Wonderful weekend in Aberfeldy – so wonderful it has taken me three days to write it up! Just an hour and a quarter’s drive away but it felt like continental Europe, what with the sunshine, the quirky shops, the local beer, the farmers’ market, the arthouse cinema, the ukulele band, and oh! the Birks of Aberfeldy! A wild, dramatic gorge with tumbling streams and crashing waterfalls, acres of wild garlic scenting the birches, and even a statue of Rabbie Burns sitting obligingly on a bench, waiting for Five Women on an Adventure to pose beside him. Good soup and sandwich lunches including a creamy Cullen Skink and some pinky-fresh crayfish tails … and an impressive array of gins back in our swanky lodgings to keep us merry while preparing dinner. Oh yes it was a very good weekend.
By luck we were in town for the first Sunday of the month which is when the farmers’ market arrives. Delicious produce as always but one stall intrigued me more than most – the one giving away free cotton bags to encourage us shoppers to remember to take a bag with us when we go shopping. ‘Never use a single-use bag again,’ was the smiling challenge from Fiona, who works for Zero Waste Scotland at Perth and Kinross. Now I hate waste but frequently forget the bag, so was very happy to air the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ logo. I had a conversation with Fiona which was really quite inspiring, and gave me some fresh ideas for a new project I have in mind. More of that after the exams!
Completing my joy of the weekend was a great bookshop at the Millhouse – cosy café downstairs, and the Troubadour informs me he once played a gig upstairs there, a couple of decades ago. After my cuppa I browsed the bookshop and found these two gems – tiny troves of wisdom, and I’ve read them both cover to cover since coming home. Will be extending my marmalade and oatmeal repertoires over the next week or two.
Next time you’re in Aberfeldy, I recommend the Habitat café, the Millhouse as above, the cinema coffee shop, numerous quirky gift shops, and the Ailean Chraggan hotel/restaurant at Weem, a hamlet just a mile out of town with good local beer, a wonderfully helpful waitress, a fresh chef, a nice open terrace and the above-mentioned delightful Cullen Skink.
I did my stint with the Neighbourhood Food Collection the other day, co-ordinated by the Trussell Trust and FareShare. The venue was Tesco at Dalgety Bay. It was quite profitable, I’d say – in my two and a half hours I estimated I took in about £200 worth of food plus a £20 donation. People were very generous. Some people had questions or comments, like:
- ‘It makes me so angry that this kind of thing is necessary’.
- ‘It makes me feel really guilty when charities keep asking for things.’
- ‘Is this stuff really for local people? You mean in Dalgety Bay? You’re not telling me people in Dalgety Bay need help of this kind?’
No good answer for No 1 – it makes me angry too but that’s the way it is. For No 2 I’d say you need to live without guilt – either by hardening your heart or getting in touch with your generous inner angel (the lady in question obviously did the latter as she deposited a couple of bags of lentils into the trolley). For No 3 – well, who knows? I don’t live in Dalgety Bay, which is, as far as I can tell, a prosperous commuter town facing Edinburgh across the Forth. But I bet they do have people who struggle, for all the usual reasons – age, infirmity, job loss and so on.
Most of the donations (tins, teabags, coffee, UHT milk, pasta, rice) will, I guess, go to the Food Bank for distribution. I’m glad it happens, but it doesn’t gladden my heart to think of living on processed food. Especially in a world where so much food is wasted. There was an inspirational series of programmes on BBC1 last week about a charity in Oxford which collects surplus fresh food from supermarkets and distributes it to local charities where fresh and wholesome meals are cooked and served to people in various kinds of need. This of course meets social as well as physical hunger, along with a good dose of vitamins and minerals. The project was rolling out to London and thence, it was hoped, ‘all over the country’ – not sure if they meant Scotland or not. However this is my task for the week – to find out what’s happening up here, and who’s doing it, and whether/how I can get involved. Anybody with any leads or contacts, will be delighted to hear from you.
But we’ve only just had Hallowe’en!
Well, some things need a bit of planning ahead. So I got my four Christmas recipe books out tonight (Delia, Nigella, Elizabeth David and Good Housekeeping ‘Christmas Made Easy’) to have a bit of a forage. The link I’ve given takes you to a good article in the Telegraph by Leah Hyslop about this dreadful habit of acquiring cookbooks that might not get used very often … remind you of anyone? I’m pleased to see my favourites are nearly all listed. There’s also a listing of a Scandinavian one I’ve never seen – Hahnemann – and I started thinking about adding to my groaning shelf.
Then I remembered I’d been intending to follow up an ad I saw in the local paper. FareShare Scotland is recruiting volunteers to collect food donations from customers at supermarkets across the UK, to complement their work in recycling fresh food which would otherwise be wasted.
Waste food? Can’t have that. So I’ve signed up. The dates in question are 1st, 2nd and 3rd December. My mother died on 2nd December 1977 so I chose that date – she was a dinner lady, and took great pleasure in offering 2nd, 3rd, 7th helpings to all us hungry kids. Then when nobody could take any more, if there was still anything left it got brought home … throughout my childhood I had at least two school dinners a day! That’s probably why I’ve got such a good grip of Scotland (spot the euphemism).
So now I can go back to my recipe books and my daydreams about all the nice festive things I might conjure up. And be eternally grateful that I’m not going hungry anytime soon.
If anybody of you fancy joining in the FareShare initiative, it’s only a 3 hour stint at participating Tesco stores – do think about it. It’ll give your turkey and plum pudding, or your festive Smorgasbord, that extra Je ne sais quoi …