Diary of a Festival Dad Aged 51 ¾ Part Deux: What Not to Eat (and Drink) (and Inhale)

Now then, as they say in Yorkshire (usually before they say something like, this talk about soft Southern nonsense like tungsten carbide drills is all very fancy, but what about your mother and these bloody galas? (If you don’t get this bit in parentheses, follow the link to the relevant Python sketch and be educated)) that soft Southerner Shakespeare might say music is the food of love, but anyone who knows this blog personally will know that it is an army that marches on its stomach, so the issue of what to eat at Latitude is not one to be taken lightly.

A reminder of the importance of Festival catering came during the recent interview at T in the Park with Mr Tinie Tempah, who seemed more keen to talk about the availability of different kinds of roast meats on the Sunday than his key musical influences (not necessarily a bad thing, some might think.) Apparently, having been given a plateful of roast chicken, Tempah Minor was crossing some kind of invisible catering line by asking for a bit of roast beef as well, and only got a tiny – or indeed, tinie – wee bit. Shame. Perhaps the chef wasn’t a fan.

But then T in the Park is, you might have noticed if you saw any of the coverage, based in Scotland, a country where, as Mike Myers once proclaimed, most cooking is based on a dare. Besides, if you’ve been drinking the sponsors’ beer all day it probably doesn’t matter what you eat. (Tennent’s was once described by our Justice Minister, Kenny Macaskill, as ‘cooking lager:’ Like most politicians, he immediately recanted his honest comment as soon as the headlight glare of the media caught up with him).

At Latitude, things look a bit more promising. The website is a little coy – this blog would have liked to see actual menus – but promises tapas, for example. Having travelled and eaten in Spain quite a bit, we look forward to coal-black, oozing chunks of morcilla, the Spanish black pudding; some gleaming, freshly carved slices of bellota jamón, cured from pigs in the Northern uplands who cavorted daily on a diet of acorns; perhaps a plateful of gambas al ajillo, prawns arching their backs on a bed of garlic, made golden by the intoxicating spice mix the Valencians put in their paella dishes. We will report back.

Burgers are also mentioned, but being Latitude, we can probably safely assume they’re posh burgers, hand-minced with ineffable care by cheery, smiling red-faced men in striped butchers’ outfits called something reassuringly old-fashioned like Arthur or Percy; while outside, the burgers’ cousins still frolic happily in the fields beside the village. In the nearest farm, happy little pigs grunt contendedly, knowing – and indeed accepting, of their fate of being, one day, pulled pork in a granary bun to be eaten to the distant strains of an indie guitar riff.

Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Anyway, the point is, I’m sure the food will be fine, and let’s not get into the politics of how, in our enlightened times, you now have to pay a premium for food that might not have come from mistreated animals or chemically poisoned crops. As an aside, though, why is it you pay more for unwaxed lemons than waxed ones? How can that be?

Of more concern perhaps is what one can’t bring into Latitude. The Festival website is quite particular on that. Excessive amounts of food – well, I get that: no one wants to stand in the hot sun next to the guy with a rucksack full of enough egg mayonnaise sandwiches to last him the entire weekend.

Excessive amounts of alcohol. Hmmm. This sounds like a challenge, especially when one hears tales of T in the Park goers using sledges to bring in their supplies. Yes, sledges in July. We Scots are famed for our ingenuity. On the other hand, I’m not sure jiggling a bottle of reserva-level Ribera del Duero on the bus from Southwold is going to provide the best complement to the aforesaid bellota ham.

Other prohibitions are more troubling. No nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide? What are these people going to do – perform dentistry on each other? I know some might say having a tooth pulled is better than listening to Tinie Tempah’s set, but he’s not even on the bill. Nitrous oxide. I must be missing something.


Ah. Daughter and Heiress knows about this. It appears that laughing gas – although I always thought that something of a misnomer, never as a kid having been greatly inclined to chuckle when exiting Mr Simpson’s surgery, clutching my mouth and leaving a trail of blood spots to encourage the next child on the vertiginous staircase with the gaps between the treads as I went – is classed as a legal high.

Oh well. I suppose you could always bring in a bottle of that pink mouthwash stuff the dentists insisted on having you swill to help you spit out the combination of enamel, amalgam, blood and metal left over when they had done with you. Perhaps that would induce similar memories, and give you a sort of psychological high.

What we shouldn’t be doing, eating-wise, of course, is exactly what we are doing the night before the Festival – staying in the Maid’s Head Hotel, Norwich, and shelling for the full bhoona of a Wine and Dine menu. The sample menu offers such delights as ‘Ballotine of Cromer Crab Mousse and Cucumber, Tomato Concasse, Tomato Gel, Crispy Seaweed Salad, Avocado Oil’ all washed down with a glass of Pouilly Fume. And that’s just the course between the starter and main. Four courses in all, different wine with each, and then port with the cheese. It doesn’t actually say that they offer a personalised service where the weakly bleating remains are carried up to their rooms by the staff, but one would think so. It may be Percy’s pulled pork in a bun goes entirely untouched at Latitude the next day. Either way, we’ll report back on that too.

Now then. Next up, the music itself.





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