Stephen Jardine: Appetising start to festival season

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jane Barlow
Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Summer may be the time when we all try to lose a few pounds but it seems there is no end to our appetite for food festivals at this time of year.

It all started just a few years ago when event organisers started looking for new things to do with the traditional summer music festivals. The result was a fresh concentration on distinctive food and drink offerings, like Healthy T at T in the Park.

From that point, it wasn’t a huge step to festivals where the food comes first. A good example would be Mhor Fest at Balquhidder in Perthshire, which started life four years ago as a showcase for chefs and producers with music and theatre filling the gaps.

The latest gathering a fortnight ago was the biggest so far and more than twice the size of last year’s event. Next weekend’s Crail Food Festival in Fife also promises to be the largest yet. Now in it’s fifth year, the organisers have three packed days of activity planned with demos, tastings, films and producer workshops.

Despite this, the demand for food and drink festivals is far from being satisfied. Following the success of the Scottish Juniper Festival, a full scale Scottish Gin Festival is now scheduled for St Andrews as a way of celebrating some of Scotland’s great craft distilling success stories.

But perhaps the most exciting new summer event on the food and drink calendar is taking place down south. ScandiFeast is a two-day celebration of the food culture from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Taking place in the beautiful surroundings of a country house in Somerset, it offers full sensory immersion into one of the most exciting food and drink cultures in the world. A range of top Scandinavian chefs will be at the event and there will be masterclasses in everything from breadmaking to fish curing.

Organiser Chloe Avery says the first event has a very clear focus. She says: “It’s all about celebrating summer and delicious food and the longest day of the year. I want guests to leave with full stomachs and happy hearts and a greater passion for Scandinavian food.”

This seems to point the way for future events with the gatherings acting as a way to learn about food as well as an opportunity to eat very well. From foraging to specialist seafood festivals, that must offer plenty of scope for Scotland in the years ahead.

But right now it’s important not to take these brilliant summer events for granted. There was a time when the worst things about any festival was the dire food on offer.

Now we have festivals specifically built around amazing food and drink and the pressure is on the music and entertainment to be of the same quality.

The greasy festival burger may not yet be extinct but at least we all now have the opportunity to eat something much better. The choice is up to us.