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Cooking up a proper feast of Cornish festivals old and new

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 14, 2013

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In a land fond of its feasts and festivals, May is perhaps the best month in which to launch a book on the subject, with Obby Oss, Flora and Black Prince taking place in the first week alone.

From the saints' days of old, many of which survive to the present, to the modern celebrations of Golowan, Trevithick or Murdoch, finding an excuse for a good feed, ale and a dance has long been the Cornish way.

This month sees the publication of the latest in Penzance publisher Alison Hodge's Pocket Cornwall series. Cornish Feasts And Festivals has been researched, compiled and written by lawyer and lecturer Liz Woods.

A keen cook, Liz explained that the idea for the collection came as a result of a chance chat.

"Three years ago, I had a conversation with a friend about the traditional feasts and festivals that we have lost and no longer celebrate," she said. "I said I was interested in the food that went with them and she suggested I write a book about it. So I did."

The result is a 130-page compact and fully-illustrated volume covering everything from St Hilary Day and Goldsithney Charter fair to the Knill ceremony and Callington Honey Fair. Combining Cornwall's culture and cuisine, Cornish Feasts And Festivals looks at traditional events like Padstow Obby Oss and Tom Bawcock's Eve, as well as newer events like Trevithick Day and Newlyn Fish Festival.

The author links each event with classic Cornish dishes, touching on history, folklore and customs. Whether it's Falmouth Bay oyster, or Goldsithney wild herb tart or Penzance apple cake, it allows those at home or away to mark each event in the calendar. Among the recipes are whole cauliflower soup, seafood pancakes, heavy cake, syllabub, mussels in saffron cream, wild herb tart, elderflower cordial, tea bread, paper pasties with hake and onions, fairings, under-roast, Metheglyn tart, hedgerow relish, hog's pudding and, of course, pasties. Each of the 30 feasts are accompanied by photographs and illustrations by Freya Laughton.

"Food is about so much more than eating," said Liz. "It's about memory, childhood, culture and celebration. I don't need much prompting to cook, but now and again I like to have a reason to make a particular dish. And these festivals are a good reason."

Cornish Feasts And Festivals by Liz Woods is published by Alison Hodge at £5.95. It is available from shops or direct from hwww.alisonhodgepublishers.co.uk

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