Astana’s Ark of Taste Conference Seeks to Preserve National Dishes

ASTANA – In today’s fast-paced world, having a quick bite has become a regular thing. Food courts are overpopulated with fast-food outlets and people often pay little attention to what they eat while on the go. A recent conference, however, reminded city residents of their favourite traditional foods.

Slow food“The Ark of Taste in Kazakhstan” was held at Seifullin Kazakh AgroTechnical University in conjunction with the nonprofit group Slow Food International, Slow Food Astana and  the Otbasym National Values Centre (Kazakh for “My Family”). The meeting was also supported by the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under the President of Kazakhstan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the country.

Slow Food strives to promote healthy food globally and remind diners of the pleasure of gathering around the table. Founded in 1989, the organisation is making efforts to “prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us,” according to www.slowfood.com.

Slow Food’s approach to agriculture, food production and cooking is based on the concept of quality ingredients defined by the inter-related principles of taste, tradition and the honest pleasures of food.

“Tasty means fresh, full-flavoured and seasonal food, capable of awaking emotions and being part of our local culture; tradition means food made in harmony with the environment and human health; honest means food available through prices that are affordable to consumers and fair salary provisions for small-sized producers,” said Slow Food Astana leader Khanym Akhmetova in a press release. In an interview with Kazakh TV, she added, “Slow Food is the organisation that strives to provide people all over the world with organic food that has no nitrates, preservatives or genetically modified organisms (GMO), when food is grown without using chemical fertilisers or pesticides.”

The international movement, uniting nearly 160 countries worldwide, is becoming more popular in Kazakhstan.

“One of the most outstanding dishes we want to include in the Ark of Taste is ‘kospa.’ This is the dairy product similar to cottage cheese which is very popular in the Akmola region and the northern parts of Kazakhstan. The residents of Southern Kazakhstan do not consume it so often, but this is the one of the dishes that is being lost in time,” said Akhmetova.

Nurlan Sagandykov, founder of the Zhibrayev enterprise, was among the speakers. His 70 honeybee colonies, supported by a UNDP grant, produce six to ten tonnes of environmentally-clean and organic honey per year.

“We used the money to buy equipment, ordered printed products, made appropriate packaging and started selling honey. We hope to have long-term cooperation with the UNDP. I would like to note the high professionalism of the staff; they get to know all the details of our projects,” said Sagandykov.

The conference closed with a tasting and an exhibition, “The Ark of Taste: Our History, Culture and Traditions,” to showcase disappearing traditional foods.

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