Slow Food Saskatoon will be hosting the Slow Food in Canada National Summit April 19 to 22. The summit, held annually, invites the public along with food communities from across Canada to participate in a variety of food-related workshops, tours and tastings. This year’s event will highlight what Saskatchewan has to offer in terms of eating locally, and raise awareness of what Slow Food International is all about.
“Our theme this year is ‘Eating Where We Are,’ and has three aspects: sharing the foundation of Indigenous food systems, sharing the diversity offered by historic and recent newcomers, and a look at the research and development that has gone into creating fruit, vegetables and grains for our Prairie climate,” said Noelle Chorney, president of Slow Food Saskatoon.
Penny McKinlay, a communications consultant, established Slow Food Saskatoon in 2010. She had been interviewing and writing about local farmers, bakers and restaurant owners on her blog, Wanderlust and Words. “I realized it was important for me to have a personal connection with the person who grows or prepares my food. I want to support my local economy and reduce my carbon footprint by eating food that is grown or made locally, and I want food that is grown with minimal chemicals or pesticides. I’m not interested in cheap food — I’m interested in healthy food and in ensuring that farmers and producers receive a fair return for their hard labour. I initiated Slow Food Saskatoon to share my ideas and to grow support for food that is good, clean and fair,” she says.
Slow Food International was founded in Italy in 1989 by Carlo Petrini to protest the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Rome. The initial aim was to “defend regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life.” Today, it is a global movement involving millions of people in over 160 countries.
The four-day summit in Saskatoon begins Thursday evening (April 19) with a cocktail party showcasing local Saskatchewan breweries and distilleries. “We’re also partnering with YXE chefs (Canadian Culinary Federation Saskatoon Branch) who will be providing appetizers with a focus on local foods. That’s a fun get-together and a place for us to start conversations,” Chorney said.
Friday morning (April 20) the group will travel by bus north of Saskatoon to tour farms involved in the Local Food Trail, a project sponsored by the Saskatoon Food Council, the RM of Corman Park and the town of Osler, with traditional Mennonite food served for lunch.
Friday afternoon will include meetings at Station 20 West, a community enterprise centre in Saskatoon, with a dinner theatre to follow. Circle of Voices will perform the play, written by Indigenous playwright Curtis Peeteetuce, that explores stories around Indigenous food systems.
Slow Food Saskatoon will have its annual general meeting April 21. “We’ll be at the University of Saskatchewan all day conducting demonstrations to show how new Canadians today are utilizing local food to prepare their traditional meals.
“We’ll also be touring the university greenhouses to look at the plant-breeding programs taking place. A gala dinner where we’ll be eating a meal made of food waste, will follow at the farmers’ market,” says Chorney.
The event wraps up April 22 with a breakfast meeting and a discussion of action items for the following year.