dat guy, he stole ma scotch bonnet!

Yesterday I was chastised by an irate Jamaican for putting scotch bonnet chillies in my salsa that were destined for his salt fish and yam stew. This week’s newsletter is being tapped out in my increasingly decrepit 1973 converted bus at the 2011 WOMAD festival, where for four years we've sponsored the Taste the World stage. Here, after performing on the main stages, musicians come to play, tell stories and share their food in a more intimate atmosphere. It seems a lot of musicians like to sing as they cook, and while the food's always different, it’s not always as good as the music; Mongolian lamb dumplings and salt fish and yam stew were both wonderful (the Jamaican cook, Ripton Lindsay, got his scotch bonnets back in the end), but I didn’t take seconds of Mongolian mutton stewed in fermented mare’s milk.

Food is as much a part of our culture as music, and has developed in a similar way; cooking skills are largely picked up in the home, building through repetition to feed our souls and our bellies. In the strongest cultures, tradition is fiercely protected, but the cultural fusion resulting from travel and migration has created some of the best food and music - if not always under the happiest circumstances. Colonisation and the forced movement of slaves created the blues, soul and rock and roll, but also the superb Creole food of the southern states (my favourite WOMAD performers and the best cooks were the Savoy family from Louisiana).

So what has this all got to do with vegetables? I sometimes wish my dad had taught me the trumpet rather than how to drive a tractor and muck out pigs. But I suppose good food and good music have the same effect – bringing people together for congenial, shared experiences. Still, while I love my vegetables, musicians definitely seem to have more fun.

Guy Watson

Riverford chilli day, friday 19th august, 12-5pm
Join us here on the farm for our first ever Chilli Day. Activities will include chilli roulette (only for the brave!), cookery demos and tastings, farm walks, a ‘veg shy’, ferret racing, picnicking, and pick-your-own chillies and herbs. Entry is free and it's open to everyone, so bring your friends.