Abergavenny Food Festival CEO, Aine Morris summed the feeling perfectly for the 21st Abergavenny Food Festival when she described the event presence in the streets as a “magical feeling”.
From the most ardent foodie to the newbie with a passing interest, Abergavenny Food Festival which took place from 21st-22nd September had something to engage, interact and inform.
Real food, real farmers and real chefs, displayed and demonstrated their wears across Abergavenny’s high street into the market hall, nearby side streets and car parks and up into the grounds of Abergavenny Castle. Talks of all tastes took place across several venues on a variety of subjects and even the local community from charity shops to churches were getting involved.
There was a lot of sunshine and good food atmosphere to absorb as well as several special events as the main course!
Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn, the duo behind Hang Fire Southern Kitchen in Barry and stars of TV cookery series, Sam and Shauna’s Big Cook Out, were joined by The Decent Company’s Martha Roberts for a barbecue demonstration at Abergavenny Castle.
The Trio kept the crowds entertained with culinary skills, cooking anecdotes (of which Martha gave insights into pig farming) and essential barbecue tips. While Sam demonstrated how to correctly barbecue Pork from Martha’s farm in a variety of styles, Shauna shared barbecuing tips on using the correct types of fuel and outlining the essential UK barbecue ingredients in the form of a gazebo and a mac!
There were no gazebo’s or macs required in this instance as the sun shone down on the demonstration. The trio’s upbeat presentation and humour made the demonstration a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a tasty one for the spectators lucky enough to taste the results at the demonstrations climax!
Over at Abergavenny Borough Theatre, the first of several scheduled talks got underway for the weekend. The Way We Eat Now is not only the title of award-winning food writer Bee Wilson’s book, but also the title of this hour-long discussion chaired by Xanthe Clay.
The discussion not only explored what it meant to eat in the modern age but also what food choices, be they good or bad, said about our generation and how perhaps we may not have as much control over what we eat as we think.
The lively, upbeat conversation featured contributions and ideas from founder of real kombucha, David Begg, food historian Polly Russell, founder of specialist sustainability communications agency Ed Gillespie and fermentation revivalist, Sandor Katz.
How the American diet may have influenced the British, organic produce affordability and supporting local produce were among the many subjects covered in the lively and informative discussion.
Also at Abergavenny’s Borough Theatre on Sunday, Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver, the team behind iconic British restaurant, St. John discussed their new book, The Book of St John celebrating 25 years of cooking and reviving traditional English cuisine with Xanthe Clay.
Listening to the pair talk about their lives was very interesting. After meeting, they took over an old smokehouse in St John. I liked that they saw nose-to-tail as common sense way of cooking and proved to be a prudent way of using a whole pig. They also talked about the different areas they have diversified, importing wine and a short-lived foray into a Hotel as well as their passion for training chefs at their restaurant.
Later at the Portico Lounge, Bee Wilson and Danish food and food culture specialist, Trine Hahnemann held an intimate but very accessible discussion about modern food culture in Food, Families and Life.
The talk touched upon many relevant matters such as how Children’s menus can usually be very basic and not respect different tastes, the loss of skills that make daily cooking easy and the joys and pressures of cooking for loved ones.
The conversation also touched upon how families eat in the UK as opposed to Denmark. One example citing that when the Danes purchase a pizza, they will make a salad and sit round the table unlike the UK of which eating pizza has become a sit in front of the television scenario.
Finally, Bee and Trine looked at how cooking of the future might be different to what we do now. Talking about how schools are starting to do different like having their own orchards and allotments.
A highlight of afternoon was round the fire pit with DJ BBQ and his friends Whittle and Flame. Switching between each other DJ BBQ delighted us with ideas for how to cook the prefect burger as well as steaming seafood in seaweed (something we have a lot of in Wales) as Whittle and Flame worked hard with their Electric Watering can teaching us how to make Charcoal. I was fascinating to watch the different stages the watering can goes through as well the cooking of a steak on the flames that appear.
One thing I learned from attending the festival was to concentrate more in future on watching the demos and attending workshops, I certainly gained a taste for the ones that I did attend!