At the end of October N started looking a little concerned and sheepish. A bit like Sniff does when he thinks he's done something cute, but worries that we might not think it quite so nice (like when he sleeps on N's clothes to show his affection, spreading his allergen-laden fur all over the things N might want to wear). In November the frequency of this look increased until N finally confessed that he'd already bought my birthday present and wasn't sure if I'd like it. I assured him it would be wonderful, that he always got me brilliant things, and didn't think much more about it.
Then, as my birthday crept nearer I become more intrigued, and finally on the day I was very nervously presented with an envelope. I was, by now, completely stumped. I ripped it open and eagerly pulled out the A4 sheets of paper neatly folded inside.
"Hello from River Cottage HQ! We are delighted that you are going to join us for Preserved - Winter on Monday 19th of January"
I couldn't believe it. I was going to River Cottage, and I was going to learn all about jams, and chutney, cordials, jellies, bottling and everything. I can't remember if I actually jumped up and down, but that's how I felt. Talk about best birthday present EVER!
So yes, yesterday I was off in the depths of the south-west watching Pam "the jam" Corbin and Liz "the pickle" Neville make all sorts of delicious smelling preserves, being fed delicious locally produced food and generally being rather smug. Oh and watching the snow. Yes, that's right, true to form, once again we brought the bad weather with us. I mean, I know it's January, but I didn't expect to get caught between a yurt and a barn with a steaming cup of coffee in a blizzard!
There is so much to tell about the day. Not only did I learn loads, but I met some amazing people, all of whom share the same passion for food as me. I can't tell you how comforting it is to sit in a room full of people who don't think its that weird to constantly talk about food, and who don't think dreams of self-sufficiency and owning bakeries is pure madness! I am hoping I didn't bore them to death too much and that perhaps they will pop in here. It'd be good to know how they're getting on with the preserving too.
I don't want to ramble on here about it all, as it would take forever, and I am still trying to take stock myself. As you can probably imagine poor N had three and a half hours in the car on the drive home listening to my "and then they did this...," "then I got to eat this...," "then so-and-so told me about this..." I think that drive must have felt a lot longer for him, and yet he never once tried to stop me and even encouraged me. I did mention he's wonderful, right? However, I will share some photos of the day, and hopefully as I make some preserves over the next few days and weeks I can remember to tell the odd anecdote here and there.
I will say however, that I had a totally amazing and inspiring time. I am itching to get going and waiting a whole day for my Seville oranges to arrive is seeming like forever! I may well have to raid the freezer fruit stash just so I can have a go at something later!
Having taken the weekend for the trip I should also mention that we got to see some of that bit of the world. Very nice indeed, and Lyme Regis offered us up not only a beautiful walk along the coast in sunshine that made it almost too warm for coats, and many bookshops to browse, but also a bakery/coffee shop that was filled with books about architecture and cookery. Could there be a more perfect venue for us to have a mid-morning caffeine top-up?Like I said, inspiration everywhere.
Thank you N for the best birthday ever, and thank you to the people I met and all those at River Cottage HQ who made the day so magical.
Hmmm....I wonder when I can pursude N to take me to visit again?
p.s. photo disclaimer - sorry there aren't more and better, but I am still wading through them trying to pick the best and many from the actual demonstrations were taken hastily and through a mirror so aren't the best anyway. Scenic seaside shots to come! I liked the above because of the "builders" option in the teas!