Apples ready for juicing
Cooking demo with Paul Clerehugh
Serving the meal

Hot harvest meal and a Hoedown at the Reading Town Meal 2011

A sun soaked celebration of home grown food and local produce enticed thousands to the first Reading Town Meal in Forbury Gardens on Saturday 1st October 2011.

Organisers, food4families, who had planned to feed 1,000 people for free with food grown in their own community gardens, or donated by allotment holders across Reading, were staggered by the numbers who turned up on what was the hottest October day for over 100 years.

Hundreds queued in the sun to feast on local produce prepared by Reading College catering students, who served a Harvest Salad, Allotment Curry and Windfall Apple tart to the lucky first 1,000 diners.

Later arrivals, who missed the main meal, were able to try tasty morsels from cookery demonstrations by local chefs, including Paul Clerehugh of London Street Brasserie.

To wash down the Allotment Curry and quench their thirst in the heat, happy eaters were served up with juice from apples collected in gardens and parks around town and pressed on site, using the abundance of local produce that otherwise goes to waste.

The pumpkin competition proved a great hit with children who grappled with the monster squashes to help with the weigh-in, whilst their efforts in the scarecrow competition were judged by Reading Mayor, Debs Edwards with food4families garden group at Southcote Children's Centre winning first prize.

The community organised event, supported by The Cooperative Membership Fund, was all about promoting home grown and local produce. Local traders with stalls at the Town Meal were flooded with customers keen to buy fresh food from local producers they could meet face to face, instead of anonymous supermarket food, often from thousands of miles away.

Ian Coulter of Betty Coulter Preserves, who specialises in seasonal produce based on his grandmother's recipes, said "I have another event tomorrow, but we have sold so much I have to get up at 5am in the morning to make more batches. This has been a fabulous event and we will definitely be back next year".

And it wasn't just the food that was local, Reading bands added to the festival atmosphere, including Dolly & the Clothes Pegs, who sparked an impromptu hoedown around the bandstand despite the heat, and Myrke who delivered a chilled out set as the sun went down on what everyone agreed was a fabulous event, showing just how much fresh tasty food is grown on our doorstep.

Check out the video of the event on Youtube:

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