Abergavenny: Far more than just a food festival

Abergavenny Food Festival

This time last weekend I was feeling inspired, excited, and amongst other things – extremely full, having just popped my Abergavenny Food Festival cherry. In the couple of years since I moved back to Wales, the annual event had always fallen when I was away on holiday or at a wedding. You can imagine my excitement when I realised that at the grand old age of 31 I would finally get to experience it for myself.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The festival takes over the entire market town of Abergavenny for a full weekend of events, all taking place in separate areas around the centre. These range from producer stalls and street-food markets, to demonstration tents and pop-up cookery schools.

Abergavenny Food Festival

By far my favourite area of the festival was ‘The Castle‘ – where the ancient grounds are transformed into a magical setting for an array of entertainment, demos and talks. This is where Pete and I stopped for a coffee and a vibrant plate of organic falafel, hummus and salad, before switching over to some locally brewed cider. Well it was the weekend after all…

Dome tent at Abergavenny Food Festival

The best thing about this festival is that many of the talks and debates on offer are included in the cost of a general admission wrist-band. I was determined to make the most of this chance to attend ‘foodie university’! First up was an informal discussion between three chefs, Zoe Adjonyo (Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen), Jan Ostle (Wilsons) and Tom Hunt, (Poco).

Their talk, entitled ‘Revolting British Chefs‘ looked at the measures which each of them takes to reduce and even cook with food waste. I was particularly interested to hear from Jan, who employs a nose-to-tail ethos when it comes to the meat dishes on the menu in his restaurant, and Tom, whose restaurant won an Observer Food Monthly award for best ethical restaurant in 2013. Tom was also involved with Dan Barber’s Wasted pop-up at Selfridges earlier this year.

Talk at Abergavenny Food Festival

My favourite talk of the day though, was ‘The Meaty Debate‘ – a round-table discussion which aimed to tackle the juicy issue of how much meat to eat – if any at all. Again, chef Tom Hunt was involved, as well as UCL food policy professor Tim Lang, Psychotherapist and farmer Ruth Tudor, and Martha Roberts; a small-scale producer of free-range, rare-breed pork. It was fascinating to hear the panel debate their opinions on whether eating meat was a necessity, a right or a privilege. I was most impressed however, by the sheer depth of academic knowledge that rolled off Tim’s tongue. His insight was not based on passion or opinion but pure scientific fact. And the facts he shared were pretty stark; you can read more about his study of meat-eating in his book ‘Sustainable Diets‘. In short, if we continue eating meat in the quantities we currently do, both our health and the environment are looking pretty screwed. Tellingly, both he and Tom Hunt are now full time vegetarians.

Abergavenny Food Festival

Tipsy on cider and with my mind whirring after listing to such fascinating speakers, Pete and I took one last wander around the producers markets, loaded up on veggie pies and nut roasts from The Parsnipship, and headed back to Cardiff to scoff some for our dinner.

The verdict

I can’t believe it took me so long to get to Abergavenny Food Festival, and I am already pumped to go again in 2018. It’s an incredible event that not only champions real food from brilliant producers, but through talks and workshops, also interrogates our relationship with that food; challenging us to think about where it comes from, how it is grown and produced, and most importantly for me, what ‘good food’ will look like in the not too distant future.

I’ve decided that next year I am going to book myself a weekend stay at The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny for the duration of the festival. I want to soak up as much of the weekend as I can – and treat myself to a bit more of that lovely cider, too!

Did you go to this year’s Abergavenny Food Festival? What did you think?


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