I have talked much about my mission to establish Blue Collar Gastronomy as a way of life. It is a vision and mission entwined.
My simple thesis is that good food, cooking and eating are the absolute birthright of everyone who seeks them. Gastronomy should never be the exclusive domain of the wealthy alone, such it has become in England and indeed elsewhere. Why, for simple example, must we be forced to buy factory processed milk when Lait Cru, fresh from the cows that morning, is on the market and in the small shops.
Following the mantra of Blue Collar Gastronomy every meal starting today and for the rest of your life will be a delight. Time spent shopping for ingredients, preparing and cooking them will be like a free therapy. The conviviality of your table will ascend new heights.
Slow Food, driven by that inspirational Lombardian, Carlo Petrini, fell back on the Latin – Convivium. He wanted us all to have conviviality around our tables – whether we are enjoying a simple meal or a grande bouffe. Never confuse gastronomy with greed. For me, the loathesome, mis-used term ‘foodie’ has come to point towards pure greed – people who talk about their next meal whilst they are still at table eating the one in front of them, doubtless throwing in anecdotes about other meals they’ve snouted through at the same time. This is not gastronomy – and certainly not Blue Collar Gastronomy which cares for the entire A to Z, from the time to best harvest an apple variety to where to find the best zampone.
Blue Collar Gastronomy came to me as an ‘Ah-ha’ moment one very cold winter’s morning in Outreau – a down-at-heel suburb of Boulogne-sur-Mer. In truth the idea had been bubbling around my head for a year or more, but that day came the revelation.
First was the market straight from the tunnel where baratte butter is sold from the piece – and then onto the hypermarket as it opened at 0830. By my reckoning, this is a district of higher than national unemployment, probably lower than national educational achievement and income to match, yet a place where families were selecting and buying foods far superior to the best any British store could offer. No gimics, no marketing, no anything bar truth. Sure, there were sub-standard items on sale – but most of these folk could pick their way through the marketing flim-flam.
They were Blue Collar Gastronauts without even realising and I appointed myself their mentor, ambassador and lobbyist that day, degtermined to take forward to the widest possible audience what I knew was achieveable reality. The movement was born in my head, celebrated with a ’51′ in the cafe bar which is a part of the store.
Watch TV food programmes and try as they might, there’s still a smug elitism creeping through. Nobody is encouraged to genuinely engage with food – most presenters have cash driven enterprises behind them.
Some people I spoke with reacted unfavourably to the term ‘Blue Collar’. I stood my ground and decided Blue Collar Gastronomy it would be. I even registered is it as a dot-com because one day we might make it into what it deserves to be – a national movement with events, degustations, campaigning farmers, retailers, manufacturers and politicians – and biggest of all, bringing a supermarket or three on board. What a business plan that will be for them – and it’s as good as written.
This fine chicken seen here - the Poulet de Gournay - has me as its exclusive agent in the UK, appointed by the Defis-Ruraux. It’s as elusive as it is exclusive - but Blue Collar nonetheless because you select it for taste, not price, knowing you can feed nothing better to your friends and family on that special occasion. Presently you’ll only find one in a market somewhere along the Seine Valley or in a fine restaurant. It’s a pure breed with DNA tracking going back to Viking times. That’s Blue Collar Gastronomy’ and we’re bringing it to England.
Carlo Petrini started Slow Food from his office in the town hall in Bra (Lombardy). From small beginnings his movement is now worldwide. Terre Madre is pure genius – the two university sites mark its absolute importance. To hear Carlo speak is to be entranced by the sheer logic and weight of his treatise.
Blue Collar Gastronomy has identikit credentials because it is about the truth in food, the magic of cooking and the celebration of friendship around a table – and nobody is excluded by income, education or location. It is 110% inclusive and never exclusive.
The gestation period is over. Tonight we gave birth to Blue Collar Gastronomy. It already has a decent enough following of those who supported my ideal from that wintry morning in Boulogne Outreau.
From here we will expand the idea and we will campaign on irritating and exciting issues of importance. We’ll hunt down the truth, look under corporate stones and expose the rogues and fools, most times in a gentle, kindly court jester-like way – but we do mean business. The campaigning has begun.