An Evening with Raymond Blanc

I may not have posted many recipes in the last week, but there’s actually a very good reason that doesn’t just revolve around exam revision! On Friday 20th of April, I took my Dad to Oxford Playhouse for “An evening with Raymond Blanc.” Raymond Blanc is by far my Dad’s favourite chef, and he has visited Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons a few time now, most recently for his and my Mum’s 25thWedding anniversary. The idea was that Raymond would talk for 45 mins and then there would be 30mins or so of a question and answer session. On the way there Dad was getting together all the questions he wanted to ask.

When we arrived and Raymond came on stage it soon became clear we might not stick to “schedule”. Raymond is a natural born story teller and as he told us the story of how he got to where he is today we were all sat in awe. I still can’t believe that he is completely self-taught! He says his passion for food came from his mother’s kitchen, and I am beginning to wonder whether she should have had a Michelin star under her belt if she taught him a lot of what he knows! Now, I won’t rehash the stories he told of his life to date but there are a few points I want to focus on, which have partly contributed to my lack of posts.

One issue he discussed with a lot of passion was seasonality. This has been something I have been thinking about for a long time. I am yet to find a good reliable farmers market near where I live, so often find myself picking up the same old vegetables on the supermarket shelf, without considering where they’ve been grown and whether they are in season. Having said this there are a few things I avoid like strawberries. So many people complain about how much strawberries cost in winter, when it is a fact that when they are season in the summer and there is a glut, the laws of supply and demand will bring down their price! Buy seasonal, buy cheap!

Anyway, I digress! (Much like Raymond did…maybe I could be a fantastic chef like him yet!) By cooking seasonally not only will our food bills go down, but we will get better produce. Those fruit and vegetables harvested in season will have so much more flavour purely because they have no artificially been forced to grow! Why sacrifice on flavour and quality just because you want to eat something out of season?

Of course it also means that we can combat global warming and take care of the economy. If we aren’t importing fruit and vegetables from hotter countries and instead eating what we can grow in England we will be reducing carbon emissions! It seems clear therefore that eating seasonally is a win-win situation, so why aren’t we?! As I’ve already said I’m yet to find a good farmers market near enough to me to go to every week or so. Though I believe “Veg boxes” like those offered by Riverford are an excellent alternative. And, if you can, why not purely eat what you grow in your gaden/allotment! We have a long way to go yet before we can provide for all our vegetable needs, but this Easter for example we have been eating our own purple sprouting broccoli – so much more flavourful than the normal supermarket stuff.

Since listening to Raymond it is definitely now an aim of mine to try and eat seasonally. I am thinking of trying to make some sort of wall chart outlining what is in season and when. I think this will not only provide benefits to my purse and to the planet, but that it will help me cook more creatively, it will be an excellent chance to experiment. So please do watch this space!

Another topic Raymond talked so passionately about was the welfare of our meat, how it is reared, how it is killed, how it is packaged and how we eat far too much! This is something I took feel very passionately about and would rather eat no meat than eat cheap meat! Since trying to convince my parents of this for years, Raymond’s talk really had an impact on my Dad and he is now looking into sourcing his meat from the local butchers – which unfortunately is not as local as it could be! I look forward to coming home in a few months if Dad sticks to his word!

All in all Raymond’s talk was fantastic, very inspiring and as a result I have been thinking more carefully about what I cook, and that will in turn have an impact on what I post here! It won’t suddenly become gourmet fancy food, but it will become more seasonal and probably even more veggie friendly! If you get a chance to go to an evening with Raymond Blanc, I highly recommend it! You never know, you may even get to meet him in person! (He stayed behind after our show to sign his book and have a chat!) I am a lucky girl…

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