the passion of the Slow Food Dolny Slask Convivium to fight the Coronavirus
Anna Maria Ruminska lives in southwestern Poland and leads, together with other volunteers, the Slow Food Convivium Dolny Slask, born to promote the gastronomic biodiversity of the whole region.
During the pandemic emergency, she never stopped organizing events and activities for citizens, members and non-members of the Convivium, trying to help chefs and producers to publicize their work, even during the confinement, and to educate adults and children about good, clean and fair food.
Anna Maria Ruminska is 55 and lives happily with her family in Dolny Slask, in southwestern Poland. She could be defined as a versatile person; an architect, a designer of green spaces, a food anthropologist and a gardener-reenactor chef, who recreates ancient cereals and meals. She is an in-depth researcher of food history and ethnography, as well as an educator and trainer.
For almost 10 years, she has brought her knowledge and experience to the international movement, within the Slow Food Convivium Dolny Slask.
Many Convivium activities focus on education.
These activities are led by many volunteers, including her friend Iwona Toka. Iwona is also a member of Slow Food and Patreon, having hosted many Slow Food events at her interior design studio Artecubo, such as cooking classes, talks and showcases.
“Slow Food has always been kind of a guru for me – Anne tell us – I’ve been trying to join the movement ever since I found out I could. I always thought it was a kind of elite society, quite hermetic. Then I met Mariusz Rybak, a former Slow Food coordinator. He explained the details to me and it was a strategic moment for me. I joined the movement in 2013, and in 2014 we developed a new regional Convivium structure. Over the past few years, we have worked to champion Slow Food themes and educate people about a good, clean, and fair food system. I feel like a slow foodie from birth, interested in foreign cultures, but always taught by my family to embrace locality, all at once: science, culture, crafts, art and agriculture.”
“During these long years, – Mariusz Rybak Explain – Slow Food Dolny Slask has never ceased to be a great source of inspiration and motivation for me. They produce a lot of knowledge and expertise, being a diverse group of people that includes producers, chefs, consumers, anthropologists, historians and other scientists. They encourage today’s dialogue between the old and the new heritage of the region. It has saved many products from oblivion and revived culinary treasures that have entered the Ark of Taste. The core of the Slow Food Dolny Slask convivium is made up of people who try to live the values of our movement. This means that they often make choices that are surely inconvenient from a practical point of view. Yet in their educational work, it adds to their great workshops and publications something more powerful: good example! And credibility! They are an inspiration.”
In March 2020, like everywhere in the world, the coronavirus pandemic inexorably interrupted all in-person meetings. With borders closed, schools and shops closed, like restaurants and all other businesses, Anna and the Convivium did not stop, break down or complain.
“We immediately moved from in-person meetings to a more intense consumer food co-op, with the Slow Food Wroclaw Breslavia Convivium and online courses. – Anne says – The membership list changes regularly, so we didn’t focus on that, nor was education limited to members. Suddenly, many people turned their deep interest to clean food; not everyone was ready to deal with the difference, so education and time were needed. They expected support, and they got it for free from the Convivium board members. They ordered products collectively to reduce postage, and – most importantly and least appreciated – they “charged no provision for this social work”.
The pandemic has caused consumers to try to eat better, and members have remained closer. Thus, Convivium began to organize online meetings to increase awareness of authentic local food, which has proven to be consumers’ most pressing need. As well, online course how to ferment milk, beer, wine, cereals, vegetables and fruits – all traditional, Slavic and Polish techniques of food processing and preservation – or how to cook, make cheese, grow bean from Ark of Taste, etc. Many texts, manuals, tips and information were distributed free of charge to consumers, in person and to subscribers on social networks and the website – currently, still the only active and authentic website linked to Slowfood.com in Poland. It was also necessary to first support the members of the Convivium because they often lost their income in a very brutal way.
“In times of pandemic, – Anne Explain – all friendships have been tested, but we, as friends of the Convivium, help each other. Besides Iwona’s constant support, Marta from “Warsztat Food&Garden” also helped the movement. Then Agata and Leszek Rozanski organized a few Slow Food events and always promoted the movement. They are involved in the Ark of Taste community and the future Presidium by growing ancient varieties of grapes and herbs, making preserves of heritage herbs, and providing cooking forms and crafts ancient. This is necessary to keep heritage products up to date, without forgetting them, to protect local biodiversity and to support local farmers, gardeners, artisans and entrepreneurs..”
Between 2020 and 2021, the Convivium and its partners organized 16 free online meetings and 5 face-to-face, open to the public and free of charge. At the same time, they started cooperating with some NGOs to sell e-books on the most important issues: they launched 18 manuals in English and 29 manuals in Polish, to spread information about good, clean, fair food and local. and biodiversity, and more than 200 texts and more than 400 photographs and videos online promoting Slow Food and its values. They have also launched a Twaróg manual to recognize to consumers the traditional and beneficial method of making Twaróg raw milk, the cheese we have named the Ark of Taste.
“The Convivium – Anne keep on going – was born to promote, bring back and stimulate the gastronomic biodiversity of the entire Dolny Slask region. Over the years, we have grown with consumers and cooks, as well as a few restaurateurs – not always “slow restaurants”, but people dedicated to the Slow Food movement. As a result, even more than before, and in an unexpected way, we could draw attention to good, clean and fair food and make people understand that food is a public issue. During the pandemic, the Convivium studied the crucial problem: the gastronomic society is not ready for the authentic (not fake) Slow Food philosophy and the awareness of the planet’s biodiversity and climate change problems. Too often people don’t have or don’t want to have the time to get to know them. Too often they focus on superficial beauty, rather than double-checking the origin and eco-friendly face ethics of key ingredients. And it’s not a question of money, but of goodwill and loyalty. So the Convivium has done a lot to focus on the consumer. This policy proved to be very useful during the pandemic period when many consumers decided to switch from industrial food to homemade food, but they did not know how, where, when…, and were deceived by many those who took advantage of the psychology of the pandemic. . Consumers have decided to learn how to cook or to pick edible wild plants, and the Convivium has accompanied them in this change.”
Convivium activities do not stop due to the ongoing pandemic alert in Poland. Life has not returned to normal, so all activity is still relevant and necessary.
“I enjoy this Convivium – Mariusz concludes – for their very perseverance. They never get discouraged for more than a moment. They rethink their actions, define strategies, and continue to educate, to influence, to change the world in small steps. From my long experience in the movement, I can say that there are few Slow Food groups that are so patient and persistent in their work. This was also visible during the last confinements: their educational, networking and activist work continued on the Internet, new tools were adapted to the needs of the convivium, and its already vast presence on social networks exploded so that people locked themselves in their homes. can be achieved even better”.
“I would do what we did anyway, despite any pandemic or any crisis. There is always a huge need to remind ourselves of what is lost and what really matters. – Anne concludes – Act as a community and a network has been crucial, helping us to overcome the difficulties but also to grow. It’s not hard to do. Our tips for repeating our experience are only basic (all tips should always adapt to the current situation): adapt to what’s around you, think positively, focus on the good, leave the bad behind, go from forward, be calm, careful, active and truthful, with benefits for the whole planet.”
Slow Food Heroes is a funded project speak european cultural foundation, with the contribution of the CRC Foundation.
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