Slow Food Heroes: A School of Colors tackles the lockdown

Cynthia Robleswelch, together with the Slow Food Ñam ñam community and Monterrey Culture and Taste Education, thought about the little ones during lockdown, and the consequences of isolation. She developed a series of child-friendly recipes to help families cope with the slow pace of quarantine.

Photo by Pamela Baxter

I am 46 years old and I live in the small city of Monterrey with my partner Alfonso and my son Rocco. But I grew up near the sea, in Acapulco Gro, Mexico’s tropical paradise; that’s where I learned to live in close contact with nature. I work as a freelance journalist and I am a social entrepreneur: I have a company of biodegradable cleaning products, “Mama Rocco”, and an association called A School of Colors that is dedicated to spreading the culture of food.

I have been a member of the Slow Food network for more than eight years and since I got to know the philosophy of the movement I have not been able to leave it. It has also given me the opportunity to meet many like-minded people.

When the pandemic broke out I was fortunately at home working on educational projects that could be shared remotely, via social media and beyond. These same projects became the key to supporting people who suddenly found themselves at home, unable to cook and unable to go out to buy food or go to a restaurant.

I started with an initiative that would allow families to cook together, almost as a way to learn to live together and pass the slow time of confinement. We organized online classes through social networks like Facebook and Instagram and I made agreements with the government to make these free classes available through their networks.

To celebrate World Food Day and Family Day, we signed an agreement with a foundation that provided cooking kits with ingredients, recipes, aprons, recipe booklets, games and sensory laboratories for more than 800 families, which were shared through the foundation’s and our networks. 

Another beautiful project was to take our interactive photography exhibition virtual, which originally started in schools, government cultural centers and the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León. My First Time: discovering and creating links with food was the name of the exhibition, it is totally free and has games, educational content and the beautiful photos of Juan Rodrigo Llaguno and the sculptures of Cristina Brithingham. For the development of this project we involved chefs like Alan Paikes and Georgina Mayer, visual artists like Ivan and Isaac de Trece and Zero and Ernesto Torralba.

I received support from the federal government and, together with the Slow Food Ñam ñam Community and Slow Food Monterrey, we formed alliances with government and cultural institutions to bring the initiative to the homes of children throughout Mexico.

The Slow Food network in Colombia – led by Isha Ramirez – and in Uruguay – under the leadership of Diego Ruete – also joined the project, creating a wonderful collaborative network dedicated to education.  These projects have definitely left us with memories that remain in our hearts, photos of families enjoying  a moment of peace and family fun from a distance, creating food together and learning and recognizing the identity of our homeland through corn, cocoa and other delicious foods. 

My dream is that more and more adults will educate children responsibly, starting with the world of food. Too often nowadays the frenetic pace of our lives makes us neglect one of the most important parts of our lives, food. And so we find ourselves subjected to the fashions of the food industry and slaves to bad habits. If families would learn to use some of their time together to learn and reflect on the food they put on the table, it could be the beginning of a big change in the whole food system. 

Since I conducted the first workshop with the sole purpose of entertaining a group of children, I have realized that there is an innate need in them to understand the world and connect with it, to feel part of it. I like to teach them that we are part of nature and that the only way to grow and enjoy this world is to open ourselves to connect with it, even taking care of it. It is important to understand, from a young age, that every action we take implies a responsibility and has an impact.

To tell the truth, in the end it is always the children who teach me something. And knowing that I can introduce them to the Slow Food philosophy makes me feel like an active part of the change we all want to see in the world. Slow Food has been a gift to me, I have found great friends who give me the certainty and hope that my utopia is becoming a reality. 

Anyone who wants to replicate what we do has to think that cooking is for everyone and that we all have aright to learn about the gastronomy of our regions. 

That is a good way to start: first researching, knowing what is in your area and starting to open yourself to new flavors, then being in that channel, sharing it with your students, friends or family. Calling your family to rescue old recipes and replicate them, giving you the opportunity to make these recipes a treasure for the new generations by sharing them from your home via the internet. Sharing recipes and these experiences with children transforms the way in which generations learn about the joy of cooking.

Slow Food Heroes is a project financed by European Cultural Foundation, with the contribution of CRC Foundation.

  • Did you learn something new from this page?
  • yesno