Women Chefs Cooking Up A Better Future

Fresh from our success with the Eat Local Challenge, which saw the participation of thousands of Slow Food supporters all over the world (the winners will be announced soon), we are now well into the second phase of Menu for Change, our campaign to raise awareness and funds to support Slow Food projects helping farmers and artisan food producers address the consequences of climate change worldwide. This second phase, Cook Up A Better Future, focuses on chefs and what they can do to help. Here we focus on one such chef-organized event by Slow Food Livorno, which will symbolically open a series of events organized by our local associations, the Chefs’ Alliance, and anyone else keen to put themselves to the test with climate-friendly menus and collect funds for Slow Food.

Arianna and Francesca Orlandi

Behind the scenes of the lunch, planned down to the finest detail, is Valentina Gucciardo, who has involved Livornese chefs and producers, guesting a dish from Lucca—a symbol of the Capannori Terra Madre food community—and designing a perfect climate-friendly menu. We spoke to Valentina to find out what the lucky participants at the lunch on Saturday November 12 at the Ristorante Montallegro Orlandi will be eating. And why!

‘We wanted to get involved too. We were keen to offer our own contribution to a campaign that has to echo all round the world. We in Livorno have had firsthand experience of the consequences of the unseasonal bad weather that is now becoming the norm. The torrential rain that brought our city and the whole surrounding area to its knees on September 9 and 10 has to make us reflect. Not only about how we can cut our emissions, but also about how to cope with a change that is already underway. We need to learn how to protect the land and our environment, conscious of the fact that we are now heading towards a different type of climate with changing patterns of rainfall. Slow Food Livorno will always be on the front line.’

Without forgetting, of course, the huge pleasure of enjoying a banquet together. Especially since its preparation will be in the expert hands of three outstanding female chefs.

‘Busy in the kitchen will be Arianna Orlandi, the owner of the restaurant, and Marusca Falanga, our seafood cooking expert, of the Pescheria Mare Blu fish stall in Livorno’s central market. Marusca, a qualified educationalist, is a passionate gastronome and she’ll be cooking a special fish dish.’

It’s called Assaggio di mare “cosa c’è c’è” (A taste of the sea, ‘whatever we have’) and it sounds promising.

Valentina Gucciardo

‘Arianna originally suggested making acciughe accoppiate, anchovies sandwiched together and fried, but Marusca said no. “We’ll use whatever we have,” she declared, “because the sea has its reasons and we can’t know what it’s going to give us beforehand.”’

Valentina also told us that Marusca is attentive to lesser known fish species and is engaged in spreading knowledge about them and teaching people to appreciate every part of the fish.

‘These days all people want is bream and bass fillets, but we’ll be taking this opportunity to rescue traditional recipes that are losing out to what I call “fish-cum-steak.” We also have a surprise in store outside the menu proper—a fish fumet served in a tea pot—precisely to demonstrate that it’s possible to make delicious dishes with every part of the fish.’

Another important dish of the evening will be pumpkin from Federico Rustici, who runs a small farm at Collinaia, a tiny village just outside Livorno.

Paola and Alda Bosi

‘It’s a symbol of the flood. When his field was hit, Fede saved his pumpkins in a container. But he risked losing the whole crop, as some were bruised and could have spoiled quickly. In order to save it and provide much needed oxygen to a farm that now has to get back on its feet again, we organized a special sale. It was a huge fund-raising effort and there was a veritable procession of buyers. I myself went backwards and forwards to Collinaia with my Cangoo, and managed to sell 80 pumpkins weighing 10 to 15 kilos and 80 smaller ones. The pumpkin we’ll be eating at the Menu for Change lunch is one of the 15-kilo specimens. It was Maruska who bought it and we decided to use it on an important occasion. Though we’d also like to get the message across that support for local agriculture should be a daily practice, not an exception during emergencies.’

What about the ‘guest’ dish?

‘It’s Slow Bean Soup, which will be cooked by the legendary Alda Bosi of the Diavoletti restaurant in Lucca, where it appears on the menu. It’s an emblem of the strong food community that grew up among the legume growers of Capannori that now includes producers and co-producers from all over Italy. We chose it as the symbol dish of a menu designed to make people think about the relationship between food and climate change. But we also chose it because, as in the case of fish, the only legumes we see nowadays are the usual lentils on New Year’s Eve lentils or chickpeas with baccalà, salt cod, yet there are so many different varieties. Slow Bean Soup is an oratorio for diverse voices.’

But this is a different story and we’ll be telling you it soon.

The legendary Slow Bean soup


Slow Food Livorno will be taking part in the European Week for Waste Reduction together with the city of Livorno. You’ll find our friends from 9am to 5.30pm on Saturday November 25 in Piazza Cavour, where they’ll be handing out the ‘anti-waste’ recipes developed at the workshop entitled ‘The fight against waste, waste reduction, and creative recycling with Menu for Change – climate-friendly recipes.’ The initiative involves children from schools that cultivate Slow Food gardens, who’ll be cooking nine recipes with leftovers from their canteens for the occasion.

Many thanks, Slow Food Livorno!

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