I turned the handle but the door didn’t open. Then I saw that the lights were off and it registered that the counter and shelves were bare. The shop was a shell. Plenty of notices in the window about events in Histon and Impington, but no David Robinson and his first class meat. It is sad enough to see any shop go out of business, but a butcher’s shop, when there are so very few good butchers left – sobering/ infuriating/ wrenching/ what is this country coming to/ appalling.
The shop, which has been running in tandem with a very successful hog-roast business, was an old fashioned shop with old fashioned ways, and David has decided that he needs to re-think his business. The shop is closed while he works things out, but he does intend to re-open in the near future, and in the same premises – which he owns. It is not settled what the arrangements will be, (perhaps a partnership?) but the closure is just temporary, and anyway David is continuing with free local deliveries (minimum spend of £20). Just email your order. Huge sighs of relief all round.
Against the trend of small, specialist shops closing, Histon has a new greengrocer - and a class act at that. The quality of Les Ward’s fruit and veg is striking - sourced locally as far as possible - and the prices are keen. My eye was caught by the bunched carrots, bunched radishes, bunched beetroot, 2 sorts of parsley, fat, sleek globe artichokes, huge, tight, white cauliflowers, marsh samphire and some beautiful rhubarb. The list rolls on, and goes well beyond standard European fare to include a fine selection of exotica such as cassava root, tamarind, eddoes, yams, okra, 5 varieties of chilli and the most wonderfully fragrant golden mangoes.
The mangoes alone are worth the visit. Most of the mangoes sold in this country are a variety called Tommy Atkins, (darkish red, with green and yellow tinges) which is disease resistant, transports well and has a good shelf life. But in all charity, you have to admit that the flesh is fibrous and the taste is only so-so. Les Ward’s mangoes are the real thing – golden, with a buttery-smooth texture and quite ambrosial. These golden mangoes are also on sale at Nasreen Dar, Histon Road and Al Amin, Mill Road.
Les Ward now has four shops – the first shop was opened in Cottenham High Street, and then he added Arbury Court, then Barnwell Road and now High Street/ School Hill in Histon. He deserves all the support and custom we can give
The world record for eating peas apparently stands at 7,175 peas in 60 minutes – which sounds rather more impressive when you learn that the peas have to be eaten with chop sticks. This is exactly what they get up to in Peasenhall, celebrating the local crop at their Pea Festival.
There are all sorts of delightful events going on that Sunday 15th July, including podding, shooting, flicking and belly dancing (with pea held in place) and there is a delightful web site too. Peasenhall is probably on many a foodie’s mental map of Suffolk because of Emmetts and their terrific hams and bacons, but sadly, in this case, they are closed on Sundays and seem not to have joined other local businesses in helping sponsor the event.
The East of England Show (July 6th – 8th, at the Peterborough Arena) provides much entertainment, but is enthralling too – just look at the plumage of the poultry; chickens may not be the most admirable characters on view in the livestock show, but they are beautiful. Then there are the Heavy Horses, the sheep dogs and the birds of prey. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust will be there, along with blacksmithing, bee-keeping, show jumping, flower arranging, fly-casting, vintage tractors and classic cars.
This promises to be a very full day – even before I mention food. Of course there is a Food Hall with chefs giving demonstrations, plus Swavesey Village College has a team of 4 in the finals of the Schools’ Food Challenge, on the Friday, as does The King’s School in Ely. There will also be a Kids’ Kitchen with pizza making, flour grinding and rape seed oil pressing. There is talk of urban dwellers being curious to re-connect with the countryside and how our food is produced. These great agricultural shows provide a terrific introduction – and a lot of fun besides.