Britain is peppered with food festivals, schools and courses (not to mention excellent places to eat). Elaine Lemm recommends some specials
Chances are, if you’re a food lover – and who isn’t? – eating and drinking figure highly when you travel. Travel where food and drink are the main course on the trip, and not just a side dish, continues to be the fastest-growing trend in the industry. The beach looks nice but is it a delicious destination, a feast for the taste buds and the senses?
As someone who has choked down Surströmming (rotten fish, a Swedish delicacy) in Stockholm and gagged on boiled sheep intestines in Phnom Penh, I know it is an exciting world for the gourmet traveller. However, if Pemmican in the Polar regions isn’t quite your bag, there’s plenty on offer closer to home.
Never has there been so much interest in local foods. Take a jaunt anywhere in the UK or Ireland, and you’ll trip over farmers’ markets and food festivals, now as synonymous with the British summer as a raincoat.
Some festivals worship their own area, as the über-chic Ludlow does so admirably. Or they may home in on the produce: rhubarb has an early spring event, with watercress, liquorice, scallops, garlic and marmalade now claiming their own celebrations.
An enjoyable getaway and one of my favourites is the Dingle Food and Wine Festival in southern Ireland (though you should allow a few extra days to recover afterwards).
My least favourite – and the longest journey, a 900-mile round trip – was a festival in northern Scotland, which turned out to be three stalls on a windy quayside. So best to check before you go.
However, if you prefer to be active, with your fingers in the dough, then it’s a cookery course for you. Be prepared to be swamped with choice. You can be a chef for a day, a wine expert for a weekend, or spend a month hidden away with only fellow gastronauts for company.
You can focus on specialities from chocolate through to curry, slurp your way around the vineyards of England and Wales, have fun in Scotland tasting whisky with friends, go mackerel fishing in the North Sea, or forage in the forests (but please go with an expert if it’s mushrooms you’re after).
For those strong of stomach and not afraid of a little blood and guts, a butchery course is illuminating.
Master butcher David Lishman runs charcuterie courses in Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire. On the one I attended, after disembowelling and cutting up a whole pig, I came home clutching my own sausages and home-cured bacon (and several other porcine goodies). I was a very proud cook when I served them to friends for breakfast.
On the other hand, if all that sipping, slurping, kneading, chopping and whisking seems too much like hard work, and you want no responsibility for the shopping or the washing-up, take a tour around the marvellous restaurants, pubs, inns and cafés these islands have to offer.
Many tourist boards are now publishing food trail maps of their area to help you find the best quickly and easily. Just give them a call.