Monday, May 04, 2009

Food in the Garden

To start the Bank Holiday, a nice lazy lie-in followed by breakfast. Then an hours trip West down the M4 to the National Botanic Garden. It must be a year or more since we last visited. Today was the second day of the West Wales Food Festival, and there were lines of booths set up in the square outside the Healers of Myddfai exhibition promoting the very best eatable and drinkable produce of Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. What a delight.

There was a stage, with some excellent live music, traditional May-pole dancing, bouncy castles, all the usual festive stuff. The weather wasn't up to much, with wind and drizzle on and off most of the time. Wandering away to overlook the lakes and Paxton's tower with the feisty sound of electric harp and bass propelling the music Welsh jigs and reels up the hill behind us was enchanting and invigorating - contemporary Welshness at its best.

Mid afternoon in the lecture theatre BBC's Jamie Owen interviewed Simon Wright, owner of Y Polyn, a restaurant, close by the Garden, one of Wales' finest eateries, on the quality of food alone. Simon is poacher turned gamekeeper, having been a food writer cum restaurant critic in his earlier days. Not only is he running his own outfit these days, but growing his own food in situ as well, recently subject of a documentary series on BBC Wales. The hour long conversation with Q&A at the end was an interesting celebration of values in the realm of things we eat. Having inevitably done school dinners, teaching kids to cook, and rubbish restaurants, I was only sorry I didn't ask my one nagging question. How do we set about restoring to families and communities the desire to sit down and enjoy eating together regularly, as part of the heart and soul of their lives?

Which reminds me, I must get in touch with photographer Paul V Kelly to find out if he's been able to make any progress on mounting an exhibition of his work themed around the subject of eating together. I was fascinated to meet him two years ago when he exhibited his photos of an African leprosarium at St John's, and ran this idea for another show past me.

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