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Valentine Warner on the Food Festival, his Desert Island Pantry and What to Eat Next

Val-2013-CClare-Richardson-Root-CampValentine Warner makes his fifth appearance at this year’s Abergavenny Food Festival. He took some time to chat exclusively to the Focus about his new book: What to Eat Next, and why he loves to keep coming back to Abergavenny.

Valentine, this is your fifth year at the Abergavenny Food Festival. What keeps you coming back?
Well why wouldn’t you come back after you’ve been once? The Abergavenny Food Festival is a wholesome, lovely arty thing, which has managed not to become too commercial. That’s why I really love it. There are so many interesting people to listen to and talk to. You can hear farmers, for example, having a heated debate about the issue of why we can’t buy raw milk. The Festival offers people something that’s a little bit different.

Is there any particular food or product you seek out when you visit Wales?
You know what, when I come to the Food Festival I always make a beeline for the Welsh Cakes outside the Angel Hotel! Wales also has some really great locally made ciders and amazingly good cheese.

What can visitors to this year’s Food Festival expect to see from you?
I’ll be discussing food, doing some demos and I’ll be talking about my new book – why I chose certain dishes and the stories associated with them. I’ll also be taking part in a debate about food provenance and whether or not that’s important.

Your new book, What to Eat Next, features lots of recipes that have stories to accompany them. How did you go about selecting which recipes to put in the book?
First of all, I wanted to put together a book of recipes that were easy and relatively quick to make. Sometimes recipes can be very long or full of ingredients that are difficult to get hold of, so I wanted to avoid that. I thought it would be interesting to include recipes that had a story attached, beyond just being a boring list of instructions. Having travelled a lot, I’ve got so many stories that go with different recipes – a plate of food is never just a place of food, it’s always bound up with memories.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Nothing! I only ever feel guilty about embarrassing things that I might sometimes say! But when it comes to food, why should I feel guilty if I eat the odd packet of crisps? I don’t want to eat fine food all the time. My love is nature and my passion is for seasonal food, but that doesn’t mean I always live like a saint.

If you were stranded on a desert island and you were only able to take 6 items with you to create your desert island pantry, what would they be?
Well, given that I’d be on an island, I wouldn’t worry too much about fish or salt, but I’m going to cheat by saying that the first thing I’d take would be my fishing kit. I’d probably also take a couple of crates of lemons and a supply of Dijon mustard. I’d take an excellent range of cider – a couple of containers of that – and a set of mixing bowls would come in handy too, as well as a good knife.

Being that the title of your book is What to Eat Next, it seems fitting to ask you: what are you going to eat next?
Actually, the director with whom I shot two series last year has asked me to dinner at his house tonight, so I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to eat next!

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To book tickets to see Valentine at this year’s Food Festival, visit: www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com

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