Music to your deers

I’ve been to Glastonbury for the last three years running. Not because I’m trying to stay young (that’d surely be an effort in vain) but because I love it. I go for the music of course. There are approaching 40 stages or places where you can hear music being played and there are 200,000 people there appreciating it in an area measuring  20 square kilometres. It’s a massive festival that’s extraordinarily well organised. The reaction of most people when you tell them you’re going is to laugh and mention the mud but, in the same way you rarely hear of any other stage than the Pyramid, it’s more often than not sunny. “No mud seen at Glastonbury” is not exactly an exciting headline so you only hear about it when it rains and that becomes the abiding memory.
Of course, feeding 200,000 people over four or five days is a massive task and it’s provided by hundreds of independent caterers. And what they do has always fascinated me. How they do it and why some succeed more than others is like seeing a microcosm of the restaurant industry; hundreds of kitchens and serveries, working flat-out, all in one place.
And some of them are very good but, also, a lot are rubbish. I guess it reflects the wider industry in that the signs on the outside offer much but the eating leaves you wanting. Of course, being Glastonbury, there are a lot of veggie places and it’s often there that you’re likely to find a better tasting meal. I put it down to the fact that vegetarians are, by nature, people who think more about what they’re eating and that goes for the people providing a purely vegetarian menu. More often than not, on the high street, it’s difficult to make a vegetarian restaurant make money because of the fact that fewer than 10% of the population are vegetarian. Making a living out of a restaurant is difficult enough if you have the choice of 100% of people. But at Glastonbury, the chances of success must be multiplied five-fold.
Anyway, this last weekend, we, at Oldfields, decided to conduct a little experiment and built and manned a catering stall at a small family-orientated affair called the Deer Shed Festival down in North Yorkshire. It was only its second year but attracted around six thousand parents and children; the majority of the latter under twelve. It was brilliant, the music was great and the sunny weather a bonus.
In line with our traditionally British approach, we decided to serve sausage and mash, all sourced locally. With a choice of mustard or plain mash as well as a choice of gravy, we had a great time chatting with the festival-goers, learning a lot about catering in such an environment and, hopefully, covering our costs.
We know our approach went down well because we got so much repeat business over the 48 hours we were there. But, along with getting some time to listen to the music, we also got the opportunity to sample other caterers’ wares and, with our new–found experience, compare methods.
And what surprised, and disappointed, me was the quality of a lot of the offerings. Again, large signs with tempting pictures and words but when it came to satisfaction, the proof of the pudding was in the eating and I couldn’t wait to get home to get a meal with properly balanced flavours. I enjoyed our sausage and mash but, with variety being the spice of life, there’s only so many times you can repeat a meal.
The festival was brilliantly organised with a great atmosphere but foodies like me want something nice to eat, and I can’t have been alone. However, it’s difficult to know what else the organisers could have done. They could have let us be the sole caterers but man cannot live by sausage alone.
And what sort of sausages did we serve? Well what else would you expect at the Deer Shed Festival other than venison? With meat sourced from the Raby Castle deer herd, those sausages, when eaten in the sunshine with great music and thousands of happy families, were the best sausages in the world. Lovely.

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