Being interested in food doesn’t just mean that I like to eat, it means I often find myself thinking and talking about food. From discussions with colleagues about what I’m planning to cook for tea, to sharing top recipes on Twitter, there is so much more to enjoying food than simply sitting down and eating it.
But with food banks aplenty, animal welfare issues and climate concerns, for me, sharing meal plans and cooking tips is no longer enough. Because we each make important choices every time we put something on our plates. Is it organic? Is it free range? Is it vegan? Is it locally sourced? Fairtrade? GM free? The list of questions, areas for debate and conversations to be had is endless.
Which is why I quite like the look of this Food for Thought event taking place at the School of Artisan Food in Welbeck this weekend. It promises a series of talks, debates and demos from an interesting collection of food experts, writers, nutritionists and cooks. And, thanks to the School’s reputation in these parts (Forge Bakehouse’s Martha studied her diploma there), I reckon they’ll put on a pretty good show.
Now I should point out that the School of Artisan Food has been in touch to invite me to one of their other courses (lucky me!) and, as well as agreeing to write a post about my experience, I agreed to help spread the word about their Food for Thought event. Not just out of the goodness of my heart, but because I genuinely think it will be an interesting event. Additionally, the School is run as a not for profit organisation and it works with voluntary organisations, schools and colleges, and community groups to provide opportunities to inspire and teach artisan food production skills which all kinda warms the cockles, don’t it?
So, the event takes place this Saturday and Sunday with five different speakers lined up for each day (ten in total), along with a nice range of topics. With my recent experiments in veganism, where I feel that I’ve had to choose sustainability over provenance and fairtrade (more on that to come in a separate post…), I’d quite fancy the talk with Professor Tim Lang as he’s going to be looking at sustainable diets and what food systems should deliver.
I’d also fancy hearing Arun Kapil talk spice. I enjoy discovering new spices but, apart from the basic pairing combinations, I don’t understand them as well as I would like. So I’m always up for learning more about these rather magical and mystical ingredients.
Lastly, I’d be intrigued to hear what Felicity Cloake has to say about social media and its impact on food culture. I have found her How to Make Perfect column in the Guardian incredibly helpful in the past, but I don’t follow her on social media so I have no idea what her views on any of the platforms are. And, with a few opinions about the topic myself, I’m always interested in hearing what others to say.
Other topics that pique my interest include ‘Does is taste good? Farmhouse cheese and the moral value of flavour’, ‘The more interested the children are in food, the less likely they are to throw it under the table’, ‘Cora Millet-Robinet, unsung heroine of French cuisine bourgeoise, and her maison rustique des dames’ and ‘How to start a ‘Small Food’ revolution’. Full details of each of the ten talks can be found here.
Sadly I won’t be able to make it to the Food for Thought event. BUT, as mentioned earlier, I have been invited to the one of School’s curing and smoking courses which is rather exciting. I don’t have much experience or confidence in either of these areas, but I do love the tasty results these techniques produce.
And, talking about tasty results I’ll be learning how to make guanciale, brine-cured traditional ox tongue, hot smoked Continental style sausage, pancetta, hot smoked pork tenderloin, ham hock terrine, salt beef AND duck prosciutto. I’m especially looking forward to the guanciale (as we all know how I feel about carbonara), the hot smoked tenderloin (I have ambitions of building my own smokehouse…) and the salt beef (I’m thinking this might be the easiest technique to replicate at home).
The course lasts all day, includes lunch and everyone will be able to take a few goodies home too. So, yeah, that’s gonna be rather good fun. Look out for the full post describing my experience of the course in the next couple of months. In the meantime, take a look at the School’s full range of courses which includes cheese making, butchery and foraging.