Fire and Knives: Mixed Grill

Inscribed onto the wall above the creaky wooden stage in the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1 is a classic Shakespearean motto:

Conway Hall

I noticed it just about as soon as I arrived there on Saturday 12 February 2011 for the first Fire and Knives:Mixed Grill. Being on my own, not knowing a single soul, and painfully shy in such situations, I took my seat and busied myself by alternately glancing furtively around the room and checking the #fkmg twitter feed. In my defence, I hasten to add that I was not alone in being thus employed.

That phrase hung like a banner over the the day, all the speakers sharing with us – a keen and attentive audience – one small aspect of their true selves; their own particular Epicurean interest or fascination.

If I were to go into any kind of detail at all then this post would have to transmogrify into a novel, so I’ll just mention a few, but please do take a gander at the Mixed Grill Menu for a summary of all the speakers/acts, as there was not a single one that fell down flat. They were all fabulous.

Having butchered a lamb with friends last year (after reading our host Tim Hayward’s Guardian article) I was particularly enthralled with Florian Siepert’s thoughts on Long-tail Nerdism, which is ‘focused’ nerdism in the form of PorkCamp (at PorkCamp participants meet to slaughter and butcher a hog together), and the concept of ‘bigger picture’ Meta-nerdism as communal food hacking hot-spots. Culinary hot-desking may yet become a reality.

Another speaker who grabbed my attention was antimega, with his talk ‘Microbes I have known and loved’. Having already justified my habit of consuming vast quantities of cheese because it contains¬† Tryptophan (which converts into anti-depressant Serotonin), I can now add to my defence the fact that cheese also contains elements that protect against tooth decay. Germs are indeed tasty, but they are also good for one!

Other highlights, in no particular order:

Sam Leach of Mark’s Bread‘s impassioned speech on saving the economy struck a universal chord: produce what we need by working on a small, artisanal scale thus creating more jobs, and more fulfilling ones at that. Yes, it’s bloody hard work, but the rewards come in the form of un-skewed morals and a well impressive pair of fore-arms.

Morgaine Gaye’s predictions for a food future that includes, amongst other things, bacon air fresheners and human-grade pet food.

Lucy Inglis and Thomas Blythe forming an impromptu double act of the highest order, with a delightful romp through the history of 18thC table settings.

Speaking of romp, thanks to Russella my soundtrack for Shrove Tuesday will now most certainly include Christina Aguilera’s ‘Ain’t no other man’. Not sure I’ll be wearing a hot pink play-suit or interspersing my pancake flipping with acrobatics though.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned the fine array of readings and essays linking together food and the arts: food and writing, food and painting, food and song. I considered compiling a reading list for the day, but even that started looking rather like a library catalogue than a casual ‘must-read’ note to self.

As this day of gluttony drew to a close I headed home, my senses dizzy with images of Yaks penis, a faint lingering whiff of Ether, the taste of Chocolate Chestnuts in my mouth and the dulcet tones of Strawberry and Cream’s ‘Art of the Teas’ still in my ears, along with all the other multi-sensory experiences that had been imprinted on my mind.

I only started writing this blog 4 weeks ago. It was decided upon pretty much on a whim rather than as a new years resolution, or with any purpose or structure in mind. I’ve been wondering what unique view I can bring to the already over-populated World of Blog and if that is even possible.

Although I left Conway Hall buzzing with inspiration the Mixed Grill also left me even more uncertain and insecure about my blogging future. With  my lack of expertise in any particular area, and the astonishing talent already out there I am not sure what thing of value I can contribute.

But then, when I got home I checked my Twitter feed once last time, and there I found a link to this article on food blogging. The day drew to a close with one final reminder of the phrase that had kicked it off.

So whatever form my writing in the shape of this blog finally takes, it seems blatantly obvious that my battle cry should first and foremost be:

to thine own self be true.


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