Recording recipes and remedies from the past
A “Culinary Antiques Roadshow” aims to record old recipes and remedies which are as much part of our culture as art and music, say experts.
The event at the National Botanic Garden in Carmarthenshire has been tasked with charting the nation’s cooking history in a bid to ensure treasured dishes and ancient cures are enshrined for future generations.
People are being encouraged to bring their age-old recipes to be recorded on a digital database, as part of a scheme involving West Wales Food Festival and Culturenet Cymru’s Digital Heritage in the Community project.
Hazel Thomas, a chef and the community project’s senior field officer, said: “I’m a chef by trade and it’s always been one of my goals to collect all these old recipes and remedies before they are lost.
“I come from a really old-fashioned farming background where we used to use our own remedies to cure ailments. My grandmother used to use lots of tinctures, things like goose fat and elderflower wine to cure colds.
“There was always a little box of potions and one of my greatest regrets is not having sat down and charted all of that.
“This event will give people the opportunity to restore many of the remedies and recipes that could otherwise be lost forever.
“It could be anything from an old bara brith recipe to a cure for insect bites. But they will provide an important record of our cultural heritage.”
The event on May 14 and 15 will also highlight the garden’s historical association with the Physicians of Myddfai.
In medieval times, Myddfai in Carmarthenshire was renown- ed throughout Europe for being a centre of plant and herbal medicine. A study of these recipes shows that Welsh medicine was far in advance of most of Europe at that time.
Myddfai’s medical herbalist Lara Bernays will be attending to give advice on using plants and herbs as medicine.
“Having grown up in Myddfai with its strong living tradition of herbal medicine, dating back to the 13th century, Physicians of Myddfai, together with its unique landscape and plants, inspires my work with plants as medicine.
“Keeping such traditions alive can only be done by recording their existence.”
Benjamin Lee, who owns Y Becws Mefus in Llangefni, Anglesey, is renowned for using traditional recipes.
The freelance cake designer, who recently made a luxury chocolate cake to mark Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement, said retaining old recipes was about preserving a key part of our heritage.
He said: “Recording old recipes is paramount. Not only is it important to see how use of ingredients and methods of production have evolved, but also how such recipes provide vital clues about our lives in Wales many years ago.”
His bakery uses hand-baked traditional recipes and Mr Lee said good reasons for using certain ingredients can often be lost.
His own research into traditional foods led him to unearth clues about life near the historic Parys mountain copper mines near Amlwch in Anglesey.
“I did some research into the traditional Parys pasties, which were fruit on one side and savoury on the other.
“It was an interesting concept of convenience for the copper miners, but was so popular it was also eaten in the court houses 150 years ago.”
The garden’s David Hardy added: “We think this is a brilliant initiative. It’s a bit like the culinary equivalent of the Antiques Roadshow.”
Source: Wales Online