Folklife Festival

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Having grown up in the Washington D.C. area is wonderful.  I know that many people think that of the area they are brought up in, but DC is an experience that I am not sure others would understand.  You may be able to tell me if there are other cities that offer an upbringing where there are so many free museums and events to attend, not to mention getting to meet and know people from different nationalities.  The free museums make up the  Smithsonian.  Events are many but I want to share with you an event I had never been to before even though it has been happening for many years.  The event is the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival.  A friend had placed some pictures on line of him and his family attending the event and they looked like they were having so much fun I wanted to look into it.  When I went to the web site I found that the Wales exhibit had cooking shows!  I went down to the Mall with my family on Wednesday of this past week.  I walked straight to the tent that would have the cooking.  The first show had already started.  It was on Baking by chef Angela Gray.  She baked a savory and a sweet.  The sweet was a Rhubarb, strawberry and Caerphilly Crumble (scroll down for Angela’s receipt).  It smelled wonderful.  A couple of things that I learned from her one is that our butter here in America is a lighter butter then what the Welsh have on their tables.  That was such a helpful thing because I don’t know how many times I have made a receipts from England that turn out so dry I thought I had overworked the batter, now I know to add more butter.  The second, although, not as much of a surprise to me but she mentioned that the honey she used is much thicker then what she was given to use in the show.  I had noticed that some honeys I have purchased have had not only the difference in flavour but the consistency has always varied.   Her savory was an oggy made two different ways.  Although it is a pasty made in Cornwall, hers differed in that it did not use chunks but chopped up and variation in the vegetables used.  I wish I had written it down but I thought it was in the receipt book that she and the other chefs had collaborated in.  Alas, it wasn’t in it and I can not find it on the Internet.  But she did show two ways that her family serves it.  The first uses a lighter paste that is fried once stuffed with the filling and the second was the traditional way of the paste stuffed and folded in half then baked.

The second chef, Hazel Thomas, made two traditional foods in Wales; Cawl and Pice ar y maen (Welsh Cakes). I sat mesmerized that I cooked Cawl without even knowing it.  I had taken the left over lamb from Sunday’s cooking and added it to a pot of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and cabbage with broth.  Mine only differed from Hazel’s in that I had added the left over peas…I mean I had to use it up didn’t I.  After her demonstration I talked to her and told what I had just done the night before without realizing I had made Cawl.  She laughed and said that probably every nation makes it.  Both she and Angela were a joy to watch.  But the next chef was so different…

The third show that I sat through featured Anthony Evans.  Gareth Johns was a commentator for Anthony’s show.  To let you all know, Anthony is a young chef who is a hunter but a conservationist.  I know to some that may sound like an oxymoron but really true hunters want people to hunt only what they will eat and not hunt for sport.  I agree the whole way, I want there to be wild game for my children’s children, so only take what you eat and leave the rest for the next person.  Anyway the other thing that he strongly believes in and I myself have said in my presentations is that our children need to know where their food comes from. It may be squeamish to some but it will give people pause for thought before wasting food.  We are so separated from where our food comes from that many children only think food originates at the store (now before anyone gets made at me, I don’t believe all children think this but I do think many are of this mind). Enough of that…back to Anthony’s demonstration…Here he walks out holding a recently killed pheasant, feathers and all.  He says that he could pluck it clean but it would take a long time so he is going to skin it.  At this point those of you who have heard of skinned peacocks in  medieval cooking may have been excited like I was but alas, he was not talking of that kind of skinning.  He said for those that are squeamish to turn away.  Then he sat the pheasant on the ground, placed a foot on each wing, then with hands on the legs of the bird he pulled and lo and behold that bird pulled clean apart showing a completely clean breast.  He twisted off the legs and there he had the breast of the pheasant which is really where all the meat is.  He took the meat and made strips dipped in flour then egg, then bread crumbs and fried.  He served it with a compote of cherries and berries.

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Gareth John’s a chef who leads the Slow Food movement in Wales, added much to Anthony’s demonstration giving definitions and answering questions.  I met up with Gareth afterwards and he loved the fact that I teach and cook over an open fire.  I wish I had gotten to talk more but the next demonstration was next, not to mention that my mother and I were starving.  I left the cooking tent to go get lunch.  I decided to have Glamorgan sausage.  It was delicious!

I wanted to sit and listen to the rest of the presenters but I did want to spend some time with my son.  I did get to see bits of the other presenters.  To see the other here is an article in the Washington Post: Welsh Rare Bits at the Folklife Festival.  Like I said I did buy the companion cook book and I look forward to trying some Welsh food and I definitely anticipate what next year’s Folklife Festival brings.

Published in: on July 13, 2009 at 8:18 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Anthony’s pheasant skinning demonstration was one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen. It was a great day!
    Love Always,

  2. Hi,

    As the coordinator for the Wales Food programme I would like to say what an amazing time we all had at The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, it was truly a one off experience where our food culture wa embraced so lovingly by the audiences that attended. We will be setting up a website for people to chat to us, and download recipes. We look forward to returning hopefully next year to presnt some classes in the city, and hopefully in New york too.Thankyou for your wonderful comments, I will pass them on to the team.
    Cariad, Angela x

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