In search of: Slow food in Turin

By which we don't mean a meal that takes a long time to arrive at your hotel table, but the very opposite of gast food in terms of origin, quality and taste. Bill Powell tucks in.

Perhaps we have been swayed by Nigella's stuffed figs or Jamie's fish pie. Or have we simply had our fill of flabby pizza and thrice-fried slugs calling themselves chips? Whatever the reason, as holidaymakers we are undoubtedly going gourmet, a fact underlined by the number of British travel specialists seen at Turin's fourth biennial international Salone del Gusto, the world's biggest festival of "slow food".

Perhaps we have been swayed by Nigella's stuffed figs or Jamie's fish pie. Or have we simply had our fill of flabby pizza and thrice-fried slugs calling themselves chips? Whatever the reason, as holidaymakers we are undoubtedly going gourmet, a fact underlined by the number of British travel specialists seen at Turin's fourth biennial international Salone del Gusto, the world's biggest festival of "slow food".

You have to take notice when a show like this has 600-odd exhibitors and brings in 40,000 food-luvvies daily over four days. They become part of a slow-moving army of cocktail-stick-wielding gannets wandering between such attractions as a mountain of raw Tuscan lard (delicious, believe me) and the very popular man from Neal's Yard Dairy.

Slow food – that is, seasonal, regional dishes made with local ingredients – is now regarded by many travellers as a vital element of their holiday. People choose destinations on the basis of that region's traditional food and wine.

Presumably a Big Mac is OK as long as I'm in Illinois, US, home of the fast-food chain?

I should have put that question to Carlo Petrini. Carlo founded the Slow Food Movement 13 years ago as a form of protest when McDonald's opened a branch at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome. The SFM took off and now has 100,000 members in 40 countries. We don't know if this has generated any panic back at McDonald's HQ.

What if I like a big, juicy steak cooked in three seconds flat – can that be classified as Slow, too?

Your beef can still be chewing the cud: it just has to be free range and blameless of chemicals. The way Carlo tells it, Slow is a mystical metaphor, a concept, a way of life and – you could say – a dandy selling point as well. Carlo believes we should accept having to pay more for good stuff. He is against globalisation, the food industry big boys and government handouts to producers. He is for the artisan food and drink producer. As Carlos Santana would say: keep it real or just forget about it.

Is it a cult, Billy Graham-meets-Billy Bunter sort of outfit?

There is no mistaking the evangelical tone. And I was tempted to accept Carlo Petrini as my personal food saviour after I saw the tables he had prepared for me at the Salone del Gusto. That Tuscan lard was a subtle persuader, not to mention Normandy smoked duck, Sicilian pecorino, Spanish Serrano ham, Irish smoked scallops ...

Whoah, there! So you stuffed yourself for four days. Why would that interest us would-be travellers?

Because Slow Food is part of landscape, climate, tradition. It has always been there. Carlo is making the point that there are always real treasures waiting to be discovered, such as truffles in the forest.

Chocolate truffles? Mmm ...

No, no, I'm referring to the secretive and scarce little fungi that grow underground around trees. Unprepossessing they may be (imagine Pharaoh Tutenkhamun's "family jewels" after a long embalming process and you've more or less got the picture), but to a chef they are worth nearly as much as their weight in gold. I arranged to meet Rocky, who knows the truffle woods of Cortemilia, south of Turin, like the back of his paw.

Rocky's a truffle-hound, right?

Absolutely. They don't come any houndier than Rocky, a pointer type, who with great enthusiasm quickly found and scratched up a strange black lump from under the Cortemilian poplars. Similar ones at the market in nearby Alba I had seen changing hands for upwards of €30 (£20). Rocky's young boss, a dead ringer for Sylvester Stallone called Walter, undoubtedly has a tight little business going there.

Cut to the chase. Why are they worth so much?

They impart the same alluring pheremonal perfume as might be found, say, in an armpit belonging to Sophia Loren. There is a sharp-edged, heady musk. A few particles of grated truffle is all it takes to impart significant value to almost any dish, especially salads, scrambled eggs and foie gras.

Yummy. I can't wait to get snuffling in the undergrowth. Where do I sign on as a trainee truffle-dog?

Down boy! This big-money business is secretive, strictly hardball and disapproving of outsiders who want to muscle in. Stick with being a consumer and stay healthy. The classic way to eat truffle is to make a simple omelette and scatter a few shavings on top.

But can I afford to get turned on to such rare and sexy treats?

It's all about priorities. At the Turin show, Slow Food's founder pointed out that Italian families spend a mere 10 per cent of their annual income on food (the same amount they spend on mobile phones), which is 5 per cent less than they spend on underwear.

Carlo believes good food should come before clean knickers, then?

His exact words were: "My underwear stays Armani; what I eat becomes Carlo Petrini."

Where can I find more such Zen food enlightenment?

You can click on www.slowfood.com, email international@slowfood.com or call 00 39 01 72 419 611.

And how do I get there?

I travelled to Turin with Inntravel (01653 629010; www.inntravel.co.uk), which offers food and wine-orientated walking weeks in the Piedmont hills from £721 per person, including return flights, transfers, b&b accommodation in two-star and three-star hotels, three dinners and three picnics, maps, notes and luggage transfers. Inntravel also offers a three-night break over a weekend, including cookery mornings with chef Carlo Zarri and wine-tasting afternoon trips in the Piedmont vineyards for £576 per person, including return flights to Genoa, three nights' b&b accommodation, car hire and two four-course lunches.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth