Did you know that there are more hits on Google if you search “food” than if you search “sex”!

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It only goes to prove that we are increasingly interested in all things food. We read about it, watch it on telly, idolise those involved in the industry and of course shop it every week, if not every day. In 1998 Henrietta Green decided to replicate the US farmer’s market that she had visited and site one in Borough Market, Southwark. Now it is one of London’s top tourist destinations, setting the pace for literally hundreds of other markets that are popping up all over the country.

And then there is the food fair or festival. I currently work on Laverstoke Park Farm and if I had asked for my salary to be upped by £1 for every event we get asked to support, then I would be a very rich lady. It seems that every school, entrepreneur, local council and general foodie is creating an event to bring together beautiful crafts and foods from around their region. Not only do we have events celebrating seasonal, local and artisan fair but also some that celebrate iconic products that we produce UK-wide: the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival, The Dorset Seafood Festival, The Great British Beer Festival, The Cromer and Sheringham Crab & Lobster Festival and not forgetting the Galway Oyster Festival, to name but a few.

Cheese

My focus last week was on cheese. I volunteered my services to help the farm’s Dairy Manager and expert cheese maker promote our cheeses at a fair in Melton Mowbray. It must be said that British cheese really is up there in world class stakes with varieties like Cheddar, Stilton, Single Gloucester and Lancashire putting the areas they come from on the world cheese stage. The British Cheese Board state that there are over 700 named British cheeses produced in the UK and we host both the World Cheese Awards in Birmingham and of course the ‘cheese Oscars’: the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich of all places.

So our little jaunt up to Melton Mowbray was not to be sniffed at. It was home to the Artisan Cheese Fair hosting over 40 cheese makers alongside other specialists including, of course, the eponymous Pork Pie. Driving up early on Sunday morning, I was struck by just how wonderfully British this all really was. The countryside around there is so pretty and with the sun shining and the early yellow hues of rapeseed cropping up I arrived with a positive spring in my step despite the early start.

M serves up some samples

M serves up some samples

Laverstoke Park Farm really is one of the most incredible farms in the UK. We are organic and biodynamic and specialise in buffalo which combine to be pretty unique and so we were showcasing our wonderful Buffalo Mozzarella amongst other things. Our Dairy Manager and supreme cheesemaker, M, is one of life’s beautiful people. She has previously been an opera singer, a model, a music therapist and ultimately an award winning cheese maker. She has a connection not only with the buffalo themselves but also with the production process which results in the making of wonderful things in the dairy. Our ice cream, yogurt, cheese and butter all benefit from the natural properties of buffalo milk which is creamy and rich because it has a high ratio of solids and many people who are dairy intolerant find that buffalo milk is OK for them, which is good because it makes everything taste so scrummy. So our little stand was very popular and the 7 hour stint flew by.

Montgomery's cheddar

Wandering around this fair in the old Cattle Market of such a traditional town, you can’t fail to be overwhelmed by the sense of British food heritage. Here are third, fourth and fifth generation cheesemakers who have been running their dairies and supporting their local trade through the ups and downs of centuries. Swaledale cheese dates back to the 11th century in Yorkshire and Keen’s unpasteurised Cheddar was established in 1899. Dairies such as Colston Bassett and Cropwell Bishop have spearheaded the blue cheese tradition and Keen’s are joined by the likes of Lincolnshire Poacher and Montgomery’s in making Cheddar from the early 1900’s.

M also introduced me to some of the newer cheese makers who were there that day. We fall into that category with our mozzarella and my favourite of the others was Lyburn and the lovely Mike Smales. He makes a cheese which is like a Gouda. The Old Winchester is just yummy and deserves all of the many medals it has received. I will definitely be going back for more of that.

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In the afternoon, our experience of British traditions was increased with the morris dancer display which took place just by our stall and also a local band who entertained us with a variety of classic tunes which we jigged along to. The sun thankfully shone and by 5 we were packed up and on the road.

I couldn’t resist popping along to say hi to some great friends who live not far from there in Leicester armed with pork pies and cheese. What could be better? wonderful food, fabulous friends and the sun setting over the great British countryside.

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