By Martina Jensen, SRA Account Manager

“When love and skill work together expect a masterpiece.” Almost poetry, right?

These were the words of cheesemaker Barry Graham, from Loch Arthur Creamery, speaking at Scotland’s Foodscape, a symposium in Edinburgh last week, assessing the significant role food plays in the nation.

I’d traveled north with two colleagues to deliver sustainability training to university caterers. But we extended our stay to take in the day of debate in order to gain a better insight into the Scottish food psyche. I’m glad we did, as Barry’s talk in particular reminded me of why what our Members, both restaurants and suppliers, do really matters.

Alchemy

The day was packed with an array of knowledgeable and enthusiastic speakers from politics and economic fishing zones to family foraging traditions. Many of the topics were prosaic, Brexit and deep fried Mars bars for example.  It was Barry who introduced the poetry with his live demo: An Interactive Journey through the Wonder and Alchemy of Artisan Cheese making.

Though I was well aware of my love for cheese before Barry’s presentation, it now holds an even bigger slice of my heart.

Barry’s words, with which I opened the blog, barely describe his passion as he unveiled the art of cheese making. While Barry’s theatrical display of love was demonstrated through the creation of a simple mixture of culture, rennet, and raw milk, this process can be translated to the vast majority of handcrafted foods. The dissection of artisanal practices in the making of food, were as interesting as cheese is tasty.

Artisanal

Consider the root of the word art-isan; art, I can’t think of a more intimate communication with a person than the handcrafted creation of food. It becomes a part of their physiology, there has to be meaning in it – not just for the one consuming! These meanings are deep rooted in the traditions of food making, often-repeated manifestations of deep aspects of our cultural heritage.

The semiotics in Barry’s presentation struck a serious chord with me, particularly when he chose to use the word ‘alchemy’ as opposed to ‘chemistry’. I was curious to find out the exact difference between the two. Having an academic background in food science tends to make me consider this processes from a biochemistry perspective, but alchemy is defined as ‘a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.’ Is it just me, or does that not make the process of cheese making sound so much more delicious!?

Food production is an art

The take home message for me here, was that any food making craft is an art. It is intimate, it is a reflection of place, people and history and it is a beautiful thing! This resonates with me as a consumer, as a foodie, as a global citizen and as a proud staff member of the SRA. The emotion and feelings generated at the symposium reminded me that we are all alike in the sense that we connect to our food, to the land and to those creating it. Consumers, myself included, enjoy the ability to feel as though we have engaged with the maker of our food and the artistic process. The idea of responsible marketing, stretches much further than ‘just’ spreading the word about environmentally friendly practices – it can also serve to illustrate the connection between land, tradition, food and people.

It rammed home to me just how important it is for our Member restaurants to indulge this consumer curiosity and desire for connecting with the origins of their food and to promote the fantastic local suppliers and producers they are using. Good food has such a powerful story to tell – don’t leave it untold.