The week started by meeting my friend Jill for dinner and then a bit of clubbing in Mayfair at a club called Volstead. An odd looking chap was dancing with the Pussycat Dolls, in long beard, odd suit, large glasses and a baseball cap. On the way into the club Jill comments on the paparazzi outside, it’s a London club so nothing new there, but as we got chatting, the chap in the beard turned out to be Leonardo Dicaprio. I left the club at 1m so I could drive to Cheshire the following morning.
Question: what do a Jewish radio station, a new pair of wellies (green) and over 2,000 flavours of cheese have in common?
Answer: they were all on my “to do” list first thing this morning.
I know you were probably expecting a much funnier punch line after such a teasing build-up, but at least it’s factually accurate. Believe me, the past twenty-four hours arguably rank amongst the most surreal of my life. If you want funny, how about me running through one of my trademark cookery demos in a set of Chef’s whites and a pair of wellington boots?
Close family members might hang their head in shame and wonder what I was doing when they were out looking after Aberdeen Angus cattle, but now I live in London, where I mostly work with food and write articles and books. I don’t do muck, dahling.
But I’m jumping ahead of myself here, which is harder than you think in a pair of mud-encrusted boots.
The day kicked off with an interview on Talk Radio Europe. You would be amazed how interesting and appealing you magically become whenever you win a cookbook award. Since returning from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, I have become inundated with other people demanding my time. I don’t say this to sound arrogant; I’m as surprised as you. Time has become a commodity which other people seem to want to buy from me, and if I want to make a success of myself and my business, I can’t afford to turn them down. I rarely, to use a cliché, have a moment to myself, but then I have been working towards this for the best part of a decade, so I can’t rightly complain.
After blethering on Talk Radio, I headed north, where I was to appear at the Nantwich and South Cheshire international show. It has been running for well over a century, and welcomes thousands of visitors each year.
One of the most popular draws is their Big Cheese competition – you can’t imagine how deeply I am struggling with making dairy related puns at this point. In fact, there are over two thousand types of cheese on display and its the biggest cheese festival in the Europe, if not the world. Some might laugh at the thought of crowds cooing and cheering something as seemingly mundane as cheese, but it is impressive just how committed people still are to making this ubiquitous foodstuff. In fact, in my mind, it’s not just plain old cheese that they are celebrating. I found myself thinking about this while speaking with the South Cheshire Mayor (as chance would have it, she hails from Dungiven, County Londonderry in my native Northern Ireland). The reason that I love attending such events is that it reminds me how essential homegrown businesses are, not just to our country’s economy, but also to its heritage. In a world where shelves and freezers full of food comes pre-prepared and wrapped in plastic and recycled cardboard, it’s all too easy to forget that there are families who have been tilling the land, milking cows and rearing livestock for generations. We cannot allow these industries to die out or be swallowed up by corporations.
It was at that point I met Andrew and Rob. Both farmers who provided the food for my cookery demosntrations.
I was very impressed with thier wares. Andrew has a company called The Great Tasting Meat Company and the produce is supperb. Rob, on the other hand has a company called Roots of the Earth where he provides a vegetable box scheme. Flavours like these can not be found is a supermarket. Both offer home delivery via the web, so check out their sites.
Further, many parts of our planet are barren and hostile. In these places, it’s virtually impossible to grow anything or raise animals, let alone turn the crops or cattle into cereal or meat or clothing or anything else. All too often we take our gifts and blessings for granted. Like I said, this country show, like many others in the UK show its more than just cheese.
After demonstrating for the Aga Shop Nantwich how to use an Aga S-series 6:4 Classic (which is where the gumboots come in: fields, enough rain to sink an ark and cookers do not mix that well), I had another radio appointment. This time I was on JNET Radio with the lovely Jill Kenton. More talking about my cookbooks and the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. It’s okay, I’m used to it. And if I can use these opportunities to spread my beliefs about homegrown ingredients and homemade foods, (after all, its how I grew up) I’m going to keep taking them. Even if I have to give up all of my free time for the privilege.
Lets chat again soon