In Scotland the gorse is blooming adding scents of coconut to the air, birds are nesting and ramsons are flourishing. On a gloriously sunny – if slightly nippy – day, let’s take a deep breath and forget for a moment about the energy bills and other frustrations in life…well it was worth a try!
If you have been reading social media this week you may have been following the Monbiot – Savory exchanges on pastoralism, regenerative farming and ruminants. Nothing new there and many comments as polarised as ever albeit with notable exceptions bravely and eloquently explaining the nuances of mob grazing and silvopasture versus feedlots and industrial systems. I think you can guess our stance on this. Scottish Food Guide’s Charter also emphasises the necessity of sustainable and regenerative food production – be it growing or sourcing.
This week’s debate has had an added interesting dimension: academic versus anecdotal evidence. Discuss. It always fascinates me that both Bosse and I have regularly been contacted and interviewed, in our own time, by salaried individuals who then use the information they have received as ‘primary source’ material for their academic paper, yet if we write the same material in our own hand, it is deemed anecdotal by those same academics. Interesting. Sometimes one feels distinctly irritated by big business, big publishers and big broadcasters. Money talks. Hey ho… we carry on, determined to make a difference and support the chefs and producers who help make a cleaner fairer Scotland by their sustainable actions and regenerative growing. That’s also why we wrote our book because we want to make a difference: to inspire growers to increase their biodiversity and encourage consumers to source ethically. It is not always a quick fix but it is definitely possible and with your help, we can spread the word.
The indefatigable Frieda Morrison from Scots Radio recorded another super programme last week, now broadcast, covering Bosse’s Grain Project at Ardross, the Scottish Bread Championship & Festival at Bowhouse, and Scottish Cheese Trail. David Mitchell, Deputy Chair, National Trust for Scotland, presented an exceptionally interesting journey into the history of grains, with musical segments thoughtfully selected by Frieda and a joy to listen to. Good for the soul and a pleasure to take part in. Do click the link and enjoy.
There are indeed many positives out there – Scottish Food Guide members for a start. There has been a series of excellent events I attended since my last newsletter including the RBST Conference in Fife, Feeding Tayside Conference from Bioregioning Tayside in Dundee and the Scottish Food Writers Guild (photo) hosted by Mary Contini at Valvona & Crolla. The RBST Awards are now open for entries and I am sure there are many worthy potential winners across Scotland so get your entries in now. The winners will be announced at the Royal Highland Show in June.
This will be the first time since 2003 that I shall not be working at a Theatre in the Food Hall, or nearby. Surplus to requirements, a new era dawns but never fear, I am on the food scene more than ever and a red-headed force to be reckoned with!
But now is the moment to pause and celebrate these fantastic chefs and cooks who literally gave their time, enthusiasm and love to The Show – now that’s dedication for you and this is my tribute to you…
Too many to mention, I give my heartfelt thanks for the memories, the flavours, the laughs and the hugs, the kindred spirits and the kindness. You are one big family, never forgotten and always appreciated. There’s Slow Food’s Graeme Pallister (a regular supporter), the vibrant Jak O’Donnell, bubbly Morven Hastie (pictured, who appeared many times), and gifted Ian McAndrew… from 63 Tay St, Sisters, Wishingwell Coffee Shop and Blackaddie respectively. All now on a different road of travel but their reputations live on.
There are distinguished award-winning personalities who have gone that extra mile, appearing on numerous occasions: Lady Claire Macdonald, Tom Lewis, David Haetzman, Carina Contini, Iain Gourlay, Chris Rowley, The Batch Lady, Billy Hamilton, Iain Campbell, and Paul Newman.
These cooks and chefs have cooked up a storm, presented to full houses, sold the sizzle and celebrated the produce. Over these years there are two Olympians deserving of special commendations: the fabulous Craig Wilson of Eat on the Green (pictured with his wife Lindsey) who has shared the stage with me for 12 years, and Slow Food’s Neil Forbes of Café St Honore for a phenomenal 13 years. We are so lucky to have these guys in Scotland.
Please forgive me for not mentioning you all – although these is a List of Appearances at the very end of this newsletter for the dedicated reader – but I must also give a shout out to the splendid students I have had the pleasure to work with over the years at the Show – mostly from St George’s School, where I worked part time awhile, with a particular mention going to Tegan (pictured right with Neil) and Penny (pictured below with Neil) who have been by my side for many a year, latterly taking ‘time off’ from their day jobs to carry on the tradition. I owe you.
