Aldeburgh Food and Music:
I like Food Festivals. Especially those held in beautiful parts of the British countryside. Aldeburgh is nearly but not quite home territory for me, I grew up further round the coast in Hunstanton, but, we used to visit this lovely Suffolk fishing town for special Sunday outings. At the time I was a keen musician and growing up in the countryside made famous by Benjamin Britten was quite special. Next year will be the centenary of his birth, so no doubt there will be some very special events taking place at Snape Maltings so I am already planning a repeat visit.
This trip, however, was to visit the food festival which takes place every year in September and which attracts a stellar lineup of speakers and demonstrations. Suffolk benefits from good farming land and a lovely coastline. So, the produce is remarkable. On my way out of the festival I bumped into a charming gentleman who commented on the lovely leeks I’d tucked into my bag. He turned out to be one of the speakers…and in true E M Foster style…one that was top of mind for me. I’d seen the start of his demonstration – his rather splendid three course meal in forty minutes from local ingredients he’d bought that morning. But, it wasn’t until we started chatting about local produce and I commented about my recent trip to Sicily that I realised he was the author of the book I’d spent my time reading out there, ‘Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons’ – a fascinating account of a gastronomic journy through rural Sicily (in your mid 50s) on a Vespa! Matthew Fort was just one of the remarkable line up of food experts at Aldeburgh this year. Others included Angela Hartnett, Lucas Hollweg and Tomasina Meirs. It’s a veritable Whose Who in the Food World.
Having said that, for me, the beauty of the Aldeburgh food festival was not the fabulous line up of speakers and chefs, but in the provenance of the food and drink on offer. Stalls of superb green vegetables, fresh meat and fish, Suffolk cheeses, smoked goods, beers and ciders. Food festivals in London are, inevitably, a cosmopolitan mixture of offerings.
And sometimes it’s just nice to feel that the food you are eating come from on your doorstep. I was also delighted to finally meet Polly Robinson from Food Safari. I’ve had something of a fascination with her events since I first spotted them and it was great to hear that she’s setting up a whole series of London Food Safari events because even though my heart would love to go on one of the Suffolk ones (Seafood, Catch and Cook or Mushrooms), my head tells me I am far more likely to make a half day or a day in London;).
I didn’t end up buying too much in the way of fresh food, but that was more because I knew I was away the following weekend at Boscastle and I’d come home from Sicily with a suitcase full of cheeses that probably shouldn’t have made it through customs. But, if I’d had a chance, then I’d have bought some of the lovely farmhouse cheeses on offer from Suffolk Farmhouse cheeses.
Now, perhaps the real testament to this food festival is that despite my logic telling me not to buy food, I still parted with my hard earned cash. I bought leeks, celeriac, raw milk, candy beetroot, smoked chilli, bacon and a rather fabulous pigeon and pork burger (eaten on the spot). Very little of it actually needed (although I’ve already polished off the leeks and milk) but all of it such wonderful quality that I simply couldn’t say no. And, I ate my burger sitting looking out over the water, listened to a bit of music and returned to London with a yearning for the country.
I’m off to Boscastle this weekend, so I plan on comparing East with West. And this time I’m taking my cool bag;)