Thame’s Fantastic Food Festival

I’ve just returned from Thame Food Festival, and once again I’m amazed at how quickly this festival has grown – from half a dozen stalls around the town hall a few years ago, to today’s mammoth festival, for which the town was closed to traffic all day.

There was an amazing array of produce from local and artisan producers, as well as delicious goodies from further afield. The huge crowds around every stall surely must mean that we are all more concerned about where our food has come from and how it has been produced.

It was great to say hello to various people who have been stallholders at The Pantry, or whose products we’ve stocked, and to see them doing so well. David Newman, who regular Pantry-goers will recognise as the face of Bucksum vegetables, in particular had one of the longest queues when the Michelin-starred chef (now with his own TV series) Tom Kerridge was signing his new book on the Bucksum stall.

I’d dallied too long at the stalls to get anywhere near the stage to see Raymond Blanc demonstrating, but as I passed, I heard that unmistakable voice exclaim “Voila!”, and thought yes, “Voila!” indeed – from a small beginning this big idea has captured people’s imagination and enthusiasm, and has grown into quite a landmark event, putting Thame firmly on the foodie map.

We’re very lucky to have such a terrific event on our doorstep. If you missed it this time, do go next year – for the food, the buzz and the live music at the pop-up pub. A grand day out!

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

We’ve just returned from the vibrant Mediterranean coast to a VERY misty, mellow, fruitful English autumn. Quite a shock to the system, but glorious in its own way.

The garden is glowing with the rich colours of asters, heleniums and rudbeckias, and the courgettes, tomatoes, plums and apples are still producing abundantly. So the first task, after doing several loads of washing, was to dig out all those recipes for jams, chutneys and cordials. Actually, no, the very first task (before the washing) was to look up a recipe for homemade limoncello, as I developed a serious addiction to it on my hols. Seems easy enough, though perhaps a nice sloe gin would be more appropriate for these chilly evenings.

Anyway, back to The Pantry – which, by all accounts was a resounding success, despite the bad weather, which made everything harder. I was very sorry to miss it this time, especially as we were featuring our new local beer and cider stall. My spies tell me that Ian, the Biermeister, did a fantastic job of encouraging people to try all the various tipples available, and it sounds as though a great time was had by all. Not least by Ian, who, I hear, could hardly be persuaded to cut short the fun and pack up at the end. We really must think about a post-Pantry party sometime.

I hope the stallholders, both new and regular, found the market worthwhile and enjoyed their time in Piddington. And I’m sure the locals enjoyed the chance to meet up in the coffee shop again and browse the stalls.

It’s now time to start making preparations for our Christmas market on 7 December. We’re planning to make it extra special, as we’ll be celebrating a year of holding regular markets in Piddington. Amazing, isn’t it?

It has been a lot of hard work, and most definitely a steep learning curve – and we couldn’t have done it at all without the fabulous Pantry volunteers, who are happy turn their hand to a variety of jobs, from putting up a large marquee in a howling gale to making exquisite table decorations, not to mention serving at the general store or coffee shop, decorating the hall, then packing it all away and cleaning the hall at the end.

It’s a huge achievement that a small village like ours manages an event of this complexity on a regular basis.  Well done, Piddington!