Tag Archives: hay festival

Jay Rayner doesn’t give a toss about raw food

7 Jul
Jay Rayner's taste buds could with a lot more raw/vegan cruelty

Jay Rayner's taste buds could with a lot more cruelty from vegan food

While at Hay Festival, like the great big nerd I am, I unashamedly queued to have my books signed by both Jay Rayner and Heston Blumenthal (note unashamed name dropping).  In my small moment basking in their celebrity aura, I asked them both the same question; ‘what do you think about raw food?’  While Heston was ‘onto it’, Jay Rayner was, well, less enthusiastic; ‘I don’t give a toss.  If food doesn’t taste nice, it shouldn’t be eaten.’ 

Ignoring the question of ‘what exactly does nice tasting mean?’ – he’s right and I don’t think it’s just because I agree with him.  Raw fruit and vegetable combinations of all sorts are often difficult to swallow, literally.  But I didn’t need to meet him to hear his point of view.  Having read his review of SAF (which I whole-heartedly disagreed with in my own review), he made his point against raw food loudly and clearly in the headline: ‘It’s grim down Saf; vegan cuisine is a non-starter if it’s kind to animals but cruel to the taste buds.’

Jay Rayner is blatantly anti-vegan, anti-vegetarian, anti-raw and having read his recent book; ‘The man who ate the world; In search of the perfect dinner’, which is a kind of Michelin starred, international Super Size Me, he is also clearly anti-healthy food. 

However, I do think he is truly great, not just because he took the time to answer my question honestly, but because he represents the voice from the stomach of just about everyone I know, including the hypocrite in me. He is also really hilarious, completely decadent, down to earth and I happen to know he is extremely generous with his time with charities such as Summer Uni London’s Nang magazine.

Despite the large black rings (swollen liver?) under his bloodshot eyes (adrenal exhaustion?), a sweaty pallor (high blood pressure?) and swollen belly (candida?), Jay’s energy and wit defy a body under nutritional stress. My instinct following my 36 second ‘meeting’ with him was that he is a genuinely happy and successful man and also a genuinely unhealthy one.

But at what point do we let go of our emotional conditioning around the food we eat and prioritise our health?  And when do we allow ourselves to make choices that are not centred around what our mothers allowed or didn’t allow us to eat? Jay constantly referred to his famous Mother, Clare Rayner, in his book and he’s not alone in making the connection to food and mothering.  We all do it all the time, although mostly subconsciously.  But does eating something  that triggers happy (or sad) memories of childhood, maternal approval or feelings of success taste ‘nicer’ than the real clear-headed-living-in the-present-moment experience of eating fresh, natural, local, ripe,  nutrient-rich, absolutely 100% raw food?

I love Jay’s column and his books and don’t want him to change but I also, selfishly, want him to keep writing about food for a very long time.  I also, as a personal aim, want him to, one day, write about a raw meal in the same way he writes about the ‘Arpege tomato’.

There simply must be a way to embed the same ecstatic ‘nice tasting’ triggers in the experience of eating raw fruit and vegetables in our children, that Jay gets from buttery, garlicky escargots and foie gras and I get from cheddar cheese and gherkins on a freshly baked baguette.

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Heston Blumenthal is ‘onto’ raw food

6 Jun
Blurry and distant pic of guru Heston Blumenthal at Hay Festival from the back seat

Blurry and distant pic of gurus Heston Blumenthal and Jay Rayner at Hay Festival from the back seat

I managed to speak to Fat Duck’s super-chef Heston Blumenthal and Observer food critic Jay Rayner in Hay and asked them both the same question; ‘What do you think about raw food?’

Jay’s response was so ‘interesting’ it deserves its own story, which I’ll write when I finish reading his book; ‘The man who ate the world; in search of the perfect dinner’. Heston, however replied; ‘It’s a big area and we’re onto it. It’s not just about blending though is it?’

Firstly – wow. It’s extremely exciting to me that one of the world’s best chefs acknowledges the existence of the raw food movement without choking and is actually doing something about it (not that I have proof…). Heston is already famous as a molecular gastronomist but now he is also apparently looking at the chemical and nutritional impact of the food on the human body over the long term. Very cool indeed.

Secondly, he’s also right on both counts:
1. I squirmed when he said the thing about the blender because I rely heavily on mine. And if someone asked me what the most important piece of equipment is for raw foodists, I would have to say their blender comes in the top three (alongside a good chopping board and knife). But he’s right – there’s got to be more to raw food than blending (and soaking, and sprouting, etc…).
2. The area of food that makes up the raw food movement is such a big, big, big area already and it’s growing. But do I think he means by ‘big area’? Here’s a list of diets/lifestyles that incorporate and/or affect our choices of raw food and how we eat it.

Raw fruit and vegetables
Wild raw fruit and vegetables
Veganism
Vegetarianism
Biodynamic
Local
Organic
Alkaline vs acidic
Body type 
Blood Type
Juices only
Grapes only 
Food combining
Living foods
Macrobiotic

It’s by no means a complete list but just noting it down makes me realise that there is so much information about healthy diets out there and to embark on a mission to maximise both flavour and nutritional value is a big and beautiful task.  And isn’t it inspiring to think that such a talented man is ‘onto it’? I’ll just have to find a way to ask Heston exactly what that means.

Raw Food at The Hay Festival?

28 May
the epicentre of the second hand book world

the epicentre of the second hand book world

I’ve just spent the long weekend at The Hay Festival a ten day international book fest set in Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh Brecons. With some thirty major bookshops it has been famous as the world’s largest secondhand and antiquarian book centre since 1961. While there are some perfectly reasonable pubs and cafes around town, (I ate the best beef wellington of my life at the Old Black Lion), none of them serve raw food other than the lettuce leaves in the prawn cocktail I saw on a fellow diner’s table.

While the town is about nothing but books, the festival is really a series of lectures and discussion by and with recently published authors from a range of backgrounds covering a range of subjects. This year, amongst other published celebrities, economic and political commentators and literary greats I managed to see foody legends Jay Rayner and Heston Blumenthal but just missed out on Monty Don speaking about his new book Fork to Fork.  

But what do people eat at a literary festival?

fresh strawberries from a farm around the corner

fresh strawberries from a farm around the corner

Other than the delicious, organic and locally grown punnets of raspberries, blueberries, cherries and strawberries, I noticed that my bookish fellows queued around the block for sheep’s milk icecream, venison burgers, crisps, cider, pimms, ploughman’s cheese boards, and the fudge. I have to say it did look tasty and I was impressed that it was at least all local produce, but it was absolutely and utterly – not raw. 

So it seems the tastebuds of Hay Festival bookworms do not veer towards to raw food. 

The suprising news, even to me, is that I resisted all of it except for the Burnt Sugar fudge, which after a bag full, gave me such a sugar high that I didn’t get to sleep until 2am.  Thankfully, the next day I managed to find a fresh salad stall and stocked up on an onion and carrot salad, lettuce leaves and seasoned cucumber. Combined with my bag of apples, the berries as above, and my nakd bars, I was happy.

The festival was interesting, frustrating, thought-provoking, exciting, comforting and inspiring.  My brain feels stretched beyond recognition and besides my fudge feast and a brief encounter with a dried up piece of cod, I was for once, an under-control raw foodist…