Twenty years is a long time, perhaps the powers that be thought too long, and for 15 of those years, Bosse has been at my side as a ‘buy-one-get-one-free,’ and an incredible helping hand and support throughout. We have had a fantastic journey with producers and cooks, farmers and chefs, many of whom are friends for life and we look forward to continuing to see you all as we travel together and share our experiences in Scottish Food Guide. So for now, I leave you with this and some more happy snaps…
Royal Highland Show Roll Call excerpts
2003 Theatre for Scottish Executive
2005 Theatre for FSS & Scottish Cheese Trail market stand
2006 Main Cookery Theatre, soon after renamed Scotland’s Larder Live, including… Jak O’Donnell, Andrew Radford, Neil Forbes, East Ayrshire dinner ladies, Lady Claire Macdonald, Morven Hastie, David Hunt, Macsween Haggis & Sue Lawrence
2007 – Neil Forbes, Morven Hastie, Lady Claire Macdonald, Walkers Shortbread
2008 – Lady Claire Macdonald, Torridon, Walkers Shortbread, Macsween, Celia Pickup, Neil Forbes, Jak O’Donnell, Benromach
2009 – Macsween, Channings, Jak O’Donnell, Craig Wilson, East Lothian, Marcliffe, Lady Claire Macdonald, Benromach, Knock Castle, Morven Hastie, WRI
2010 – Tom Lewis, Susan Crosthwaite, Iggy Campos, Lady Claire Macdonald, Craig Wilson, Morven Hastie, James Ferguson, St George’s School
2011 – Lady Claire Macdonald, Tom Lewis, Craig Wilson, Paul Wedgwood, Morven Hastie , Border Region, Macsween Haggis, Neil McGown
2012 – Neil Forbes, Craig Wilson, Lady Claire Macdonald, Paul Wedgwood, Dumfries & Galloway region, Ian McAndrew , East Ayrshire dinner ladies, Colin Wallace REHIS , Morven Hastie
2013 – Tom Lewis, Henderson’s (celebrating 50 years), Fred Berkmiller, Burts & Townhouse, Whighams Wine Cellars, Victor & Carina Contini, Morven Hastie, Torridon , Craig Wilson, Paul Wedgwood, Neil Forbes
2014 – Morven Hastie, East Lothian, Neil Forbes, David Haetzman, Craig Wilson, Paul Wedgwood
2015 – Morven Hastie, David Barnett, Craig Wilson, Paul Wedgwood, Carina Contini , Graeme Pallister, David Haetzman, Fred Berkmiller, Tim Dover, Neil Forbes
2016 – David Barnett, David Haetzman, Neil Ross, George Heriots School, Craig Wilson, Neil Forbes, Andrew Whitley, Fred Berkmiller, Morven Hastie, Graeme Pallister, Cringletie
2017 – Neil Forbes, Chris Rowley, Iain Campbell, Craig Wilson, Cringletie, David Haetzman, Gary Maclean, Killiecrankie, Mark Easton & Henrietta, Tom Lewis, Tim Dover, Paul Wedgwood, Tayberry Restaurant, Fred Berkmiller, Graeme Pallister, Mark Lovie
2018 – Paul Newman, Chris Rowley, Craig Wilson, Iain Campbell, Tom Lewis, Robbie Penman (Scot Culinary Team FCS), Ali Abercrombie, Carina Contini, Cringletie, Peter McKenna, Neil Forbes, Morven Hastie, Graeme Pallister
2019 – Craig Wilson, Billy Hamilton, Cringletie , The Batch Lady, Neil Forbes, Paul Newman, Tom Lewis, Carina Contini, Ali Abercrombie, Andy Christie, Mark Heirs, Calum Montgomery, Iain Campbell, David Haetzman, Heather Byres
2020 – No RHS however I contributed a day’s workshop including lunch for the RHET Gala auction (raising £500 for RHET & a further £500 for Maggie’s Centre)
2021 – RHS online on film with… Neil Forbes, Paul Newman, Billy Hamilton, Craig Wilson
2022 – Taste of Shetland, Craig Wilson, Graham Rooney, Tom Lewis, Billy Hamilton, Paul Newman, The Batch Lady, Praveen Kumar, Neil Forbes
That’s all folks! …and a very Happy Easter from us
photo credit, my lovely Dad