Saturday, 28 May 2011

Fair's Fair

When you think of food fairs, what springs to mind?

A) Beautiful home made produce fashioned from wholesome ingredients and sold by ruddy faced farmers wives with legs like oil rigs? 

B) Over-priced pap concocted the night before from Supermarket bought ingredients in somebody's kitchen and knocked out for the equivalent of the GDP of an eastern European country?

C) Potions and cordials made from exotic plants that you have never heard of (probably because they don't exist) with exorbitant prices based on dubious claims as to their extensive medicinal benefits.

D) Cookery demonstrations from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall lookalikes teaching incredibly difficult culinary techniques to an audience that has absolutely no intention of trying them at home.

E) All of the above

The answer is of course all of the above. Last week we went to the 2011 Food Festival at Tatton Park. Mel had bought three day passes through some discount website or other. Clearly, we had no intention of going for three days as we have lives that require living and also we are not rich enough to stay at one of these events for more than an hour or so.

Mel was stressed out of her mind with the final stages of her masters degree so we chose Sunday Morning as the time to go. The plan was get up, drive to Tatton Park, wander around eating free samples, drink some elderflower and madeupberry cordial outside one of the tents and spend an incredible amount of money on a small carrier bag full of produce before returning home to consume our booty.

There was one small flaw in the plan which affected both our plans and indeed everybody else's. The flaw actually revealed itself to us on the Saturday night when we were both kept awake by what sounded like a hurricane whistling around outside and huge drops of rain slamming against our windows.

We awoke from whatever sleep we had snatched and looked outside to see that the conditions were, if anything, even worse than during the night. The really strange thing about this weather was that it would suddenly stop to be replaced by bright sunshine for just long enough to lull you into a false sense of security before whipping you into it's squall once more and carrying your legs in directions your brain had no intention of travelling in. It was also secretly cold, whereby you didn't realise just how cold it was until you had already left the house dressed for a summers day and then had to spend the day trying to stop your teeth chattering.

We set off anyway, fuelled by Mel's optimism that 'it might be inside'. I think we both knew full well it wasn't but its often important to maintain these charades otherwise you would never go anywhere or do anything. I'm sure you've encountered them before - 'it might be good', 'it might be dry', 'it might be nearby' are other examples of the same genre of false hope. They all start with 'it might be...' and are in time replaced by ' it wasn't......'.

We arrived at Tatton Park via some weird back route due to me failing to pay attention to the Sat Nav and fortuitously avoided a vast queue of cars in both directions as we somehow popped up outside the entrance and drove straight in. We were horrified to learn that in addition to the £4 each for the tickets (they should have been £10!) we had to pay £5 to get into Tatton Park which was a bit cheeky given the event was being held there.

We were herded like sheep to the gargantuan field Car park and quickly realised we were one of the first to arrive. After handing over our tickets at the gate we hurried towards the nearest coffee vendor. I had been forced to leave the house after consuming just one cup of coffee which was just plain irresponsible on Mel's behalf to be honest. I can't function without coffee and I certainly can't converse. We therefore queued for 10 minutes for a cup of coffee which a sign assured me had originated on the slopes of a mountain in Guatamala. You could tell that it was expensive coffee because they charged you £4.50 for it. Nevertheless, it was a medical emergency so I had two.

We then allowed the wind to blow us like naive kites towards the start of the row of 'saw you coming' food stalls. Of course, any self-respecting foodie stalks the fair like a cunning fox assessing the merits of each vendors produce before deciding which items should be purchased. However, I'd had no breakfast so within two minutes I was the proud owner of three Pork Pies and I hadn't even reached the second stall.

Next up was a cheese stall and again I piled straight in. I was however remarkably restrained and bought just the one cheese albeit a whole one. People had started to arrive en masse and were being blown towards us. The lovely cafe bar areas were beginning to resemble war zones with upturned furniture and dishevelled punters regretting their summery attire. Occasionally an enormous downpour would be rendered horizontal by the wind lashing it into the tents which were being used as shelter.

Next up was a stall that belonged to a shop I used to frequent in Rossendale called Fitzpatricks, the last remaining temperance bar in the country. Temperance bars were set up in the 19th century in an attempt to keep the workers off the 'evil drink' by creating a pub like atmosphere but serving non-alcoholic cordials and beverages. As a kid, I used to love their Black Beer and Raisin and Blood Tonic drinks. Mel and I tasted samples and bought a couple of bottles. Delicious though they are (she sent me back for more this morning) they must have changed their pricing policy since the 19th Century or else the workers would have needed a stiff drink after just a brief visit there.

The conditions were already beginning to take their toll freezing our cheeks and I also noticed Mel checking her purse despite assuring me earlier she had brought plenty of money. When I asked her about it she said she was just making sure she had enough for all of the cakes she intended to buy. We went straight to the biggest Cake stall and availed ourselves of the largest, stickiest buns on display. We then hurried onto the fudge stall and again filled our boots  before deciding that the weather was really not much fun at all and after being blown back to the Car Park we earned ourselves the dubious honour of being both the first to arrive and the first to leave that day.

In truth, it was for the best. The event was very well organised but I had made the mistake of going along hungry, a fatal mistake at these kind of events. We returned home just as the hordes were really descending on Tatton Park and twenty minutes later we were home consuming a weeks worth of calories in just a few short minutes.

The remainder of the week has been one of abstinence and exercise though I do still have a piece of expensive cheese in the fridge which assures me it won't eat itself. So................


  1. When the Recession catches up with you Alan these bourgeois escapes will be a thing of the past! Savour that cheese old chap :)

  2. It caught up with me a long time ago. But we sacrifice the essentials in life in order to afford extravagant nonsense. It makes me feel somehow more......more......unwholesome.

  3. You've made me realise how I've been neglecting my blog but I shan't reveal its whereabouts until I've given it a trim! Another great read!

    Nigel (hants_bluepants)

  4. Let me know as soon as you do Nigel. I'd like to read that.

  5. Excellent! And made me laugh! So you see people do laugh at the misfortunes of others! ;-)
    But I guess even consuming breakfast would not have helped........!

  6. You are right of course Viv. Even if I'd had a full English I'd still have filled my boots but I may have made it past the Pork Pie stall which had clearly been strategically placed for morons like me.