Mean, Green, Glean Machine

On reflection, my first few weeks in Barcelona are proof that you should never presuppose what kind of a life you will be living when you move yourself geographically and start in a new space. I had guessed that I would be doing some teaching here and there, alongside trying to find a place to live, and then apart from that, seeing how it goes.

After having been here a handful of days, I was delighted to happen upon a very new coffee roasters in Gràcia, SlowMov. Their philosophy is in the name, that anything worth doing is worth doing with care, attention and love, and this takes time. SlowMov make part of a growing co-operative of professionals with this shared principle; to make coffee, clothes, furniture, or whatever it is you may need, with the idea of the quality as the definitive importance, not the quantity or rapidity, and in turn create more human-like businesses and business transactions, and a sense of community in our working as well as our everyday lives. Click through the link and check it out for yourselves!

I feel as though I have landed right in the centre of progressive thinking surrounding sustainable culture, which suits me just fine. I have also had my first taste of gleaning, a fast-growing movement I only recently became aware of when I was back in England. The fact that an absurd amount of farmers are being priced out of their market by large corporate supermarkets, resulting in much of their harvest laying to waste in the fields is no news. In fact, in Spain last year, something like 300,000 tonnes of food went to waste because the farmers could not afford to pay the workers to collect the food, and sell it on for the prices they are now offered. These figures, in a world that is now facing hunger crises in the very same countries where this is taking place, are nauseating. And so, the gleaning movement commenced in order to counteract this phenomenon. In Catalunya, los Espigoladors, are that movement. They have created a band of volunteers and workers to connect to local farms, collect the food not being used, and then take that food to the places it is needed. We joined them to collect tomatoes, and the size of the field and amount of tomatoes beginning to rot on the plants was truly breathtaking. Between ten volunteers we spent the morning picking the ruby fruits, of which there was at least five varieties. For me, the warm, humid smell of tomato branch took me right back to my Grandad’s greenhouse. By the end of the morning we had collected hundreds of kilos of tomatoes, which we then loaded up into a big van and took directly to the local food bank. The group also have their own brand of food products, Es Im-perfect, for which they make jams, preserves, chutneys, etc, out of the food that is too ‘imperfect’ for the shops. I’m not going to be a hypocrite, I have been guilty of passing over a witchy potato with a warty nose, for a smoother cousin, as it is easier to peel. I no longer do this, as it is ludicrous to expect all our veg to be picture perfect. This thinking is born out of a highly perfectionist, silicon, and ultimately unattainable world. If I have a few lumps and bumps where they shouldn’t be, I can’t expect any less of my potato.

In that same week, we also took ourselves up to the foothills of the Pyrenees, as the beginning of autumn brought the mushroom season fully into swing. After having spent a good hour in one area, and only encountering a few suspect looking fellows, and honestly, one that would have brought us happiness in other circumstances, we went a few minutes around to another hillside hugged by pines, and that was our number. Hiding beneath the mulch we found hundreds of little Camagrocs, the little grey ones with the yellow stalks. After an hour or so, we had to stop ourselves picking from the next patch we found as we walked back, there were just so many! That night we feasted on mushroom omelette, baked mushroom with parmesan crust, and simple fried mushrooms with garlic and parsley. It’s no lie that food always tastes better when you have grown and/or picked it yourself.

During our funghi frenzy we also spied some blackberries growing along the roadside. Having grown up partly in rural England, I cannot miss a chance to snag my hands and pick a few wild blackberries when I see them. In all we gathered about 300g, which the next day I turned into a blackberry and apple cake, made with local almond flour, and topped with toasted hazelnuts. I have to say, it went down pretty well with a dob of lemony mascarpone cream on the side!After having chatted away in SlowMov about these shared ideals, I went away feeling inspired to pursue my own working dreams, of baking delicious cakes with local, organic products. The culmination of these past two months has been the realisation that I can expand my interest in the slow culture movement whilst also exploiting my love of baking and experimental cooking/eating all at once. I am being trained as a barista to add to the bargain! And I even have a very talented ‘personal’ photographer always willing to snap my bakes, and who has also been helping me massively with the creation of Luna Limón, so thank you Albert!

All in all it has been an exciting, educational and inspiring time, and I want to use this space to share my cakey creations, as well as my experiences as I learn from the local food/culture movement I am very proud to be a part of.