Recipes are a delicate science. Ingredients depend on quantities and quality, methods depend on timing and calibration. So what’s the recipe for an amazing food festival?
Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine aka #LitFestIE have honed their recipe from last year and delivered a memorable weekend to the fooderati from Ireland and beyond. The beauty of LitFestIE is that there are no lines drawn between those celebrity authors, chefs and cooks and the general public. Such was my experience on Friday evening at the launch in Ballymaloe; it was like food celebrity bingo, then again later on in The Big Shed (the hub of activity for those not attending talks and demonstrations) when I couldn’t take 5 steps for recognising somebody I knew.
It’s not just about meeting and eating with your food heroes though and the Ballymaloe team skillfully made things look effortless, while managing a very tight ship. For example, the talks in the Ballymaloe House area were scheduled to run on the hour while talks and demonstrations at the Cookery School (a few km down the road) ran on the half hour. This enabled Darina (Allen) to introduce each speaker which added a great personal touch to the proceedings although I have no idea how she had any voice left by Sunday night!
John McKenna (McKenna’s Guides) crafted an interview with Rene Redzepi on Saturday morning that felt like each and every person in the room was on a sofa in their living room sitting in on a personable chat.
Cloud Confectionery and The Rocket Man stole the show with their food stalls in The Big Shed, Cloud making the most incredible marshmallows that sold out long before LitFestIE ended; The Rocket Man making amazing fresh salads that just zinged in your mouth.
Ballymaloe Relish had the genius idea of personalising jar lids with a pin, names and twitter handles. It made it easy to spot people who you might not recognise from social media.
Diana Kennedy holding court at her cookery demonstration and wearing a pair of leather trousers. So what you say? Not bad for a 91 year old who also insisted on doing all her own preparation work for her cookery demonstration and put in 8 hours in the kitchen the day before! She has since been dubbed the “Mick Jagger of Food” and I wholeheartedly agree.
I was lucky enough to attend both the Maggie Beer demonstration and the Ottolenghi/Sami Tamini demonstration. In the two demonstrations I was struck by how included the audience felt, there was friendly banter back and forth, we tasted the food they cooked and they took time to talk to us all afterwards.
Thank goodness for the Kerrygold “recharge, eat and tweet area” though as my battery was in dangerous peril on more than a few occasions. I also did my own cookery demonstration here on the Saturday afternoon which was great fun. I’ve never seen so many scones disappear so quickly.
The team at Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest have already confirmed the dates for next year. Will you be there?
Caitriona’s first cookbook, Wholesome – Feed Your Family Well For Less is out now published by Mercier Press.