Lately I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to support more local businesses (though it’s a slow transition, I’m still a supermarket shopper due to time constraints but definitely an aspiring veg-boxer, butcher/ cheese-monger/ fish market visitor! One day!). When I saw that the St Fagan’s Food Festival was to be held the weekend before my birthday this year, I knew we had to make this day trip during my visit home. After all, what could be more local, and nostalgic, for this valleys’ girl than the museum of Welsh life- a dependably soggy venue for many a school trip during my younger years? Mr LW had (inexplicably, did I mention it’s FREE to enter?!) never visited, and the promise of tents filled with tasters from culinary entrepreneurs certainly sealed the deal in his eyes.Fortunately the weather was on our side, with the exception of a slight drizzle as we walked from the car park to the event, and it was lovely to see the place buzzing with visitors just as I remember it. We walked around the museum a little first, working up an appetite after the parkrun and a consequently later breakfast of poached eggs on crumpets (because that’s a Saturday morning tradition now, after I wrote about it a few weeks ago). The museum itself is quaint and unassuming. It aims to represent life as it was back in “olden days” and features, among other things, an old post office, sweet shop and row of houses that span several decades so you can witness the progression- though not quite through to the modernity of indoor toilets!
We started by doing a rekky of the entire site; sussing out where we wanted to spend our cash and working out logistically how we could optimise our stomach space in order to sample as much as possible. Hot Welsh cakes were a no brainer- as was a half pint of locally brewed cider- but they would be the finale to this meandering feast, and we needed to proceed in an orderly fashion- first things first! 😉 We were all drawn to the onion bhajee scotch eggs from SamaosaCo (I don’t need to explain why) and so we split one between two as a starter, leaving plenty of room to explore the exhibitor stalls. There was elderflower champagne, lovingly baked cakes of all shapes and sizes and, if you could elbow your way through the frenzied crowd, more samples of hand made cheese than you could handle (The Blaenafon Cheddar Company is always worth a special mention-try the variety matured at the bottom of the Big Pit mineshaft if you can!). Whilst I’m on the topic, why are the cheese stalls always the ones that attract such a throng of foodies? Maybe because cheese (melted) is the food in which most people would voluntarily drown if they had to choose*. The important question of the day was which stall owner would lure us into choosing them as the all important main course? Usually at these events I’m drawn to to the great, hunky burgers being barbecued on open flames, but this time it was a quirky logo and business name that caught my eye- and boy am I glad it did!
I was drawn to the Dusty Knuckle, with it’s wood fired pizza oven, by the big cartoon-like character kneading dough with a smile on his furry face (though, what creature he is I still have no idea).Then I saw the menu. Though simple, with only five choices, these pizza makers cater for all tastes. I chose the Blas-Y-Mor because it contained a very Welsh combination of toppings that I’d never seen on a pizza before. Laverbread (seaweed), cockles and bacon is a salty, iron rich combination of flavours that were born to sit atop crisp, oven charred dough and cwtched** lovingly by oozing pearls of mozzarella. I only wish I hadn’t offered to share it with Mama LW.
Coincidentally, she told me later, Mama LW knows the owner of the Dusty Knuckle. I also went to school with one of the local cheese producers’ sons. You can’t get much more local than that! 🙂
The beauty of food festivals is that it brings together individuals who are passionate about their own little contributions to the culinary world. They may only offer one specific type of berry liqueur, distilled in their summer house turned business HQ, or offer a myriad of flavoured fudges but not diversify any further than that, save for the occasional artisanal marshmallow. But what they do, they do well. Really well. Food festivals are where these small, local producers can find a larger audience, hungry to try really good quality food. It may cost a little more than supermarket own brand, but by buying and trying as much as you are able to at these events, you know you’re supporting somebody’s lifelong passion.
I left St Fagan’s feeling as happy and as full as this lovely lady, who also spent the day foraging through the mud for fruit that had naturally dropped, heavy and sweet at the end of the season, into her ample piggy pen.
(Seriously though, visit, it’s just outside Cardiff Bay and well worth the detour and £4 parking if your in the area on a sunny day! Visit http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/stfagans/whatson/ – and I haven’t been asked to say that!)
Have you ever been? Do you love food festivals as much as we do? Let me know your recommendations for supporting local businesses!
*I put that joke in for Papa LW, who undoubtedly upon reading will turn to my Mum and say “When my Dad worked at the brewery there was a man who drowned in one of the beer casks…. He got out four times to go to the toilet before he died…” Ahh, Dad jokes 😉
** Cwtch is the Welsh word for a cuddle. It’s probably one of my favourite words in the language (though I know pitifully few…)