23 October 1998

Consumers are treated to top Welsh food

Traditional Sunday lunches

were served to the general

public in four Welsh

farmhouses as part of

Aberystwyths Food

Carnival. Robert Davies

attended one

THE idea was to promote Welsh produce, and the smell of roast lamb that greeted guests entering Dilys Morgans kitchen was almost enough in itself to guarantee success.

Dilys, husband David and son Dylan run 1000 Welsh mountain ewes and 46 Welsh Black cattle at Alltgoch, Talybont. Though a keen cook, it was Dilyss first experience of catering for people who were not family and friends.

"I volunteered because our industry is in crisis and we need to show consumers just how good Welsh-produced food is," said Dilys. "David was keen because he wanted an opportunity to explain to townspeople what damage the politicians are doing to farming."

Before lunch was served her nine guests were entertained by local 13 year old harpist Caryl Lewis. They then dined royally on cawl – a traditional Welsh beef and vegetable stew – and leg of lamb served with Welsh and English vegetables. Pie, made using apples from the farm orchard, topped with organic cream made at Aberystwyth, was followed by biscuits and a selection of Welsh cheeses.

&#42 Subsidised meals

As the nine guests tucked into their heavily-subsidised £5 meals Dilys explained that almost all the produce used had been donated. But she knew that, with livestock markets severely-depressed, the full leg of lamb had a retail value almost twice as high as David currently received for a whole lightweight Welsh lamb.

Her husband, who had abandoned plans to join farmings Blackpool rally to talk to the visitors, said too many urban people remained unaware of agricultures plight. The crisis was the worst he had experienced, and he feared that many people would be forced out of business.

"We have to influence the big supermarkets by persuading shoppers to demand British produce. If we can convince the people who attended these special lunches, they will tell others."

Gweneira Raw-Rees, Aberystwyth Tourist Development Officer, who organised the lunches, agreed that just getting the message through to 33 people, and perhaps their friends, would change little. But she hoped that the experience gained could be used to stage similar events across Wales.

"This is very much a pilot project to gauge the reaction of potential customers and farmers wives," said Mrs Raw-Rees. "On some farms serving Sunday lunch could be a way of adding value to home grown produce, or for earning extra income. Done properly it would provide excellent promotion for Welsh food, which should help hard pressed farmers."

&#42 Sales impact

The potential impact on sales was certainly identified by those who sponsored the lunches, and the whole three-day food carnival. The main backers were both Welsh farming unions, Welsh Beef and Lamb Promotions, Ty Nant Water, Rachels Dairy and Aeron Valley Cheese. Other sponsors included the local development organisation Cwysi, Aberystwyth Tourism 200 and Ceredigion County Council.

The carnival included Welsh wine tasting, MLC-sponsored serving of special versions of Welsh cawl, including a Tandoori one, and mouth-watering tasting at a Welsh beef and lamb roadshow. Organic produce breakfasts were staged at various venues in the town, and four pubs served Welsh-style tapas.