A Sunny Saturday at the Wealden Literary Festival
Shockingly as an author before a couple of weeks ago I’d never been to a literary festival. While I wait around for Student Eats to become popular enough for me to get invited to one as a speaker, I jumped at an invitation to attend the very small, very lovely and very Kentish Wealden Literary Festival just a 40 minute drive away from where my parents live in Kent, right where they both grew up. The big excitement for me was the chance to see one of my favourite food writers, Diana Henry write about her latest book How To Eat A Peach, but it was also a lovely opportunity to explore the beautiful private gardens at Boldshaves and get introduced to some fine makers of Kent products from a slightly different bit of the county than I usually visit.
We started off taking a walk around to visit some of the makers. Kate Linforth, the artist in residence had some beautiful prints inspired by nature on display. If you’re currently decorating a countryside home (or looking to bring a bit of the country into the city) I urge you to get in touch with her about some of her patterns and fabrics. Also, do you think if I asked nicely I could get Teepea to make me an adult sized teepee for me to lounge in the garden under with a good book and a nice glass of Lavender Vodka Lemonade?
It was also great to catch up with my favourite Kentish condiment maker Mighty Fine Things, and their booze brand Coxy’s Liquors. Regular Instagram followers will know I’m a big fan of their liquors splashed into prosecco or a G&T (go to Elderflower and Honey, or Plum and Cardamom), and I wish also to point you in the direction of my new bottle of Sweet Chilli & Honey Sauce which I’m very excited about, and their gorgeous Faversham Raspberry Vinegar I’ve been using to make the most refreshing shrubs during the heatwave?
Meeting up with my friend Hannah (if you’re a Kent based chef, restaurant or producer this is who you want to be doing your PR!) we headed into the main tent to hear all about what exactly goes into a Diana Henry cookbook. From this I took away three big takeaways: everyone had to start somewhere, including people who can write as well as Diana. There are too many pressures being put on young food writers to be all over Instagram and all over social media to get their writing and their books out there, which is pushing so many ‘fad’ books, sometimes with dodgy nutrition. Also, when you’re entertaining don’t make things too hard on yourself. Don’t serve up two desserts just because people expect it. Don’t plan something too complicated which means you won’t have the time to spend with your guests.
After I’d got my copy signed (guiltily snuck through the bookshop in my handbag from home as I collect signed cookbooks, I do quite well with some harder to get ones in my line of work!) it was time for lunch. While my mother and I were tempted by some of the incredible looking vegetarian treats on display, hanging out with my Dad means that fresh rolls stuffed with hog roast, crackling, apple sauce and wholegrain mustard from Blue Egg Catering were an inevitability, but a happy inevitability. They were wonderful.
After food, some drink. As you know I’m a massive fan of and advocate for English Wine, so I’m always on board with sampling the wines from vineyards I’ve never tried/ been to before. I’d never even heard of Woodchurch before they popped up at the festival, but they are one to watch. While their Blanc de Blancs and Rose are everything you’d expect (and are what my parents preferred), I think it is their Classic Cuvee that is something special. When I was doing the photography for Barnsole Vineyard they explained to me about how there is a bit of a debate among English Sparkling Wine makers if they should either be trying to imitate champagne, or create a product with a uniquely English taste. I think the Classic Cuvee is the latter; light and floral, and just the thing that reminds you of a Kentish country garden on a beautiful summers day. Woodchurch are one to look out for, and somewhere I’ll be keeping tabs on.
Glasses of sparkling wine in hand we took off around the gardens. I’m not sure it it is getting older and having my own home (albiet still a rental flat) rather than a shared place, or if it is because we now have such a stunning, award winning family garden but I’m becoming more and more interested in gardens and plants. These are beautiful, and once my lobbying for a pizza oven at my parents place has borne fruit, I think I’m going to campaign for a covered archway, dripping with flowers next.
At the festival Hannah and I both introduced each other to something new; me, letting her know how awesome Mighty Fine Things are, and her, telling me that I simply must try some Marourde Mead, which just so happened to win Kent Food Product of the Year this year. They do a classic sweet and a wonderful, more complex sparkling mead made with hops which was so beautiful, sweet and refreshing. I’m already a mead fan, but if you’ve never tried it before Marorde are who you need to seek out.
While the Wealden Literary Festival won’t return for another year, I urge you to see if there are any other small, hyper local festivals in your area you can go to this summer where you’ll be able to meet local producers and find out more about what is made in your area (and of course click on all the Kentish links in this post!) Local food is not all street food and restaurants, you know!