There is nothing that brings people together more than a shared passion. Two of my biggest loves in life are, of course, great food and travel. I am fortunate to be a member of Slow Food, which allows me to explore both of these two passions and share the joy with others. This year, I was asked to attend Terra Madre with Slow Food and the experience is one I will never forget.

Slow Food is an organisation that promotes local food and traditional cooking. Carlo Petrini first founded Slow Food 1986 in Italy. It has now become a worldwide movement, protecting traditional farming methods and fighting against the ‘fast food’ culture. Terra Madre is the biggest and most important food and responsible eating culture event that they hold. It brings together 5,000 delegates from all over the world. Their motto of ‘Food for Change’ highlights the current topic of climate change and demands increased awareness of food production methods and their impact on the world.

Over 4 days, I attended talks on the impact of climate change. I was astonished to learn that the Earth is going through its sixth mass destruction. Currently, one species disappears every twenty minutes from our planet. This is partly because real farming and real food have been replaced by food grown artificially in laboratories and injected with carcinogenic pesticides. In 20 years, our worldwide surface planted with genetically modified organisms has gone from 1.7 million acres to 189.8 million acres and continues to rise.

People had travelled for days on foot, by boat, plane and even canoe to attend the event. I met indigenous farmers, cooks, fishermen and foragers from Africa to Asia. The sacrifice to leave their land was huge and for many, like the elderly African fisherwomen I met, this was the first time they had left their village. She introduced herself as an activist, who was there to defend generations of women in her family and her grandchild’s right to fish locally. She refuses to watch helplessly as her local waters are illegally exploited, threatening her right to put food on her table. The government had sold them out but she explained: ‘They may be giants, but we are the millions.’

I was inspired by the artisanal producers, dedicated to sustainable food and small-scale production. It also made me realise that there is still so much to learn. I discovered lupin bean flour from Campania and Grana Padano cheese made from rennet extracted from thistles. I even had a go at making ‘felitto fusilli’ pasta - a pasta entirely made by hand, shaping it around a very thin iron rod: a centuries-old tradition, passed down from mother to daughter. There are only a handful of women left in the world that can still make it.

There is no tick box agenda to follow at Terra Madre. If I closed my eyes and imagined a perfect world, it would be free of racial, political and religious prejudice. A world where kindness is our currency, where people are united through the common goal to build a better future to conserve our food, which I was privileged to live it for a few days at Terra Madre.

Food is not just what you are eating, but it where it has come from and how it was made. Both the origins of the food we eat and also the methods of production must be appreciated and recognised. As we close the door on 2018 and look to welcome a new year, cherish your family’s traditional recipes, cook together over Christmas and learn the ways of generations gone-by. These traditions are far too precious to lose and we must fight to keep them alive.

Pasta E Fagioli

Serves 4

Pasta e fagioli translates as ‘pasta and beans’. It is a traditional Italian dish that was originally eaten by the poor, as the beans and pasta made it a filling meal. For me, it’s one of my favourite recipes to enjoy in winter because it’s a no nonsense, simple and warming dish that the whole family can enjoy. Nothing is more satisfying on a cold, dark day than a bowl of this delicious soup!


50ml olive oil

100g pancetta, diced

1 white onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 celery sticks, diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

250ml white wine

200g dried borlotti beans, soaked over night and then cooked until tender

1 can of tomatoes

2 bay leaves

500ml chicken stock

1tbsp fresh rosemary, minced

200g dried pasta (macaroni or ditalini both work well)

The rind from a wedge of Parmesan

Extra virgin olive oil, for serving


1. To make the soup, sweat down the onion, carrots, celery and garlic in the olive oil, add the rosemary and pancetta and cook off for a further 5 minutes until the fat on the pancetta renders down.

2. Add the white wine and reduce until it is nearly evaporated, then add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves, borlotti beans, pasta and parmesan rind. Simmer for around 30 minutes and season to taste.

3. Serve in terracotta bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin oil.