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30/06/2009 18:37:00

The Children's Food Festival - 27th-28th June
 
This weekend I took The Foodies Books to The Children's Food Festival at Northmoor Park in Oxfordshire. It was the second time that the Festival had run and I was really keen to take part – the idea of a food festival just for families and children is just the most worthwhile AND fun thing, how could you not want to be part of that?
Clearly the weather agreed with me and decided to smile on us, the weekend was baking hot, and the abundance of drinking quality tap water on site was definitely required.
 
Obviously I spent the vast majority of the weekend at my stall giving out information about the books and the free resources on the website. But I did get some chances to roam around and see what else was on offer in the Cooking Field, and the feedback from families on their way round was excellent.
 
Most food festivals have lots of food concessions where you can buy your lunch or tea and get some samples. This one did have some stands, and yummy stuff they had too (I particularly enjoyed The Veggies' fab quinoa and veg burgers with masses of salad, gorgeous). But the main emphasis was on children joining in and making the food they ate, which is about the most effective way to make the point that preparing your own food is an enjoyable pursuit, not only a means to an end. The Belling Kids' Kitchen got the children making summer fruit puddings and banana bread. It must have been delicious because lots of crumbs made it as far as my stand, but no one ever saved me a piece! Splat Cooking taught how to make home-made pasta and in the The Kitchen Academy children made food from around the world, and also got to use my old friend The Smoothie Bike - we used one at Ludlow Food Festival last September and pedalled our way through kilos of fruit yumminess.
 
My stand was next door to a pizza company called The Italian Job. A bunch of fun guys with a clay oven, who put on a puppet show featuring a large wooden spoon and fork who learn to make pizza from Enzo (“The Godfather of Pizza”), all with a bunch of funny songs about Italian ingredients, some suspect Italian accents and a lot of laughs. Children were then able to create their own pizza to eat, and for the rest of the day salivating adults like me could also buy some for ourselves.
 
I was very pleased to see several organisations encouraging children to grow food. In my experience children who see (or better still, make) the effort that goes in to turning a seed into an item on their plate, generally have greater respect for their food, are less wasteful, and take more interest in tasting new things. Waitrose were running an information ‘pod' where children could learn how to grow salads, make dressing and take home some seeds. Oxford Botanic Gardens were helping the under fives to decorate recycled pots and planting pumpkin and bean seeds in the Early Years tent. Garden Organic and The British Potato Council were also providing growing activities.
 
My children were dead jealous when I told them that Stefan Gates from CBBC's ‘Gastronuts' was at the Festival doing demonstrations in the Cookery Theatre. They are avid viewers of the show which gets children to look at food from a slightly different, more adventurous and even slightly weird angle, their favourites this year being the chocolate covered scorpions and the world's smallest English breakfast. Stefan's demos were loud and fun and the feedback from them was very enthusiastic! The Cookery Theatre also featured demos from the Festival's patron, Raymond Blanc, as well as Jamie Oliver's mate and dinnerlady Nora Sands and the ever-cool teen chef Sam Stern.
 
Another idea which really impressed me was the Smell Tent. It was run by the Academy of Culinary Arts, who operate the Chefs Adopt a School scheme (one of the ideas I included in the 21 Ways To Enhance Your Food Work With Children Report). Throughout the day they ran sessions about smells and tastes, how the brain, tongue and nose work, how we interpret different flavours with different parts of our mouth, and then families were encouraged to learn and identify the smells of different herbs with blindfolds on.
 
Something which (you will not be surprised to discover) particularly delighted me was the inclusion of an Early Years Area. In here all activities were geared towards wee ones and their grown-ups – including weaning advice and tips for fussy eaters, songs and games about food and some pre-school cooking activities. I'm a big fan of starting early, as you'll know if you are familiar with our activities, and I was very pleased about this new idea.
 
The whole thing took place in the grounds of the Northmoor Trust parklands which are absolutely beautiful. I didn't get chance to go to the Farm Field but I heard from families that there were lots of farm animals, more growing activities and even a vegetable orchestra! The whole atmosphere of the event was lovely – apart from the occasional (perfectly understandable, given the heat) and shortlived meltdown, everyone was in a brilliant mood, kids were busy and enthusiastic and the adults were for the most part very complimentary about the range and quality of activities on offer. Most importantly for me, there was an enormous amount of positive and productive discussion about children and food, which can only be a good thing.
 
If the event goes ahead in 2010 I would highly recommend it to anyone with children and an interest in food. In fact next year I think I'll take the year off from promoting the business and just go along with my children and enjoy the event as a mum!
 
Stay well,
Joanne
 
 
 
 
 
 


Comments

02/07/2009 16:59:00 by Nutritionellie

Hi Jo,
Yes, the festival was incredible. I have been to a lot of food festivals and I really think that the children's one is the best, a shame for all those without kids who will never go!

We were the annoying ones who came and pestered you at the end of a long hot Saturday when you were trying to clear up! I worked at the last festival too, but really felt that this one was better and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend. I too found it hard to get around and see things (hence bothering people at the end of the day) but most things I did see really impressed me. I have lots of ideas for projects as a result, and will be using your fantastic site on a regular basis.

Thank you so much for sending the invite to your site, and I look forward to reading the report.

Can't wait for the next festival.

Kind regards,
Ellie Rowles
(from the Eat a Rainbow Everyday team http://www.eatarainboweveryday.com/)

03/07/2009 14:45:00 by Moderator

Hi Ellie,
Yes of course I remember you. I also wish I had got to more things during the day - it was so busy wasn't it!
I checked out your site and like the idea behind it very much. I will put something in the resources section about it next time I upload.
Thanks for joining the site, and nice to meet you!

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