I have a love-hate relationship with trade shows and festivals. I have, in my time, been on both sides of the table – stall holder, exhibitor and visitor. I have also organised a number of conferences, so I have a good idea of what goes into the organisation of fairly large events: none of it is very glamorous; it is always hard work. I must be a glutton for punishment, because this weekend was McGregor’s equivalent of a food and wine festival with a few other things thrown in for good measure. We (because my wonderful, long suffering husband goes way above and beyond in support of my crazy notions – even though he doesn’t always agree…) were there. Preparations involved a visit to a town 45 minutes away to get bits and bobs, as well as to the the town in which we usually shop, to order what we needed. Our offering was Boerewors rolls with onion marmalade, butternut and ginger soup as well as chicken liver paté – all home made.
For the uninitiated, Boerewors (literal translation “farmers’ sausage) is a traditional sausage which can be compared with Chorizo or Bratwurst, except that it is usually made with beef. It was first made by the trek boers and is always spiced – the dominant one being dried coriander. Tom, in his time as a rancher, made his own, and every butcher worth his salt has his own recipe and secret ingredients. For this occasion we chose a Kudu (venison) wors.
So, after three days’ preparation, two of which were in the kitchen, peeling and chopping onions and butternut to make three kilograms of onion marmalade, 15 litres of butternut soup and 2,5 kilograms of chicken liver paté , we set off on Saturday morning at what seems, for me, an ungodly hour.
All of that said, there is a whole lot that goes on behind the scenes, that outsiders don’t get to experience. I’ve had tremendous fun at some of the events I’ve participated in, and this weekend was no different. We worked hard, and we played hard. Harder, on both counts than we had planned! Originally, we were not to have worked for two days and had booked for one of the evening functions, which we knew would be an “opskop” (a party with lots of loud music, laughter and dancing)… As we were shutting up shop, we were persuaded to return on Sunday – and we had sufficient stock to be able to do so.
Off we went to our evening “do”, with all sorts of good intentions… Good company, lovely wine and food and, best of all, toe-tapping music and we eventually turned off the light in the wee hours of Sunday morning, knowing we had to be set up and “smoking” by ten o’clock – just a few hours away. And no, I don’t have photographs of the evening, but I do have a picture of the inside of the tent, taken from our stall, before that day really began. I was not nearly as bright eyed and bushy tailed as on Saturday!
Although none of us enjoy days that are too quiet, it does give the stall holders time to talk to each other. Virtually everyone who comes to these festivals, either as participants or visitors, has an appreciation of artisan products, and much is often complementary or we have much in common. Conversations about business, products and how they might work together are invaluable.
Miss L J Hall produces the most wonderful range of Worcester Sauces – made in Worcester, South Africa – one of which we have used for years. She told me that her curried Worcester Sauce is a wonderful accompaniment to butternut soup and promptly gave a complimentary bottle. Understanding that there is always a cost, the least I could do, was give her a chicken liver paté. Actually, much sharing and bartering goes on at festivals – a boerewors roll for wonderful wine from Lord’s, butternut soup for wonderful dried olives from Voor Den Berg, pineapples from Bathurst (not far from the town where I grew up), not to mention being able to buy the most wonderful organic cheeses, also from the Eastern Cape.
And then it’s all over – the good-byes, the see-you-next-times, the travel-safelys. The tent is broken down and soon the grass patch next to the Church looks much as though the festival had never happened.
This is when the locals and the die-hards kick of their shoes and relax. And so it was on Sunday. Two benches were pushed together and we all gathered around the table. What followed was wonderful camaraderie, conversation and gales of laughter that continued well after the stalls had been packed up and the “gates” closed.
Dusk arrived and with it, the cool of early spring, necessitating a move under cover, so the gathering adjourned and moved across the road to the Overdraught Pub at the McGregor Country House ………..