By Róisín Kilroy
I’ve never been much of a foodie person. I enjoy everything about cooking, bar the clean up, but I still wouldn’t label myself a connoisseur of fine food. I don’t know the difference between Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano, except the fact that the former tends to be cheaper in my local Sainsburys. To add insult to injury, I will always hate olives and mushrooms genuinely terrify me. So, no one was more surprised when I bought a ticket to the opening day of the Edinburgh Christmas Foodies Festival than me.
Opening on Friday 23rd November until Sunday 25th, the event promised to be “The UK’s largest celebration of food & drink where visitors can feast on a vast array of culinary activities”, and for the most part it lived up to its promise.
Taking place in the huge Edinburgh International Conference Centre, the festival held court mainly in the basement level ground floor. In the two very large conference rooms, attendees could float between street food stalls, propped up food vans, charity displays and stands that represented local businesses, all while listening to multiple acts performing Christmas music.
Participants could purchase at home smoking kits, cheese making kits, handbags, dog toys and an assortment of alcohol, one variety of which I overheard being described as tasting like honey and cherries. For those who still sought guidance on which part of the festival to attack first, there was a psychic stall. You could even sign up for the next series of Great British Bake Off.
Alongside local businesses, there were chefs and bakers wowing crowds with their skill. Ally McGrath from the Michelin starred restaurant, Osso, paired smoked bone marrow and pickled shallots with fried mushrooms. I didn’t even know you could cook bone marrow, and judging by the gasp from the woman behind me when Ally pulled a chunk of it out of a lunchbox, I wasn’t the only one.
You could decorate cupcakes with Bellaboo Bakes, an exercise that was mainly made up of couples and I wasn’t confident enough to try and take it all on by myself. Instead I purchased a brownie the size of my head and salivated over tables heaped with sausage rolls.
Overall, I found the Foodies Festival to be entertaining, insightful and worth the £7 ticket. However, a majority of the stuff available was a massive success with people of an older generation – people who don’t live off beans, beer and Berocca; people who have bread makers and a tin opener that actually works. The prices of a lot of products available reflected that, including one business that was selling four small cakes for £6, which I felt was in the Robin Hood territory of daylight robbery. The food options were diverse though, from the very Scottish staple of hot pies to Greek Soulvlaki.
Ideally, I would have liked more displays. Two were due to kick off at five thirty, one was Ally McGrath and the other was Charlotte White who was making ‘chocolate & chestnut blondies’ which I was very intrigued by, but by the time I had left the smoked bone marrow bonanza, Charlotte was gone and she had taken her blondies with her. The next exhibitions were due to start at six thirty and it was a similar situation. Staggering the presentation would have resolved this issue, but it still gave me more time to stare at sausage rolls.
Nevertheless, the Foodie Festival was a worthwhile, if temporary foray into the lives of people who actually eat their five a day. I would go again, but next time, preferably with someone else; someone who knows what a charcuterie board is and what is really in pâté.