Gourmet Glastonbury


published: Mon 4th Apr 2011

"So you've fought to get your hands on one of the much coveted Glastonbury Festival tickets, you've cleaned off your wellies that have been caked in mud ever since last year's festival season, and have dug out your tent. Now you're deliberating about whether to take that disposable BBQ with you. Don't bother – Glastonbury Festival offers a smorgasbord of culinary delights that will leave you eager for second helpings," says Becky Slack.

The first year I ventured to Glastonbury Festival, I lugged food and cooking equipment, along with all the rest of my camping gear and clothes, across acres of field, only to find an array of delicious food stalls that offered every type of cuisine I could image. Ever since then, I've left it to the traders to feed me – and suggest you do too.

Festivals don't always conjure up images of appetising meals. Often, all revellers have to look forward to when their stomachs are rumbling are bacon butties and soggy burgers. Not at Glastonbury. Food and drink are as much a part of the show as the music.

"We want people to enjoy every aspect of the festival, including the food," says Dick Vernon, who looks after all the trading at Glastonbury. 2We want them to go round the site and discover something new, something that they didn't expect – be it kangaroo steaks, the sushi bus or strawberries and clotted cream."

There are over 100 food stalls located across the 12,000 acres of the festival site. Whether you're a carnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant or on a diet, the festival caters for every taste and craving.

In fact, there are so many stalls it can be difficult to make a decision about what to eat. There is the usual selection of chips and all-day breakfasts, if that’s what you fancy. But why waste a meal on that when there are so many more interesting foods on offer. Fajitas bulging with spicy chicken and peppers, creamy Dorset blue cheese soup, a choice of sweet or savoury crepes, handmade pork and leek sausages with mash and red wine sauce, crispy tempura vegetables, ostrich burgers, wraps filled with bacon, avocado, olives, sour cream and fresh coriander…

At times like this, the best thing to do is follow your nose. It may lead you to traders such as Dave 'lamb joint' Groves and his huge rolls rammed full of juicy lamb and drizzled with mint sauce. The lamb, which is freshly roasted on a spit at the back of the stall, is reared on a Gloucestershire farm and lives a 'happy life'. "It's important to me the meat we sell comes from British farmers and that the animals have been well looked after," enthuses Groves, smiling from underneath his blue moustache.

This desire to use local produce is reflected throughout the entire festival. "Quality is essential," says Glastonbury’s Vernon. "We look for traders who really care about their food. Where the food is sourced and how it is looked after is just as important as what it tastes like."

Being the green festival that it is, it insists upon all traders using biodegradable plates and cutlery, which ultimately end up as compost that is spread about Worthy Farm. Green Awards are also handed out to traders in conjunction with Greenpeace, the Fairtrade Foundation and Soil Association: Hurly Burly is a former Gold Award winner for its commitment to serving healthy Fairtrade and organic food from a solar-powered van.

Cheap eats

In recognition that many of those attending the festival will be watching their pennies, the festival asks traders to identify their Best Buys. This may be tea and toast for £1.50, or value-for-money items. For example, one stall offered a Breakfast Burrito: three rashers of organic smoked bacon, two organic eggs, refried beans and some spicy tomato sauce. It may have cost £6 but there was enough food to set you (and a friend) up for the day.

One stall that always offers great value for money is Manic Organic, one of the festival's regular food stalls and (in my view) one of the best. In exchange for six hard earned pounds, organic chickpea and potato curry, spicy dhal, homemade mango chutney, brown rice and naan bread are piled onto a plate. It’s an enormous amount of food – much more than you would get in a restaurant for the same amount of money. When loaded up with food, sit down and tuck in while watching the craziness around you: parents pushing tiny fairies around in wheelbarrows; a group of girls dressed as bees bumbling along; two aliens complete with UFO flying past, while over the top of it all, the music from a nearby performance filters through the air.

When food needs something to wash it down with, there is only one thing for it. The Brothers Cider Stall, located next to the West Holts Stage. During the 2005 festival, when it had rained so hard a nearby stream had burst its banks and flooded our camp site, washing away several tents in the process, there were times when we were so muddy and cold we wondered whether it was all worth it. However, a couple of pints of Brothers pear cider and suddenly the world looked rosy again.

Being in Somerset, there isn't a bar at Glastonbury Festival that doesn't offer some variety of the famous local tipple, be it traditional Scrumpy Jack, warm tasty mulled cider for when it drops cold at night, or if you fancy a change from apple - pear or strawberry flavour. And of course, there are the usual lagers, wines and spirits for the non-cider fans.

Time for tea

One food stall that's as much a part of Glastonbury as the music is the Tiny Tea Tent. Present at Glastonbury for the last 20 years, it's the perfect place to chill out between acts or if you need a bit of space to get your head together after one too many ciders. Located in a corner of the Green Fields, it offers around 20 varieties of tea and coffee, delicious organic cakes, many of which are suitable for vegans, and a warm, welcoming place to meet old friends, make new friends and generally have a good time. Being in the Green Fields, it is eco-friendly, using solar and wind power to power the lights and a wood burning stove to heat the water. The van itself is made from a variety of recycled or donated materials.

The stall takes on a theme each year. In 2009, marriage was the order of the day with the Tiny Tea Tent's priest available to marry you to who ever or whatever you wanted, inanimate objects included. In 2010, the theme was birth: a giant walk-in womb available around the corner for people who want to curl back into the fetus position and escape the world. What's in store for 2011? You'll have to wait until the festival begins to find out.

Becky's other personal culinary highlights:

1. Hall's Dorset Smokery
Hall's Dorset Smokery specialises in smoked salmon, chicken, gammon, goat's cheese, brie or Halloumi – all of which have been smoked on site. Richard Hall, owner of the stall, tells me how he's so passionate about his food that he even designed his own smoking apparatus. He won't share what makes his equipment different (it's a top secret design apparently), but what ever it is, it works. The end result is a mellow smoky flavour and salmon that melts in the mouth.

2. The Cosy Kitchen
There is an array of curries to choose from around the festival site, ranging from Goan Fish Curry to Thai Green Curry. But if you're after some traditional flavour, check out the Cosy Kitchen. Made using an authentic recipe from the trader’s home village in Bangladesh, this chicken tikka is a delight to the senses.

3. Lynda's Loaf
There isn't much that smells better than the freshly baked bread – and Lynda's Loaf doesn't disappoint. Offering a choice of foccacia – olive, cheese and pesto, sundried tomato – along with pizza, pasties and organic cakes, it's difficult to resist, especially when it's just come straight out of the oven.

4. Smooth Criminals
First thing in the morning when you're nursing a hangover, head for the Smooth Criminals stall in the Park field. The revitalizing pineapple, raspberry and kiwi flavour clears the head, while the blueberry and banana helps detox the system. What better way to start the day?
festival information by: Becky Slack

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