Looking back, and forward to 2020

With thanks to Hayley from Hawaii for this fun pic of ‘The Big Kahuna’ & me !!

Some of us are fortunate to take a wee pause just now, gather our thoughts and reflect with friends and family. Others are still on a rollercoaster of guests and hospitality, food orders, even milking! Our thoughts are with you all: those pausing now will no doubt be manic later and those in festive maelstrom? …well, you have our respect and empathy!

The year seems to have spun by at an alarming rate. There have been joyous moments I shall review and moments of extreme sadness as we bade farewell to dear friends who have contributed so much in their lives, were taken too soon and are missed by many.

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Ron & Judith of Cairn O’Mhor Wines

Visiting SFG Members, established and new, all so very welcome, so interesting and with such wonderful produce and places, is always a privilege and pleasure. I enjoy writing regular features for Farming Scotland including fruit wines, heritage breeds of sheep, tweed, charcuterie, grains and potatoes…. and a good blether on Radio Scotland from time to time! Judging the Catering in Scotland Awards has been a joy and an honour, one I have been delighted to undertake for over a decade but for 2020 I have passed on the baton to others. The Edinburgh Bakers (Baxters) Trust, of which I am Chair, has bestowed its first traunch of grants and we are excited to see the progress of our recipients.

Members Sponsored Exhibition at Holyrood, with thanks to Annabelle Ewing MSP

The week in the Members’ Lobby at the Scottish Parliament hosting our exhibition on the Heritage Foods of Alba was a high point and as exhausting as it was exhilarating. I have great respect for the activity of politicians in Holyrood: the place is buzzing from morn till night. Most stopped to chat and study our showcase – relishing Campbell’s Selkirk Bannock whilst sipping Birken Tree Birchwater probably helped! We received a warm welcome and valuable insight into the workings of Holyrood whilst giving in return local knowledge of food heritage, production and hospitality in their regions.

Chef Steve, Carmichael Estate Bistro, Foraging Fortnight event – look out for another this May

We have travelled from Stranraer to Orkney this year, attending festival events in Ballantrae, Moray, Forth Valley, Lanark and Fife to name a few. Sadly we did not make it to the Hebrides this year other than a delightful wee trip over Clachan Bridge, aka the Bridge over the Atlantic, onwards to Luing. We hope to return…and head further westwards in 2020.

We took six super SFG Members with us to Gardening Scotland this year: Errichel & Thyme Restaurant, Carmichael Estate, Galloway Chillies, Cairn O’Mhor Winery, Scotland The Bread and Isle of Skye Sea Salt. Bosse and I thoroughly enjoyed their company and hopefully they found it worthwhile too. I am exploring other options for 2020 but we may return in 2021.

North Ronaldsay Presidium Sheep

2019 was the year of Scotland’s first ever Slow Food Presidium, The North Ronaldsay Sheep. Thanks to the efforts of island crofters, notably the indefatigable Billy Muir, this small sturdy lively sheep is flourishing on their breezy outpost in the far north of Scotland. It is a pleasure to work with this project and I commend you to taste these and other heritage breeds. The day of their Conference was one day prior to the Scottish Bread Championships at the Royal Highland Show so I was greatly relieved there were no storms and ferries were running!

Buccleuch Arms in full swing on stage at the Theatre

The Royal Highland plays a pivotal role in our year and my sincere thanks to all of you who participate and I hope to see many of you again in 2020: entering breads, ice creams, butter or cheeses to the Championships or joining me on stage in the main theatre – in its new central location and livery. I should take this opportunity to thank Bosse for his incredible support, patience and enthusiasm all year, and at the RHS they get a ‘buy one get one free’ and he is a real asset! He disappears very occasionally but we all know where to find him, admiring the heavy horses, and, but for me, he would have spent the last decade of Junes dancing round a Midsummer pole eating herring with dill potatoes (as they all do that weekend in Sweden!)

Foraging Fortnight brought a new dimension to my life this year but in a positive way! I have met many new folk and uncovered golden seams of knowledge in existing friends … so with something old, something new, something borrowed and some blewits (couldn’t resist) we foraged through September and will do so again come May (and September for Orkney).

Slow Food Scania on Orkney @ Sheila Fleet’s Kirk Gallery & Cafe

It was an absolute joy to welcome back some Hawaiian Les Dames d‘Escoffier with their friends before they tackled the West Highland Way this summer and we hope to see them again. Thanks to Instagram we can share experiences even when thousands of miles apart. We also hosted a group of foodies from Slow Food Scania this year and visited many members during the week they were here.

The Seasonal Offers web page on Scottish Food Guide has received great feedback from Members so do keep sending in your news. Your activities may tie in with other events so it’s always worth keeping in touch – even just to bounce ideas. Some of the best schemes start out as a cuppa round the kitchen table!

I created Scottish Food Guide and Scottish Cheese Trail in 2002 and it gives me great joy to think in some way I hopefully contribute to Scotland’s food scene but if I do it is thanks to readers and members, producers, cooks and chefs, hoteliers and farmers, consumers and diners…all supporting our best places to eat and best producers in Scotland and without whom it would be nothing. This Scottish Food Tourism network of connections in Scotland, read across the globe, supports and promotes many family and independent businesses yesterday, today and for many tomorrows to come. A very Happy New Year to you all.

If you enjoyed this, there are two other places you may like to bookmark with more of my periodic musings … newly posted, my thoughts on ethical eating trends at https://www.wendybarrie.co.uk/blog and some of the highlights from Sweden and Scotland culminating in a memorable stay at Wallby Säteri on http://skanskfoodguide.co.uk/blog/