I have just joined Slow Food Dorset but work for Oscar Mayer, a leading producer manufacturing supermarket ready meals - am I a hypocrite?
Slow Food began in 1986 when an Italian journalist was horrified that a new branch of McDonalds had opened in Rome at the foot of the Spanish Steps. He decided it was necessary to set up a slow food movement to counteract the potential for fast food world domination.
I am passionate about good local food and aim to purchase much of my weekly shopping from farmers markets and local producers. The amount of home-grown produce we develop each year expands and I aim to only buy produce in season. I source most of my meat from a local butcher but have recently acquired part ownership of a Gloucester Old Spot pig (Delia) due to arrive on our plates very soon. I have pictures of Delia from a 10 week old weaner to current day and am already planning a menu to do Delia justice.
You may be surprised to learn how much time and effort goes into preparing a premium ready meal. Some meats need to be marinated for 24h and then undergo a five hour slow cooking cycle. Beef is sourced from the UK and we are currently using Mey Selections in premium Sainsbury's meals. Mey Selections have been sourced from the Scottish Highlands within 100 miles from the Castle of Mey, an initiative launched by Prince Charles. It is matured on the bone for a minimum of 14 days.
Retailers provide a convenience and the aim must be to persuade the public to demand high quality and seasonality from supermarkets. I personally feel that, for my busy lifestyle, a combination of supermarket convenience and local regional food offer a good combination. I am completely comfortable that my job working with high quality ready meals and leisure time spent on Slow Food activities is fully compatible.
Celia Wright is group technologist at Oscar Mayer