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“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Thursday, June 10, 2010

All The Fun Of The Fair

Today Sis, Mum and I visited the oddly-named Wealden Times Midsummer Fair. I say 'oddly-named' because it's not even officially Summer yet, or did I just sleep for a month? It still starts on June 21st, or have they changed that, too? Ah well. No matter.

Wealden Times, although it sounds like it ought to be a newspaper, is actually a magazine that bills itself as the 'lifestyle magazine for the Weald', whatever that means. The Weald, for the uninitiated, refers to that area of high ground between the North and South Downs in Kent and part of East Sussex. They do say that a man born in Kent is a Kentish man, but a man born in the Weald of Kent is a Man Of Kent. I am happy to say that I am the latter. The magazine is all about houses, interioirs, gardening, recipes, food, health & beauty, fitness, green issues and local events. It is a glossy mag, laid out a bit like Better Homes or Country Living.


The fair itself was a large affair, with a group of outdoorsy-type stalls in the first area, such as David Hall, who makes croquet sets and wooden outdoor furniture as well as paintings that he does himself. I particularly enjoyed Paul Drewett, whose stand incidentally won best in show, with his random collection of retro toys, pond yachts, decorative and marine antiques and a rather nice child-sized biplane standing proudly in front. After passing Paul I noticed that there was a hog roasting on a spit, which was due to be ready at 2pm. Right - mental note made.  We then looked at Wellingham Herb Garden and Usual and Unusual Plants whose names are pretty self-explanatory - lots of lovely herbs and plants. Next was Happy Hampers, who specialize in, well, hampers. Not the modern meaning of the word hamper as in "gift basket" - the older meaning, as in, a hamper. A case containing all the stuff you'd need for a picnic - plates, cups, Thermos flasks, cutlery... and these are originals from the '50s and '60s. They also had a retro caravan at the back that you can go in and there's more stuff on display. Neat-o!

 We had a good look round at the first three Marquees, A & B, full of exhibitors purveying their wares. Here's a link to the complete list as there were too many good ones to mention: List of exhibitors

After the first two marquees we were getting a bit thirsty and headed over to the Tea Tent for some refreshments. The Tea Tent was gorgeous, all the cups, saucers and plates were eclectic retro china, and along with our teas and coffees we bought something to nibble on. Sis and Mum had a slice each of some amazing chocolate cake with strawberries and cream in the middle, while I plumped for a Chelsea Bun (it was massive!) The tablecloths and all the decor were very 1950's inspired, too.
Hosanna In Ex Chelsea Bun!
Suitably refreshed, we headed off again in search of more delights. We passed by the van selling Bhajis and pakoras, but stopped at the man who was selling homemade Bread-and-butter pudding, sourdough bread, and some delightful little custard-filled brioches. Yes, we did make a purchase!

Hot doggie!
Off we trotted for the loos (very well-appointed, I must say) and then the final two marquees. I was looking forward to Marquee F (F standing for Fourth Marquee as well as Food). When we finally arrived there I wasn't disappointed. Inside the door was the heady aroma of Paddy & Scott's Coffee, but as we'd already had a drink, we skipped it and went to Jimmy's Farm, which raise their own animals for meat, specifically some of the more unusual breeds. We sampled some lovely sausages, including an unusual Steak and Horseradish sausage. Next to them were Little Orchard preserves, which had a beautiful selection of jams, jellies and relishes, all with unusual flavours. I bought a jar of the Onion, Cider & Chilli Relish which was like a really good sauerkraut with a spicy chilli kick. I tasted it and said, "Wow, that would be kickass on a good hot dog."

Yes - lavender & chilli!
Next was Corinne's Creative Kitchen, specialising in all things Indian, samosas, parathas and the like, jars of chutneys and pickles and spice mixes. Lovely stuff. No freebies unfortunately, but I was not disappointed with the quality of Wine Discoveries on the next stand. Next came We Buy Nearby who are a sort of online Farmer's Market. Then there was Munchy Seeds with their wonderful crunchy granola and snack mixes and vanilla pumpkin seeds.... yum. Here I got a bit side-tracked by Olives R Good 4 U in the centre of the marquee, and I sampled not only some lovely aged balsamic vinegar that was so thick and sweet it could almost be syrup, and a Moroccan Dry Olive, something I'd never tried before, that was salty and delicious. They also had some whopping huge marinated artichoke hearts, and some delicious-looking dolmades that I seriously considered buying for a moment. Then I went back to find my family at Stratta, who make oils and vinegars in multivarious flavours. Their chilli oil is fantastic and the chocolate balsamic vinegar, along with its friend the mulberry balsamic, was a taste unlike anything I'd ever had. What I ended up buying was a bottle of Lavilli Dressing, a salad dressing made with lavender and chilli, which tasted first of the lavender, oil and vinegar, and then after a few seconds the chilli tickled the back of the throat just nicely.

By this time everyone was getting a little weary so we made to leave, saying hi to our friends from Silcocks as we did, purchasing some huge meringues from Judges' Bakery, and stopping by Omlet on the way to the exit to say hello to all the chickens in their amazing chicken condominiums. All in all it was a grand day out, if a little on the pricey side. Lots of lovely things to buy and consume, especially if you have a ton of money. I'd probably go to next year's Fair providing I have a lot more money by then.

Oh, and in case you're wondering - the hog was delicious.

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