Monday, 10 September 2012

The Ludlow Food Festival

So we hit the Ludlow Food Festival at the weekend, it's one of the biggest and most prestigious in the country, so I was extremely excited about going.

You would think with my long history of eating disorders that I would run a mile from anything like this and being surrounded by food for a whole day would bring me out in a cold sweat. Well no you'd be wrong, it's the complete opposite. I love food, I love talking about it, reading about it, cooking at and YES actually EATING it.

The visit to Ludlow had been possibly the most eagerly awaited event of 2012 for me, way over the Olympics and the start of the news series of The Great British Bake Off!! In fact, I felt like a kid at Christmas the night before we went, waking up at 6am and being thoroughly disappointed that it was not yet really time to get up and that we wouldn't be heading off to Ludlow for at least another 4hrs.

Lat year was the first year that we went and that time we took the twins with us - BIG mistake, apart from the fact we were still on scheduled eating patterns and nap times, we had a huge pram and prams big or small are never crowd friendly. We also did a park and ride which meant collapsing and re-opening the pram along with all the things that we had put in the little compartment underneath the front seat.

Most of the day was spent sat down either feeding, comforting crying babies, changing nappies and arguing about who was going to be able to eat first, look around or get a drink!

So this year we left the kids at home with Ricks parents, yes, it was also a WHOLE child-free day. Now you all know I love Beau and Olivia dearly, but it's always a relief not to have to be part of the same daily routine - plus I know that they absolutely adore their Grandma and Grandad (mainly because they let them run amok)

We arrived in Ludlow at 12pm and parked just outside the town, which allowed us to take in the sites of this quaint and quirky medieval little town. The buildings have been well looked after and you can really imagine what it would've been like way back in times before cars, Tesco Expresses and alchopops.

If you live or work in Ludlow, it's a time of year you either enjoy or despise - much like people in Rome when the pope pops out to say hello. As soon we hit the streets of Ludlow, the crowds became vast, hundreds of people were milling about or following sausage and Ale trails set up by the festival, there were queues about 30 people deep all waiting for  half a sausage. 

The vein on Ricks throat was already beginning to pulsate and I had to distract him by reminding him that not only did this festival celebrate food, a majority of it was also dedicated to beer, cider and ale. I even offered to drive home - in effect encouraging him to get drunk so that both of us would be able to relax for he day.

The festival is spread throughout the town but the main event takes place at the castle, it's a ruin really but has enough walls and space to play host to the 20,000 odd foodies that pass through it's wrought iron gates throuought the whole weekend.

For me, walking up to the entrance was like a hallelujah moment, I felt like I was walking through the pearly gates and my idea of heaven was waiting for me on the inside. If heaven holds constant food festivals then Lord I'm not afraid to die! (no offence to loved ones)

I purposefully hadn't eaten breakfast as I knew that there would be a lot of tasting on the agenda and I didn't want to spoil my appetite, so the first thing we did was head to the main tent which housed of 100 different stalls with all desperately trying to get your attention (well some more than others) using the offers of free tasters. My dad, who has a reputation within our family of ruthlessly trying to get money off things or for free would have been in his element as samples were coming thick and fast, you could definitely have made a meal from all the little bits and pieces that you were given. I sort of felt sorry for those trying to sell things as most people (including myself) had no intention of buying most things, we just savoured the taste more because it was free.

How ever, I do take a very keen interest in finding out about artisan products and food that has been made locally or by small producers. There are so many exciting and innovative ideas out there that never make it to the shelves on supermarkets as most people can't afford the production costs or achieve the amount required for mass production.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland, I had seen the things that had said 'EAT ME' and 'DRINK ME' and from that point it was adventure of  fascinating, imagery, colours, sounds and colourful characters.

It was maybe a little overwhelming, every sensory organ is under fire, so many things to smell, see, taste and also you have a lot of people talking to you trying to convince you to spend £5 on a box of Granola or small bar of chocolate (small production means higher prices I guess. I sometimes found myself in a little bit of a daze, feeling like I had stopped still whilst everything was on triple speed all around me. My mind was trying to keep up with my eyes and ears and mouth and I think when you have sensory overload your mind goes into shut down. 

I do have to say, it wasn't a horrible feeling, in fact, it was more like a buzz, a high. For the first time in a long time I was actually enjoying myself, to the point of giddiness. I think it was just that although I knew we had the whole day but I was afraid we would not be able to get it all in. 

We took some time out from the tasting of food and the jostling crowds and settled in a couple of seats at the Graeme Kidd stage to watch one of the UK's top chefs, Alan Murchinson (He's the ginger Scottish chef who appeared on Great British Food Menu and came across a little brash and cocky but never got any of his dishes on the menu

He was actually quite funny and amazing to watch. He created simple dishes with Goats Cheese as the key ingredient, but he managed to make them look absolutely stunning. He spoilt it a little bit though with his shameless plug for his new book.

The only disappointing part of the day was when we went in search of the pudding tasting hall, only to be told as we approached that all the puddings had gone and it was now closed for the day. Rick said it looked like I would cry and he saw a tremble of my bottom lip, might even have been a pout. If I had been 30 years younger there might've been a full blown tantrum!

As you can see from the smile on my face, it was a great day and one that will be the highlight of 2012 for me

Surprisingly, I was quite tame in terms of purchasing and only ended up buying a few things - a majority if not all, of the sweet nature, all of which were consumed either that night or over the next couple of days.

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