small budget through the time and resources that members committed.  At the moment it’s an informal network of predominantly community-based organisations and I think we all have a shared vision that we want to build a more sustainable food system for the city, but we need to get more partners on board to make it happen.  There’s a new local food map that’s just been launched so you can find out about community growing spaces across the city and we’ve got a meeting coming up soon to talk about the future goals of the Glasgow Local Food Network.  There’s also a film screening of Gasland (with veggie curry) on 5 Dec at The Glad Cafe.  You can find out more by joining our Facebook page.
Will the Culture Kitchen be back?
I hope so!  I’m working with The Hidden Gardens team to reflect on what we’ve learned from all the pilot projects that took place this year and put together a programme in the lead up to Glasgow 2014.  We’ve made some exciting connections with projects across the country and we’d like to continue building on these.  Watch this space and try out some of the Relay recipes.
(all images are copyright Clementine Sandison 2012)