Kendal Food Festival: Foodie Paradise

Last weekend I had the ultimate foodie experience at Kendal Food Festival.

Not only did I eat/purchase some of the most incredible food, I was also educated in the importance of local, artisan produce. My food snobbery levels have increased somewhat dramatically, as I realised when I found myself tutting at the sourdough in Sainsbury’s, which I just know was NOT properly prepared with a good flour and a proper sourdough starter.

Ok, so it may be somewhat unrealistic for a poor graduate such as myself to ONLY eat artisan bread, locally and responsibly reared wild boar and unpasteurised farmhouse cheeses, but I am definitely going to make more of an effort to think about where my food comes from and how it’s produced.

In the spirit of foodie camaraderie, I am going to share a few of the important lessons I learnt at the festival.

  1. A sourdough is only as good as its starter – and they are surprisingly easy to make. An enlightening talk and tasting by Aidan Monks from Lovingly Artisan also taught me the importance of good flour (hint: it is very important).
  1. A proper, artisan sourdough is suitable for those poor gluten intolerant folks among us (I really do pity you). I wish I had taken notes, but as far as I remember the way the bread is made, developed and fermented results in the gluten elements which people react to breaking down. It’s obviously a lot more complex than this and there are many more benefits – I would urge you to pop in to Lovingly Artisan at Oxenholme Station for a chat with Aidan, and I think they run workshops/courses as well if you want to get involved
  1. Wild Boar sausages are good. This, coming from a former vegetarian, may surprise some of my friends and family. Peter Gott spoke about the importance of producing and eating local, artisan food, in relation to his years of experience farming pigs and wild boar. He also introduced us to the Slow Food movement – definitely worth reading about.
  1. You can make a living from being really dedicated to cheese. This was a big one; I left dreaming of my new career as a cheesemonger.
  1. People who sell cheese are called cheesemongers. Who knew?
  1. A proper farmhouse cheese will taste different one day to the next – no two (proper) cheeses are exactly the same.
  1. Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire is the only unpasteurised Lancashire cheese (read: the only worthwhile Lancashire cheese).

If you hadn’t picked it up already, the highlight of my day was undoubtedly the cheese talk (and this is a big statement – I had a VERY good day). Andy Swinscoe, aka the king of cheese, runs an incredible cheese shop in Yorkshire, where they sell a selection of the very best cheeses. And if anyone is qualified to make that call, it’s Mr Swinscoe. His life has been a journey all over the country (and the world) building up a knowledge of cheese. I urge you to go to the Courtyard Dairy if you can, or order a cheese selection online at Graham Kirkham spoke with him about Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, which I already know and love. Every time I go back to Watford to visit my family I am instructed not to bother turning up unless I have some of the famous cheese from Lancaster Market.

If, like me, you are a cheese fanatic, then you will understand the excitement of discovering an incredible new cheese. I am a big fan of blue cheese of every variety, from gorgonzola to stilton – as a child in the playground I would pity my friends and their jam sandwiches as I tucked into my stilton on homemade bread (much to their horror – ‘but it’s mouldy!’). So when Andy brought out some Cote Hill Blue, my eyes lit up… and I was not disappointed. What’s more, as you can order it online, every birthday present for the next year is sorted. You are all very welcome, friends and relatives.

As well as the enlightening talks (except the meringue one – I was hoping for more than ‘mix egg whites with sugar, then cook at a low temperature) the streets of Kendal were lined with stalls selling everything from chutney to brownies. I enjoyed a delicious steak burger and a little pork pie – my vegetarian days are well and truly behind me. We also popped in to the 1657 Chocolate House. Anywhere where the entire first page of the menu is just different types of hot chocolate gets my vote. I opted for ginger and it was deliciously warming, and the atmosphere in the little wooden-beam-filled uneven-floored higgledy-piggledy building was lovely.

So, as you may be able to tell, I would definitely recommend the Kendal Food Festival to anyone. There were family events going on too with plenty for the kids, so make sure you don’t miss it next year.