It was nearly thirty years ago that the giant multinational burger chain McDonald’s first moved into the historic heart of the beautiful city of Rome, opening up a restaurant in the Piazza di Spagna, next to the famous Spanish Steps.
For many Italians who cared deeply about their culture and their food heritage this incursion into their capital city was regarded as nothing less than an outrage, and McDonald’s arrival was initially greeted with mass demonstrations in the centre of Rome. One local fashion designer even launched legal action in a bid to close the restaurant down.
But the lawsuit failed and over time the demonstrations petered out. Increasing numbers of visitors to the Piazza di Spagna started to eat at McDonald’s.
For a while it appeared as if that was that: the anti-McDonald’s protest seemed to have died with little more than a whimper.
But it had not.
In fact, something profound had started to emerge from the backlash against McDonald’s culinary incursion into Italy: the birth of the Slow Food Movement. Its founder, Carlo Petrini, described the Movement as an “antidote” to all that McDonald’s represented.
Soon, a Slow Food Manifesto was launched, which continued the “antidote” metaphor:
“Against the universal madness of the Fast Life we need to choose the defence of tranquil material pleasure. Against those, and there are many of them, who confuse efficiency with frenzy, we propose the vaccine of a sufficient portion of assured sensual pleasure, to be practiced in slow and prolonged enjoyment.”
Since the launch of the movement, the term Slow Food has evolved to embrace broader concepts – awareness of the origin of the food we eat, insistence on food which has been produced in a way which fully respects the environment, food which has human health and animal welfare at its heart, and food produced by workers who are paid a fair wage.
The Movement promotes local produce and local food traditions and aims to stimulate interest in the food we eat, where it comes from, how it tastes, and what impact our food choices have on the environment and upon the rest of the world.
It signposts the way to a better relationship between us and the food we eat, and for more information about the Slow Food Movement you can visit its website here.
Appropriately, the recipe in this post is inspired by a traditional, regional Italian specialty.
This is my version of a delightful savoury biscuit from Piedmont, known colloquially as lingue di suocera , which translates rather unkindly as “mother-in-law’s tongue”.
Containing just a few basic, wholesome ingredients, these biscuits are baked quickly at a high temperature to produce a golden crispness. They are perfect with dips or cheeses.
rosemary flatbread biscuits
250 g organic plain flour
1 tsp dried yeast
45 ml extra virgin olive oil
140 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp sea salt, crushed
1 tbsp rosemary leaves
1 tbsp sea salt
1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and leave for 10-15 minutes, until bubbles begin to appear on the surface.
2. Place the flour, olive oil and salt in a food processor with dough hook attachment. Set it running at its lowest speed and slowly pour in the yeast and water mixture. Continue processing until the mixture has former a smooth, pliable, elastic dough. Place this dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or clingfilm. leave to prove for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
3. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F, gas mark 7). On a clean, lightly floured surface, “punch down” the dough by pushing your clenched fist quickly but gently into the centre and then lightly kneading for a couple of minutes. This removes excess gas formed by the yeast during proving.
4. Very lightly grease a baking sheet. Divide the dough into roughly equal pieces, each weighing around 40 g. Roll each piece into a flat, thin, elongated oval shape (“lingua”). You can use a rolling pin for this or, as I did, use a pasta making machine, ending up with the dough at a thickness of setting 2.
5. Lay the lingue on the baking sheet, leaving a centimetre gap between them. Prick them all over with a fork. Brush lightly with olive oil then sprinkle with the sea salt and rosemary.
6. Place in the pre-heated oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the lingue are crisp and very lightly browned. Leave to cool on a wire rack.