Food is hot! When I first came to the UK food was definitely not hot, granted this was over 22 years ago! But I still remember making food for my first Christmas dinner and inviting family and friends and being asked whether I was going to use garlic and “funny sauces”. Times have changed, I cook whatever I want and no-one ever asks if I am using “weird foreign stuff”!
The interest in food is a busy, crowded space, well written upon subject, ubiquitous and let’s not even talk about the books and the TV programmes.
Personally I applaud it. Mostly because the English are re-discovering their own food too. I am a big fan of using local food – and it seems that many people in Britain are too – finally! Just like the Australian food scene, people are proud to champion local food stuffs, from Samphire to brown shrimps, home grown gooseberries to rhubarb. It’s nice to see how proud Britain can be of it’s food heritage. French cooking is not the be all and end all – and before I get skewered by you all, I’m allowed to say that by the way, being self critical is a good thing, I learnt that from the English!
So anyway I was invited to attend the Foodie Bugle Lectures at beautiful Southrop Manor organised by the effervescent Silvana de Soissons, the owner of the the eponymous and award winning food magazine - The foodie Bugle back at the end of June. The day was about finding out how the food businesses showcased started off, the travails and challenges as well as the good things they had encountered. We were also were privy to some famous food writer’s modus operandi on writing cooking books and article and the publishing world.
I knew a few from Twitter already and through The Foodie Bugle magazine of course, so it was a matter of putting a virtual personality to an actual physical body!
A beautiful setting, Southrop Manor is a food school offering all manner of foodie related events, it also offers on-site accommodation in beautiful cottages and can accommodate events for businesses too. The beautiful restored Barn at Southrop is vast!
Greeted by amazing biscuits and fragrant coffee and a beautifully decorated interior – the day was starting off very well! We were shepherded to the lecture room where after introducing the event and its objective, Silvana De Soissons proceeded to introduce Wendy Wilson Bett from Peter’s Yard.
Wendy is one of the owners of the famous crispbreads that I buy by the kilo…. and eat in double- quick time (say a mere 1/2 hour!) as they are but also with lots of toppings – I have a perfect one with Mushrooms with spring onions and Celery (weird but delicious). Like other food producers that were to present themselves Wendy explained how much hard work setting up a food company and brand is – notwithstanding that the financial rewards are slow to come in the beginning!
She was complimentary of Tessa Stuart who researches customers products and devises strategic plans to attract customer’s eyes and how to make a brand attractive in a crowded market.
It was interesting to see that through their marketing and social media use most people think Peter’s Yard is a very large brand indeed, whereas they are still rather small but growing fast.
Next up was Joanna Blythman- the famous food warrior (my own term!) who investigates the baddies of the food world and exposes them to all of us ( Bad Food Britain: How a Nation Ruined Its Appetite. London: Fourth Estate. 2006.) as well as writing about foods to avoid. I love her articles and read them avidly I must admit so I was particularly thrilled to see her at the lectures.
She has a new book out called “What to eat” published by Fourth Estate which I have ordered. Her investigative food journalism has taken her to work undercover for Tesco, being escorted off the premises of Bernard Matthews (turkey fame) for probing too much and being sent nasty letters by the Sugar Bureau.
Next up was Amelia Rope – the artisan chocolatier who’s dynamic presentation all made us smile and warm to her. The lady is a tornado! She speaks fast, thinks even faster and is a work-mad crazy lady. She was a delight to listen to I must say, her passion for her company and the ups and downs she has encountered only reinforce her belief in herself and her fabulous products and as a result so too the listener!
I loved her packaging which she devised herself and although she says it was not intentional is extremely attractive to the eye and show-cases her products beautifully.I chatted to her after the lectures over lunch and we spoke of layering flavours in a product, a bit like aromatherapy really, the base notes, the middle notes and the top notes in harmony to produce something flavoursome such as her Pale Lime and Sea Salt creation.
Fran Warde was another famous writer who took us through her early career and the highlights she has experienced in a long and varied path. The co-author of The Ginger Pig Meat Book by Mitchell Beazley Fran is a writer who is always working on several projects and loves the variety. A former editor of Red Magazine, Fran is a committed “feed your children well” exponent.
Having had her own catering company, been a chef to the rich and famous, worked with Keith Floyd on his cookery book and worked with Marks and Spencer to produce their own line of cookery books, Fran is an accomplished chef and writer. Phew…. is that all?! I love it when I hear lives being lived to the full don’t you?
Next up was Lindy Wildsmith along with Franco Taruschio O.B.E. (of the Walnut Tree fame) Lindy is a freelance food and recipe writer and is particularly fond of Italian food after a youthful stay in Bologna many years ago. A member of the Guild of Food Writers and has been nominated for an Andre Simon Award for her book “Cured” published by Jacqui Small. She and Franco manage a programme of cookery courses at the Chef’s Room in Abergavenny.
She is a fun lady full of self-deprecation and humorous quips, counter balanced by Franco’s dry humour, these two make a formidable team!
And finally we met Kate Glover of the Lahloo Tea and Lahloo Pantry Tea Room in Bristol. For a woman who never liked tea, getting a tea emporium going was not an obvious choice! But she took inspiration for her company’s name from her great great grandfather who sailed a tea clipper called Lahloo and after she tasted “proper” tea. I loved the hot and cold infusions we tried – a real surprise even though I have been a Lahloo customer for a while now. I loved the cold infusions and will be buying some of those particularly the Snow Jewel one and I must try Rosebud!
After an amazing lunch we were taken around the estate by Joff Elphick, Head Gardener, who is developing an amazing kitchen garden as well as the ornamental planting around the vast grounds. So here are a few pictures to delight the eyes – a garden and an estate to visit at the first available opportunity!