cherries and seasonality

Ceret cherriesA quick trip to the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France this half-term week has reminded me of how the French celebrate the seasons so well.  The local markets were piled high with fruits and vegetables at their best with hardly a trace of any imports or anything which wasn’t in season.  In particular the cherries feted in Ceret this weekend were on sale at every street corner – and delicious they were too.  While cherries are feted here at events like the Brogdale Cherry Festival in July, how much more ingrained into the national psyche is a seasonal festival which involves not only a cherry delivery to the President, a window display at Galleries Lafayette (the French equivalent of Selfridges) but also a cherry stone spitting competition?

There are some great seasonal single food festivals in the UK – step forward as examples the Pershore Plum Festival which will celebrate all things plummy over the August bank holiday and the Whitstable Oyster Festival in July– but as a nation, we prefer regional events to make the most of the wonderful food produce we grow and sell locally rather than focusing on one particular food stuff. My feeling is that as long as our local food producers are feted, this can only be a good thing.

Of course, there are always the PR led food events like British Sausage Week to remind us of some of our favourite foods:  I had the pleasure of working on this wonderfully quirky event many moons ago and the sight of a six foot sausage costume in the office will stay with me forever….

There are a number of websites to help us Brits eat more seasonally – and maybe encourage us to host more foodie events for single foodstuffs in season – like Eat the Seasons and Eat Seasonably, so there’s no real reason not to embrace the wonderful seasonal delights our food producers and food retailers tempt us with.

My trip has also inspired me to buy Caroline Conran’s book Le Sud de France: The Food & Cooking of the Langudeoc and I’m looking forward to trying out some new recipes with ingredients rooted in history and their terroir. Other new cookery books which are on my shopping list are those which were celebrated at the Guild of Food Writers Awards last night:

Cookery Book of the Year Award (Sponsored by Thermomix)

Winner: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury Press)

The other shortlistees were:

Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes by Ariana Bundy (Simon & Schuster)

Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley)

Food Book of the Year Award

Winner: What to Eat? 10 Chewy Questions About Food by Hattie Ellis (Portobello Books)

The other shortlistees were:

What to Eat: Food that’s good for your health, pocket and plate by Joanna Blythman (4th Estate)

Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen by Bee Wilson (Particular Books)

Michael Smith Award for Work on British Food

Winner: Calf’s Head and Coffee: The Golden Age of Food presented by Stefan Gates (Crocodile Media for BBC Four)

The other shortlistees were:

The British Larder: A Cookbook For All Seasons by Madalene Bonvini-Hamel (Absolute Press)

The Food Programme: BBC Food and Farming Awards presented by Sheila Dillon and Valentine Warner (BBC Radio 4)

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