The Godalming Food Festival 2011
The 2011 Godalming Food Festival
With the sun blazing in a cloudless blue sky, it couldn’t have been a nicer day for the Godalming Food Festival.
It only took 2 minutes on the free Hoppa bus to get from thebigfatnoodle’s HQ to Godalming’s Town Centre. Although it was only10.15amin the morning, the stalls lining the High Street were buzzing with customers and the streets all around were filling rapidly with kids, pets, prams and people, locals and visitors alike.
Now into its 3rd year, the annual Godalming Food Festival is split into two parts – an Italian Market as well as the local Farmer’s Market – and this year’s theme was designed as an ‘Around the World’ food trail.
It’s organised by the Godalming Chamber of Commerce, a group made up entirely of volunteers from the local business community. According to spokesperson Michelle Daniels, it showcases another side to Godalming, hopefully a ‘quirkier’ side other than that of the historical town (dating back to before AD899) best known for being the first in the world to have a public electricity supply.
“What we try and do in Godalming is to get everyone involved so you don’t just find food stalls by food producers. We get the retailers doing stalls, local charity shops organising events, retailers organising activities for visitors; so the whole town gets behind it. No one gets left out. We’ve designed the Festival to appeal to all sorts of people and there’s really something for everyone, from the food stalls to live bands and events for all ages.”
The Italian Market
This year, I came prepared with our cool bag and money to spend as there are over 60 stalls in the Farmer’s market (not including the Italian Market!). In the Italian section, it was slightly surreal to be greeted by young Italian men crying ‘Buongiorno!’ as many of them genuinely didn’t speak much English. I nibbled my way through what was on display, like the parmesan raspato – a young parmesan matured for only 12 months instead of the usual 24 to 36 months, and I tried numerous olives – the ones stuffed with anchovies and capers were awesome!
I also splurged on a £15.99 bottle of matured balsamic vinegar by Gellati. I know it’s expensive but you don’t need a lot of it to appreciate its full and rich flavour.
Walking through the Farmer’s Market, I couldn’t stop gaping at the colossal size of the elephant garlic bulbs on sale from The Garlic Farm. I was really tempted to buy one but at £5.00 a pop, thought it best to resist since we’d bought a great big bag of garlic from the greengrocer just two days ago. Sussex Gold, a local rapeseed oil producer had various salad dressings and flavoured rapeseed cooking oils. Their tomato oil/dressing was pretty good but I have to say I’m not that partial to the taste of rapeseed.
It was also really nice to see a more multicultural side of Surrey emerge, with at least two Thai and two Indian spice stalls taking their places alongside the more traditional English stalls selling burgers and hog roasts as well as jams, chutneys and preserves.
Ishmael’s Mother specialises in curry sauces in traditional Indian and Thai flavours. Set up by Khalid Ishmael, as a ‘homage to my late mother’, Khalid used to be a barrister before moving into the food business, where he started in cakes (citing Death by Chocolate as his progeny) before beginning this new venture. I tasted all five of his curry mixes – his special curry and the massaman curry were, in my opinion, the best of the lot, and I could eat his coconut and cardamom sauce like a dessert (he has plans to turn this into an ice cream). What I like about Ishmael’s Mother is that their sauces come in plastic packs, making them much easier to store.
A few stalls down we also found Anila’s handmade curry sauces – a family run business by Anila and her husband. Of Indian descent, Anila is from Zimbabwe but wasn’t at the event though her husband, also Indian but from Kenya, was there to introduce us to the eight different sauces, chutneys and pickles on offer. If you haven’t heard of them before, I urge you to check them out online because we couldn’t resist picking up 3 of their award winning sauces before leaving (go for the Goan Green, Spicy Korma and the Hot Methi).
A real highlight for me was meeting Executive Chef Richard Myers, a native of New Orleans who now runs his Laissez-Fare Cooking School and Catering business locally, specialising in Cajun and Creole cooking. He gave me a whole soft-shelled crab to try (divine!) and his own shrimp dish creation (melt-in-your-mouth prawns in a creamy sauce). His cooking courses cost £80 for a four hour session, including ingredients and a meal. With my recent interest in US TV series Treme, I hope I can find the time to sign up because I’m hooked!
It took me more than 3 hours to weave my way around the market but it was totally worth it. I didn’t end up buying as much as I thought I would but that’s because I spent too much time talking to everyone.
When I set out this morning, I really didn’t know if any of the stall owners would take the time to speak to me but they were a great bunch of people. What’s inspiring is that many of them have ditched professional careers to start up their own home-grown food enterprises.
Kevin originally worked in publishing but ditched the corporate world to set up Pan Global Cateringa year and a half ago. Today, he’s on a mission to introduce customers to a more global palate and makes a myriad of dishes, from paella to coq au vin. His paella wasn’t ready when we met but it smelt amazing! He was nice enough to share some tips for anyone thinking about starting a catering business. “Get your health and safety sorted out, get your kitchens sorted out but above all, you need to start a business like a businessman. Cooking for friends is one thing but the cooking part of catering is just a small part, there’s a lot more to do behind the scenes. Networking is important too; forget about advertising in the Yellow Pages, it’s more important to get referrals!”
I also managed to meet Rebecca (Rebecca’s Cupcakes). A self-made businesswoman, her cake making grew from being a hobby four years ago to becoming a full-time business today. You’ll find her cupcakes in tea shops in Guildford though her website has helped her to generate a lot of interest and new business. This year, she’s moved her cupcake production into a commercial kitchen, and taken on two employees to help. Before I left Rebecca’s stall, I couldn’t resist buying two of her cupcakes and now that I’ve finished this post, I can finally put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and dive into the strawberries and cream temptation that’s been distracting me for the last hour or so. I’ve actually had them before and can safely say that I’ll have them again in the future, and again, and again…
So, it’s been a totally awesome day and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I’ve met some inspirational people, and to think that they’re my ‘locals’!
I can’t deny that it hasn’t crossed my mind to try my own hand at a food/market stall one day. I already have a local Southeast Asian hawker dish in mind but I doubt anything will come of it. It’s nice day dream for now.
Lots of love