Wednesday, 7 October 2015

In the archive at St Fagans National History Museum

Members of the Slow Food South East Wales Committee visited the archive at the St Fagans National History Museum this week, to look at the wealth of food and drink related material in the collection. We plan to make use of this material in upcoming Slow Food South East Wales events, for example, to give historical context to planned meetings that focus on particular topics, such as beekeeping or Welsh lamb.

The material in the archive includes films and photographs, index cards with recipes, taped audio interviews, and letters sent by the public describing their typical daily diet in the early 1960s. It all amounts to an invaluable resource, detailing knowledge of local food culture that is in danger of being lost.

Many of the films in the archive were given by BBC Wales and the commercial channel TWW (Television Wales and the West), at a time when these broadcasters did not usually keep their own documentary footage on tape. We watched a film about cider making in Monmouth in the 1960s; a film showing cockle harvesting on Llanrhidian Marsh, the cleaning and cooking process, and their journey to Swansea Market; and two that were filmed in one of the farmhouses on the St Fagans site that represent the only visual record of the preparation of traditional cake recipes.

The majority of the food-related material in the archive relates to the work of S. Minwel Tibbot at the National History Museum, who travelled throughout Wales in the 1970s interviewing the older generation of woman about their food memories. We listening to some of the tape recordings of interviews conducted by S. Minwel Tibbot, in which she obtained detailed information about traditional dishes. This information informed her classic books, including ‘Welsh Fare’ and ‘Geirfa'r gegin’. In one sound recording, conducted by S. Minwel Tibbott in 1971, Mrs Griffiths of Gwaelod-y-Garth describes how she made and sold two types of toffee (white and brown) from her home in Pentyrch at the beginning of the 20th century. In another recording, with Mrs Rogers in 1972, we hear about family recipes for peas pudding, parsley pie, Aunt Martha’s pudding, Granny’s pudding, nettle pop and mead.

The image library has a room of its own, with slides and photos mounted on card arranged by theme in filing cabinets. The archive has also amassed a large recipe collection, obtained through questionnaires, letters and handwritten recipes passed down through the generations. At this year’s St Fagans Food Festival in September, visitors were asked to contribute to this collection, by sharing their family recipes.

Look out for some of this material in the new galleries at St Fagans National History Museum, when they open after redevelopment, and at upcoming Slow Food South East Wales events.

Slow Food South East Wales currently has a stall at the Riverside Farmers’ Market in Cardiff (Sundays 10am-2pm), with a cook book swap and recipe advice.

To celebrate Slow Food’s Terra Madre Day on 10 December, Slow Food South East Wales will be holding an event in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Group, with a focus on honey and beekeeping.

In the spring, Slow Food South East Wales will be holding an event on a farm, where Welsh lamb takes centre stage.

I will forward on further info in a future blog post. In the meantime, you could follow @SlowFoodSEWales on Twitter.

Previous posts concerning Slow Food on this blog:
Slow Food South East Wales launches at St Fagans
Welsh products in the Ark of Taste
Bringing Slow Food to South East Wales

More on the St Fagans archives:

More on the extension at St Fagans: