I have a feeling Tim spent most of our visit to the Wirral Food and Drink Festival with one eye on the police on duty, hoping they'd stand next to Shaw Meats so he could do his bacon joke. That didn't happen, but our utility room does smell of bacon, because we've hung a hunk of their Cumbrian pancetta above the washing machine so that the air can get to it. It beats Fairy.
The Wirral fest, held at Claremont Farm, has been going for five years, and it's grown hugely since the first one, where I mumbled my way through a talk about what it's like to be a restaurant critic (answer: fattening). I know the farm well because it's where chef and good egg Brian Mellor has his cookery school, and Andrew Pimbley, the famously fanciable farmer, has kindly contributed to more asparagus features than I care to remember. This year there were two demo stages, a loud folk band and a huge beer tent as well around 100 exhibitors. What was very noticeable was - and this might sound a bit off - the crowd. At a lot of these things there are just hands blindly grabbing the samples and disappearing without so much as a by-your-leave. People are rude, they don't buy much and they don't even seem to particularlylike food. Here, everyone was asking questions, tasting with interest, giving it a bit of the old please and thank you and, crucially, putting their hands in their pockets.
We came away with a haul including but not limited to chicken liver pate from Katie's Proper Pate, some Wirral watercress, lovely organic vine tomatoes, a couple of steak burgers, strawberries, kippers straight from the on-site mini smoker, a great loaf of sourdough from this lot and sweetcorn from the inimitable Vorn the Corn, who laughs fruitily when he hands a cob over to the ladies, growling, "I thought size didn't matter?". And, of course, the pancetta, which you can smell before you see.