We were soon chatting like old friends, enjoying the rare pleasure of meeting other bloggers. Not a soul blinked an eye when eight hands reached for their cameras as we sat down to enjoy a meal, after cooking it - flying by the seat of our pants - in front of an expectant audience in the Miele demonstration kitchen.
There was a last minute change in the chef leading our session and we learnt on the day that the glamorous Sophie Michell would be cooking Thai inspired food; crab stuffed lemon sole and steamed scallops with a green mango salad. I had provided myself with emergency food in case I couldn't eat what we prepared and yet it remained untouched, as I was able to eat everything. I left out the peanuts (blood type), soy sauce (celiac), nam pla (SCD) and chili jam (SCD) and it tasted delicious none-the-less, although a little less polished looking as a result. I was impressed that the food was low carb, fresh and completely fat free, due to the steam cooking method.
Everything went into the Miele steam oven on a special tray with draining holes - bruised lemongrass and lime leaves tucked around for flavour. When it emerged a few minutes later in a cloud of fragrant steam, we plated our mango salad - piquant with chili, coriander and lime juice - and nestled the fish beside it. Photos taken, we tucked in and listed the Miele appliances we would snap up if only we had the money. The meal was all the sweeter for me because I hadn't expected to find food I could eat and yet here I was, fork in the air, just like everyone else.
Sunita and Sylvie enjoying the fruits of their labours.
Bellies full, we wandered wide eyed through the stalls. Yet around each corner I found more disappointment than inspiration. Where I had hoped to find delicatessens selling artisanal treasures, there were corporate stands selling factory produced products in seductive packaging.
Kelloggs had pride of place with a huge stand selling breakfast cereal of the kind that claims to be healthy, yet contains more sugar and salt than an iced bun. Sounds of the farmyard emanated from behind the bored representatives as they handed out another plastic cupful. Past Carte D'Or, where the queue stretched so far that it mingled with the crowd at Tyrrell's Crisps, set up like a bar at which hands grabbed for chips and dips as though their last meal were imminent.
So it was with pleasure that we stumbled into the Producers Village. Like a breath of fresh air, the real food shone with authenticity. Notable stands were Slow Food UK (a movement that I endorse with all my heart), The Real Veal Company (providing ethically reared veal), The Well Hung Meat Company (providing the meat version of the organic veg box), Box Fresh Organics (a veg box scheme for the midlands), Lauden Chocolate (using real fruit centres) and Munchy Seeds (selling seeds to the masses!).
Beside those notable exceptions, I was left with a sinking feeling that this show was actually a damning indictment of British Food. If this was the 'Good Food', I shuddered to imagine the bad food.
Good food happens when well reared British meat, cheese and dairy products and organically grown seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruit are allowed to shine. When people take the time to sit down to a meal cooked from scratch, chew their food and talk about the day. When everything in the meal can be identified as produce, not an E number. When people remember that a glass of Pom Wonderful shipped from the USA, concentrated, diluted, pasteurised and then bottled - although delicious - will never beat a bowl of purple sprouting, a fresh carrot or a handful of blackberries picked from a hedge in late summer.
The day drew to a close and the lovely Miele representatives handed us a glossy red goodie bag. There was no steam oven, induction wok burner or even a small vacuum cleaner in it, but a lovely recipe book for which I hope one day to have an oven to accompany. Thank you guys, you did a fantastic job.
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