The Cornwall Food & Drink Festival, held on Truro’s Lemon Quay towards the end of September, is a pretty unique foodie event in the UK for the fact that every food and drink producer, every exhibitor, every chef and every sponsor are totally Cornish. There can’t be many festivals where fifty stallholders (there could be a lot more if the location didn’t limit the size) and a ‘Croust’ bar for Cornish refreshments, plus 3 days of chef’s demonstrations can claim this totally regional exclusivity, can there?
Having known Cornwall all my life, claiming itself a gastronomic capital of food would not have seemed remotely likely 25 years ago. Ask anyone, from Cornwall or beyond, and only Cornish pasties and clotted cream for the ubiquitous cream tea would have summed up food from Cornwall. Rick Stein had opened his first business in Padstow in 1974 and so back in 1986, his restaurant was the best of maybe of two, possibly three, places to dine out in Cornwall. Everything else was very mediocre and I can remember thinking: Just once, before I die, someone will love me enough to take me to eat at The Seafood Restaurant. It represented the pinnacle of food heaven that was out-of reach in terms of cost to the average Cornish wage.
So much has changed. Rick Stein had broadened his empire, great restaurants are aplenty and ridiculously good food is everywhere even in little cafe’s and bistros.I now get sniffy if even pub food in Cornwall isn’t freshly cooked and locally sourced.
Of course clotted cream and the ‘genuine’ Cornish pasty will always been synonymous with Cornwall and wonderfully they’re now both protected with special geographical status to stop inferior imitators giving the foods the wrong image. Motorway service stations would have us think as pasty came wrapped in plastic, contained minced beef and diced carrots and tasted rather dull.
Food hype is everywhere and all over the nation, food enthusiasts are all shouting for their own region. No wonder then that ‘fun’ polls to find Britain’s favourite food spot should inspire passionate food fights, where each county champions their own local food producers, their regional specialties and top-notch dining establishments. If local people don’t support their local producers they disappear, and if a single region can establish a reputation as a foodie destination then it can thrive like no other.
…And the argument for Cornwall?