Last weekend, Tom, the familia and I donned our boots, armed ourselves with rain macs and headed to Kingham’s muddy fields for The Big Feastival.
The Big Feastival is presented jointly by chef poster boy and health living crusader, Jamie Oliver, and held on the farm of Blur guitarist-cum-cheese-connoisseur, Alex James and the chef line up is equally as important (if not more so) than the music headliners.
It’s by no means the biggest of festivals, I suspect smaller than Cornbury in Great Tew, but it’s popular with families, giving it quite a summer holiday camp vibe. It’s also only four miles from the Chipping Norton set’s stomping ground, so the odd celeb (Kate Moss, Caroline Flack, Amanda Holden) can also be seen rubbing shoulders in the VIP tent.
Eating our way round…
Spread across four zones, we easily ate our way round on the Sunday, starting (accidently) in the Healthy Living Zone – enjoying almond milk, banana and date smoothies as breakfast. Tom also tucked in to any free sample on offer – kale crisps, The Collective Yoghurt, coconut water. (How many stalls of coconut water does one festival need?)
The producers tent was definitely a highlight with stalls from local producers and growers – some familiar brands, like Wiltshire Chilli Farm and Cotswold Fudge, you’d see in local Cotswold delis.
We had to hold ourselves back at Nonya Secrets, who produce hand made sauce jars from Southeast Asia, and not buy the whole stall. (The website its just about to go live!) I was also pleased to see the Thai Taste’s pink tuk tuk, as massive fan of their Thai rice, I’m looking forward to rummaging through my (slightly soggy from the rain) goody bag!
Tips from the experts…
So by the time we’d consumed (this is between us!) a box of churros, one gluten free brownie, some excellent cheesy fondue chips, two bowls of dumplings and noodles, bowel of pasta and a mulled glass of cider, the heaven’s opened!
We took shelter in The Big AEG Kitchen ready to see Mark Hix and Alex James start their demonstration – to this day I have no idea what they were doing, it was basically a few pals having a conversation amongst themselves whilst 300 odd people tried to eavesdrop.
We nicked a few seats, settling in the dry for James Lowe, head chef at Lyles London, who showed a damp crowd how to gut and barbeque a huge halibut (I think…) fish. James, an enthusiast for not wasting a morsel, even braised the fish head – which is probably not one for me.
Top of the bill…
Top of the bill was Mr. Oliver himself. Taking a more haphazard approach, Jamie was keen to rouse the audience to move beyond ‘just cooking’ and to ‘love cooking and what they’re eating.’ When the Hunter Gatherer Chef joined the stage, kids were excited to touch and feel produce growing in own back yards, parks and highways. Gennaro Contaldo joined in to cook a bowel of pasta using a puffball mushroom – the largest fungi I’ve ever seen!
Jamie’s ‘cooking demo’ wasn’t really a demo, the food served more as prop to illustrate a kind of philosophy, although I can’t really say what that is? Perhaps if you buy his latest book – Everyday Superfood – you’ll get a better idea. This was also a handy platform to galvanize the audience to get behind ‘Jamie’s Sugar Rush’, introducing a sugar tax on fizzy drinks to raise £1bn to save the NHS. Doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
The line up…
The rain finally petered out and festival goers colonized different areas of the main arena for The Feeling who were joined by Sophie Ellis Bexter for a couple of Murder on the Dance Floor classics. Headlining, Paloma Faith put on great show and closed the evening’s chilly frivolities.
Well I’d go back – I’d like to join in with some of the other cooking demonstrations like the Weber Academy – but there were simply too many people for the places this year. Looking back over this post – it’s clear that Tom and I went for the food and for that reason we’d go again.