It has been a cold bleak blustery Saturday and lunch needed to be warm and comforting – so we had curried parsnip soup out of Jane Grigson’s Good Things.
Four fat parsnips peeled and chopped into chunks and cooked slowly in butter with a chopped onion and some garlic until the parsnips had started to soften and had soaked up some of the butter.
They were seasoned with salt and pepper and a generous helping of mild curry powder and then covered in some half decent vegetable stock, brought to a simmer, and left to cook for forty minutes or so.
They went through the Magimix and we ate the soup with the remains of the bread from Thursday’s bread circle.
Listening to the new album by Natalie Prass.
So even before I get to start on my list of eight top tips to come out of Sunday’s course I have had a tweet telling me about a property in Oxton that has some sort of potential as a cheese cave.
I drove past on the way back from work this evening in a heavy wind with gobs of rain blowing me along so I didn’t really have a chance to see what I was looking at but I will give it a better go tomorrow and maybe put a call through to see if I can have a look around it.
God knows what I will do if it is anything like suitable!
Ten years ago I went so far as to start looking at properties and even found one that was halfway towards being something that could have been worked with. It was an old garage which for reasons obscure had become a ship chandler. There was space and a wide double door giving access to a covered yard to the rear. But it was a hundred yards out of the way and riddled with asbestos and expense and so it went onto the pile of things to dream and the forget about.
Now that it has been remembered the things I need to think about are:-
1. How to go about getting all the good Irish Cheese back to Birkenhead;
2. Finding somewhere to sell it from;
3. And are there enough people in Birkenhead who can be persuaded to buy the good Irish Cheese.
Those three things and the eight pointers I took down from the weekend.
So before the course on Sunday I bought myself a new notebook and pen so I wouldn’t forget any of the pearls of wisdom being handed down.
The course materials suggested that what I needed to bring was pen and paper – although it allowed for the option of some kind of electronic notebook. There was an half day when I thought I could take this as an excuse to treat myself to an iPad but I put that idea quickly to bed and kept things simple buying myself a very smart bright red Moleskine notebook.
Armed with this, a pen full of ink, wearing a good hat and carrying around with me the faint remaining whiff of fermented mackerel I signed in for the course on Sunday morning.
The attendees were ushered into a large glass atrium lined with chairs down the side and we were given tea and coffee. As the place filled up it was apparent that I would not be one of the younger members of the audience. There was a certain amount of facial hair and lots of eager faces – young people anxious to something new with coffee or about to make their first small fortune selling a particular type of Vietnamese sandwich.
At 10.00 we were called into a lecture theatre with very comfortable seats and I settled down for the day.
During the day I heard a total of about six speakers talk for 40 minutes or so on their experiences starting in the food or drink business. They included one of the people behinf Higgidy Pies, two brothers who had started making and selling pizzas from the back of a van and had just opened a pizza restaurant in Soho (and I think another in Clapham), Jimmy of Jimmy’s Chilled Coffee, a lady who had started a business selling muesli called Rude Health and another lady who opened a small chain of organic supermarkets called Planet Organic.
In the event I didn’t take many notes- perhaps a couple of dozen words. Of course there were people with their smart-phones taking photos of the powerpoint and the apposite quotes that some of the speakers saw fit to share with us. Though quite why they thought we needed reminding that life was not a dress rehearsal escaped me.
We were also told that if we started our Monday morning looking forward to Friday evening then we needed to be doing something else. Of course we did – that is why we were there – looking out for the dream of doing something else – the speakers had done it of course – stepped over the line, happy with what they had done – so if they dropped dead tomorrow there would be no regrets. Great for them but not so good for the poor squirming members of the audience whose lives would be filled with no end of regrets if the grim reaper’s scythe were to come calling tomorrow.
The speakers were all different and came at it from different experiences and although parts of the day were given over to a slightly revivalist self help tone there were elements that could perhaps be picked out that might form a basis for moving forward.
I have made a list of them in the little red book and I will try over the next few nights to set some of them out and see where I get to.
If you are reading this full page open on the internet go to the top and open up the link that reads “A few words about the Sheep’s Head Food Company” and scroll down and see what it says.
The ideas set out there still colour my dreams and there are plenty of people who will tell me that I should be doing something else other than being sat at a desk trying to wave a magic wand over desultory disputes over property and the better thing I could be doing should be tied up with food.
With that thought a group of kind hearted friends clubbed together to buy me a ticket to go on one of the Masterclass Courses promoted by the Guardian with a view to me toddling along and turning my life around.
I chose the course called “The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Food Business” and that was how I spent my last Sunday. Of course taking place on a Sunday and with the time of trains down to London I managed to find myself with an excuse to spend my first Saturday night out in London for about twenty years. Some of you may have read about that and the filthfully good mackerel curry that was had.
But the real meat of the weekend was had over the Sunday.
Ironically the course took place in Royal Society of Medicine on Wimpole Street. I had been there before a few years ago to attend a course on property litigation. The good news is that this time I didn’t fall asleep in the very comfy leather seats. Over the course of the next few posts I will try and set down some thoughts on the day.
But in the meantime be reassured I am gathering thoughts on how to bring some Irish cheese to Birkenhead!