Detours, Great Food and Slowing Down…
What’s the saying; if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? So true, but often what shows up is better or equally satisfying as what has been denied.
After much planning and excitement for a hiking trip to the English Countryside, I was met with the most rain the region has ever received since the recording of weather. The flooding was so severe that seven bridges had been washed away making it hard to get around and the rain just continued to fall with no end in sight. The choice was clear: stay put and do nothing while watching the rain come down, possibly stranding myself hours from London, or packing up and moving on. After consulting my Lonely Planet guide, my friend and I headed to Ludlow, the “gourmet capital of England’s Northwest” and the home of England’s “slow-food” movement. If I couldn’t hike, then dammit, I’d eat great, healthy food.
For those of you that are not familiar with the slow-food movement, it came about in response to fast food king, McDonald’s wanting to open a franchise in the heart of Rome. Leave it to the Italians to protect their culinary heritage! In the battle to honor the tradition of food as nourishment as well as centerpiece to the family gathering, a trend began building momentum that has now spanned the globe and has brought awareness to the idea of eating locally, mindfully and in a way that treads lightly on the earth. Slow food is about delighting in the pleasure of food, enjoying meals with friends and making time to connect, not only to what we put in our bodies, but the spirit with which we do it as well, all the while enhancing our local economies by supporting local farmers. The slow food movement seeks to counteract fast food and fast life, raising awareness of local foods and how our food choices affect not only our bodies, but the rest of the world as well. It is a movement that couples pleasure with responsibility and will hopefully continue to build momentum until fast food becomes a thing of the past.
So it was with great enthusiasm that I headed to Ludlow to experience the slow food movement first hand, and I was not disappointed! Ludlow is packed with specialty shops that offer local cheeses, meats and produce. Woven through the narrow, quiet streets you will find many small farm stands with all kinds of seasonal vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. In the heart of town near Ludlow Castle, we found a small shop with all kinds of delicacies from olives to cheese, to fresh meats and fresh pasta. Too bad we only had two nights to sample all of Ludlow’s culinary offerings and with no opportunities for cooking, we perused the shops but set our attention to finding the best restaurants in town. Although Ludlow has two Michelin star restaurants, they were closed the nights we were there, which is fortunate because it led us to some of the best food we’ve tasted. Leave it to me to find the diamond in the rough, and I certainly did when we went to The Unicorn.
Deceptively hidden within a local pub resides one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. When I think of pub food I usually think fish and chips or shepherds pie. But this is no ordinary pub! I started out with the soup of the day, Aubergine (Eggplant) and potato soup, which was one delicious spoonful after another of silky curried goodness. After that I had the fish pie; a ramekin of fishes in a delicate sauce topped with a piecrust, baked to perfection. We found friendly and impeccable service delivered by the lovely Clare. Sammuel, the sous-chef was friendly but coy about the ingredients in the soup. Hiding his secret well, he left me no choice but to try to replicate it on my own once I returned home. Sadly, it is not the same, but it is definitely good enough. You can find the recipe for my Aubergine & Potato soup here. (Note to Sammuel: please send me the actual recipe!) Another great restaurant in town is the Olive Branch that specializes in vegetarian as well as gluten free fare, and is a small, cozy corner restaurant that coaxes you out of the cold and into the warmth of a great cup of tea. I highly recommend it!
In the end, I had a different, but equally satisfying experience. While I planned for a vacation that was physically demanding, I got instead one that satisfied my curiosity and appreciation for quality, healthy food. Just another reminder that it’s all good and everything usually works out in the end ~
For more information, you can visit the following websites:
The slow food movement: slowfood.com
Slow food in the U.S.A.: slowfoodusa.org
The slow food movement in Ludlow, U.K.: slowfoodludlow.org.uk
Slow food towns around the world: cittaslow.com or cittaslow.org.uk
A little inspiration for slowing down:
Children’s book author and illustrator Maira Kalman wrote a short visual story about the same ideas behind the slow food movement, titled ‘Back to the Land’. It’s a slow, easy yet inspiring read!
Have you visited any slow food towns in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world? As always, I would love to hear of your thoughts and experiences. Please take a moment to leave a comment below…