Victorian theme for fifth food festival

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Berwick Food Festival celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, and as 2012 is the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens, next month’s event will have a Victorian twist.

One of the highlights of this year’s food festival, which takes place at the Barracks on September 8-9, will be a Pease Pudding competition to highlight this much-loved north east dish, celebrated in the musical Oliver (“...pease pudding and saveloy”).

Festival director Lisa Wilson explained: “We know that Dickens visited Berwick at least twice, on one occasion lecturing at the Assembly Rooms. Given that his famous novel Oliver gave rise to ‘Food Glorious Food’ we thought the Pease Pudding Competition would be a perfect way to bring these two milestones together.”

Pease Pudding, one of the oldest recipes in the country and part of the staple diet throughout the UK, would have been well known to Dickens. Descended from pease porridge or pottage, an ancient dish of boiled legumes, the boiled pudding was a cheap and nutritious way to pad out meat dishes in poorer times. Indeed, it was often the only dish to eat for days on end, hence the famous rhyme “Pease porridge hot. Pease porridge cold. Pease porridge in the pot nine days old.”

In Victorian times pease pudding became incredibly popular. As people got richer it became less so, but it is still loved today in the north where it is said to have originated, and Festival organisers are hoping that people and businesses from across the region will join in this celebration of north east heritage

Lisa said: “Slow Food is all about preserving traditional dishes and there couldn’t be a dish that is more synonymous with the north east than pease pudding. We feel it’s important to preserve this part of our heritage and hope that local people and local businesses including the many butchers who make their own version will enter the competition. In these austere times, it’s good to bring back dishes that are both healthy and don’t cost a great deal of money to make. It’s also a great chance to showcase this dish to the many visitors from around the country who come to the festival each September.”

Entries will be judged at Berwick Food Festival at 3pm on Saturday, September 8. Any person or business wishing to enter their recipe, should call 01668 213496 or email thefreelancefoodie@hotmail.co.uk for an entry form. They will then need to bring a small pot of their pease pudding to the Slow Food stand at the festival for 2.30pm. The winner will earn a meal for two at the Maltings restaurant.

There will be plenty other opportunities to learn more about our Victorian food heritage at the festival. Visitors will be welcomed at the gates by the Berwick Events Group - famous for their own fantastic Dickensian-themed event each Christmas - in full Victorian regalia. In the cookery demonstration area there will be a session on Victorian recipes and a display of Victorian cookware and the food heritage displays, put together by town historian Derek Sharman, will celebrate 19th century food production. Berwick Food Festival will take place at The Barracks, Berwick-upon-Tweed from 10am-17pm on September 8-9. Entrance is £2 for adults, children under 12 free, and includes entrance to the Barracks Museums and all festival activities, a Producers’ Market, Animal Farm and Children’s Activities, Beer Festival, Catering and Entertainment. Full details will appear on www.berwickfoodfestival.com/www.slowfoodberwick.org