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Pride in Suffolk produce at Snape

By Lucy Spencer & Rachel Thomas
Residents of Ipswich

Visitors to the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival 2009
An estimated 6000 people visited the festival over the two days

If you are looking for a great day out in Suffolk, then look no further than the annual Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival.

The main, two day, festival gives Suffolk producers a chance to showcase their products in the fantastic surroundings of Snape Maltings.

However, there is more to the festival than these two days as it also acts as a launch pad for the Fringe Festival.

We went on Saturday, 26 September 2009 and the whole site was buzzing with foodie activity and delicious smells.

The sun shone and it was warm enough to sit 'al fresco' with a pint of cider, a crepe, a wrap or indeed any other number of wonderful permutations which were available from the many stalls and vans dotted around the main marquee.

In addition to the two stages where cookery demonstrations took place, the main marquee had dozens of stalls selling local wild boar, venison, chutney, jam, cake, wine, cheese, vegetables, fruit and more.

Talking to the stallholders as I made my way round, I concluded that all these people are totally committed to producing food of the highest quality, sourced locally wherever possible.

Most importantly of course, it's all completely delicious, as we found out first hand from the many tastings we were offered.

Leaving the rat race

Some of the stallholders had fascinating stories to tell such as how they had given up 'top jobs', acting and careers in the City to make jam or chutney from their kitchen or barn.

But, it would appear that their risks had paid off. Many of us now want locally produced food with few or no 'food miles'.

Hillfarm rapeseed oil bottles
Some chefs recommend rapeseed oil for making mayonnaise

Retailers are, at last, listening and we heard some great success stories from small producers who are not just selling their wares at farmers' markets and in local farm shops, but have also been approached by large retailers such as the Co-op and Waitrose who say they're committed to local produce.

One or two stall holders told us that they would rather supply to farm shops only, feeling that supplying to the retail giants might put the farm shops out of business.

They also said that being asked to supply only one or two supermarkets smacked of 'tokenism' but on the whole stallholders were celebrating the fact that large supermarkets are committed.

It was, in fact, Marks & Spencer who sponsored the main stage as part of their local produce for local stores initiative.

I was reminded how similar this is to French supermarkets who really push their local produce.

Personally, I love it - it gives us a great sense of our regional food, and from what I saw at the festival, Suffolk has a tremendous amount to offer!

Indeed, I have set myself a challenge to source my complete Christmas dinner locally.

Stallholder at the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival
Norfolk & Suffolk Speciality Foods in the main marquee

Mentally I have ticked off the sparkling wine from Wisset, the Christmas pudding from Adnams, the chutneys from Norfolk and Suffolk Speciality Foods …. and the list goes on!

The Fringe Festival, as I have already mentioned, is now fully part of the festival and offers an even wider range of producers, premises, pubs and restaurants.

Whether you want to tour Adnams Brewery in Southwold, learn how to make artisan bread in Metfield or go foraging for fungi with the National Trust on Dunwich Heath, there is something here for everyone.

My advice, if you are planning to go next time, is to turn up early before all the food runs out and book a week off to tour Suffolk and enjoy all the fringe events!

Hairy Bikers hail Suffolk produce
18 Sep 09 |  Arts & Culture



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