Saro Gugliotta is President of Slow Food Sicily. In July 2015 he is leading a delegation to London to promote Slow Food ‘Presidia’ products. He will be speaking at the ‘Sicilians at the Table’ event at the Italian Cultural Institute on 14 July.
When did you first become interested in food?
My interest in food began about 20 years ago, when work took me around Sicily which introduced me to many different traditions and cultures. I noticed that the traditions were very different if I was in the east of the island, which had a more Greek influence, or in the west where there was more of an Arabic influence in food; what they had in common was that they were all Sicilian. Over the last 20 years my knowledge of Sicilian food traditions have deepened and been enhanced further.
When did you first hear of the Slow Food movement?
The first time was at a working dinner with a colleague from another region who was responsible for a Slow Food convivium there and he made me more curious about food. I was encouraged to think not only of the dish on the table, but how it was produced and who the producers were. This sensitivity and depth impressed me a lot. Then on another occasion I met Carlo Petrini and I was inspired by him. Today I am hopelessly infected by the Slow Food virus, from which I think I will never recover – and I’m happy about that!.
You are from Messina. What are Messina’s most important food traditions?
At Messina there are two types of food traditions, both linked to the world of work. At a time when work required great physical energy, the traditional dish was stockfish cooked with potatoes and tomatoes; in Messina it is called “.“Piscistoccu a ghiotta”. The dish was very economical and nutritious, seasoned with plenty of olive oil and accompanied by bread. It was a dish that gave the energy you needed for manual labour at that time. For some decades there has been less manual work and people prefer street food, in particular two kinds; firstly, focaccia and the second a ‘calzone’ both topped with tomato, vegetables, and cheese and a piece of anchovy.
For desserts pignolata, a pastry made with lemon or chocolate icing and coffee granita with cream and served with a brioche, which is the daily breakfast of Messina.
How many Slow Food members are there in Sicily? Where are the strongholds?
Membership of Slow Food in Sicily has increased in the last two years from 1,500 to 2,500, with a notable increase in some areas such as Messina, Palermo and Enna. The are areas where Slow Food has a strong presence, including in the big cities which is probably due to the large number of initiatives organised for members. In other areas, especially ones with good traditions of food production, such as the community of hazelnut producers in Nebrodi , or others with strong links to the territory, ranging from farmers to fishermen, craftsmen, bakers, administrators, or people involved in cultural work. Ultimately people love their territory and have made many collaborative projects to help sustainable economic recovery and development of the place in which they live.
What difference has Slow Food made in Sicily?
Sicily is a land rich in resources, but there are often are not valued in the right way. The main objective of Slow Food Sicily therefore, is to make you aware of these wonderful Sicilians indigenous resources and ensure that they become models for sustainable development around food which is ‘good, clean and fair’. Slow Food Sicily wants to create a barrier against the flow of globalized food, to rediscover in Sicily and beyond the age-old values of this ‘key’ island of the Mediterranean.
In July in your role as President of Slow Food Sicily, you will lead a delegation to London to participate in ‘Sicilians at the Table’ at the Italian Cultural Institute as well as other initiatives. What is the purpose of this visit and what do you expect to achieve from it?
The first objective of the visit of Slow Food Sicily to London is to raise awareness of the Slow Food Sicilian Presidia products in the UK and among the Italian restaurants. In fact presenting the Slow Food Presidia products has the value of being rooted in a real knowledge and understanding of the territory, as Slow Food Presidia provide historical links with the society and the area where they are produced. The “Taste of Sicily”, the theme which is to be adopted by some Italian restaurants in London, is intended to lead to an agreement between the restaurant owner and the producer so that at least two Slow Food Presidia are part of the menu. This will allow the restaurateur to explain the characteristics of the product and the area of origin. In this way we hope to achieve two results, the first being an increase in the use of Sicilian presidia products in the UK and secondly to encourage more curiosity among people, so that they come to appreciate Sicilian products and meet producers directly, at the same time stimulating what we call sustainable tourism.