12:31 pm, July 12, 2012
Unusually, I've been lured out of my farming silo twice last week as there were 2 opportunities too good to miss. Both were focused round the concept of Communal Dining. Last Monday I went along to the Edinburgh Slow Food convivium's monthly Slow Supper. It was held at the Bridgend community allotments on the south side of the city. In a very nice shed, local chef, Andy Rees, of the Waterside Bistro in Haddington was challenged to cook 2 courses for 30 people with 2 gas rings and a small homemade clay oven. There was one long table, no linen napkins and plastic mugs for your cider, like camping but with better food.
Andy had given our Berkshire pork shoulder a rub down with an interesting mix of spices and herbs & cooked it for an unspecified time. It was falling off the bone with crispy spicy crackling; delicious. I sat next to some people I didn't really know and had a very enjoyable & delicious supper & an hour and a half of interesting chat.
Last Tuesday I enjoyed some fine hospitality at the launch of the new and exciting venture that is the Gardener's Cottage in Edinburgh. It was a disused listed cottage and it has a lovely garden, and now brought back to life, from the decor to the food, it is gorgeous and unpretentious. Local, seasonal and organic produce, a wood burning stove, long wooden tables & communal dining giving the opportunity for conversation, or not, as you prefer. I can't wait to go and try it properly, it looks like fun.
Both experiences suggest that good eating out does not have to be smart and expensive & it can have a social context beyond the people you go out with. This creates opportunities for conversation about all sorts of topics and food inevitably is a great starting point.
As to the cost: 2 courses and a drink for £15 at the monthly Slow Supper or £25 for 4 courses at the Gardeners Cottage, great value & using the very best local, seasonal & organic produce.
And thats the interesting thing, the people there on both nights had a loose connectedness containing overlapping circles of producers, chefs, customers, journalists, food writers and those rebels from Slow Food who believe we can change our food world one meal at a time. We have all thought through the big food issues and have arrived at that local, seasonal and organic food place. We see the bigger picture and will work with each other, understanding that our small contribution can make a difference.
So I'm up for this new fashion in eating out, don't worry if you are sat next to me, I'll not bore you, but I will say hello and exchange a word or 2 and we'll see if there's an interesting conversation to be had. In todays world thats a radical social act.