East Oxford Farmers’ & Community Market

Farmers' Market Today

Markets in September really come into their own. There’s an abundance of produce, some looking back to the summer, and other looking forward towards autumn, so there’s more variety than probably any time during the year. This is the best time to shop. But there’s also the slightly melancholic feeling that we should enjoy it while it lasts, because this bounty is soon to disappear. As such, it feels special. It is special. So go to your local market and enjoy its bounty. Maybe make some jams or preserves to stretch that taste of the warm months into the cooler days to come.

The Sandy Lane vegetables

I’m lucky to live near a particularly good local market: The East Oxford Farmers’ & Community Market. So good in fact that in 2011 it was one of the finalists in Radio 4’s Food & Farming Awards. The market, run by volunteers since 2006, is relatively small, but the variety of produce is fantastic: milk, veg, fruit, honey, eggs, meat, trout, bread, cakes, other baked goods, juice, salami and cured meats, salad leaves, cheese, flowers, fairtrade tea and coffee. If you don’t fancy cooking, then there’s a variety of cooked food to choose from: Japanese, Indian, Italian, Middle-Eastern, Filipino, Tibetan, British, etc. Eco-friendly detergents and dried goods, crafts  and local organisations can also be found at the market. It’s a fantastic place to get your weekly staples, as well as the special artisanal extras. Redcurrants from Sotwell Manor Fruit Farm (more…)

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Food Adventures in London: Turkish food in Harringay

The scent of cumin fills my nostrils as I open my rucksack to pull out a notebook to write. My bag is full of camera (essential for these expeditions with S & C), presents from Morocco and Singapore and shopping bounty of Turkish foodstuff. Harringay Green Lanes

Harringay, London

I’ve just been to Harringay in London with my friends S & C. We’ve taken to meeting up in London, choosing an area with great food, going for any or all of lunch, dinner and nibbles, exploring the local normally ethnic & normally food shops, always including a pit stop or two for some good espresso (C & I are both fans).

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Yellow on blue

In the bottom left-hand corner of my screen, it says 10 May. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t know it. Where is the spring? Warm weather? Is it too much to ask after 9 months of bleargh? Aaarggghhh! I’m loosing patience here. I swear it didn’t use to be like this here.

The Tale of 4 Pubs

I’ve been meaning to tell you about a pub-crawl I went to with some friends last year. This particular afternoon, we braved the rain and went on a pub-crawl around the centre of Oxford. 

Now, if you’re not familiar with this sort of thing, you might be wondering: What on Earth is a PUB CRAWL?! Well, a Pub Crawl is a wonderful, time-honoured British tradition and a favourite past time! What you do is the following: 1) arrive at the designated meeting place, 2) get down on all fours, 3) crawl to the nearest pub, 4) have a drink, 5) have a chat, 6) get back on all fours, 7) crawl to the next nearest pub and so on! – hehe GOTCHA!!!! Just kidding! It’s actually everything I said before, minus the crawling bit! 😉 Basically, a pub-crawl involves touring a number of (normally nearby) pubs, and having a drink in each one of them. The drink doesn’t have to be alcoholic (though traditionally it is)! Inevitably, for some people it does turn into a crawling exercise, as you can imagine! However, I vouch that our little group was very well behaved and had a fabulous time!  

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We started with the oldest pub in Oxford, The Bear Inn (6 Alfred St). The pub dates as far back as 1242, and it used to be a fashionable coaching inn. The present building dates from the early 17th century, and it used to be the residence of the Inn’s Ostler, or the horse minder.   Afterwards, it was converted into a separate pub, which took over the name Bear when the main building (situated on High Street, where All Bar One is) was burnt down in the 19th century. Today, this little gem of a pub boasts a fine variety of real ales, and a vast collection of ties displayed on the walls and even on the ceiling. The collection was started in 1950, and since then over  4, 500 customers have exchanged a snippet of their tie for a pint of beer. I recommend you exchange your tie for a pint of XXX Bateman’s!  

Here, being a Croatian, I have to interrupt the tale of 4 pubs with a small note on the origins of modern ties! No, this is not because Croatians interrupt people all the time, and are infamous for it! It’s actually because the precursor of the modern tie, the cravat, originates from Croatia! In 1630s, Croatian mercenaries joined the army of King Louis XIII of France. Parisians, as ever sensitive to fashion, were intrigued and impressed by the scarves tied to a knot that the Croatians wore as a part of their military kit, and so the fashion began! In fact, the word itself, cravat, comes from the changed pronunciation of French ‘Croat’, or ‘Hrvat’ in Croatian.  

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The Turf Tavern was next on our route! This pittoresque old pub is not easy to find, but it’s well worth finding, not the only because of the wide variety of real ales that it stores. In fact, it boasts 11 different ales a day; I recommend that you try the White Horse ale! The Turf, which dates from the 14th century, is one of the most popular pubs in Oxford. It has two busy bars and 3 outdoor courtyards, which are often quite busy, regardless of the season, and regardless the weather (as we found out!). Its famous visitors include Elizabeth Taylor, the poet Dylan Thomas and Bill Clinton when he was a student in Oxford. In fact, the Turf celebrates itself as the place where Bill Clinton ‘did not inhale’! The Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, is remembered in the Turf’s – for downing a yard of ale! The pub also features in the popular TV series Inspector Morse. With its medieval outlook, great beers, friendly staff and an unmistakable character, this is without doubt one of my favourite pubs in Oxford.  

Morse in the Turf

After sampling the real ales in the Turf, we walked (and not crawled!) to the Eagle and Child, on St Giles, popularly nicknamed the Bird and Baby. (I think other nicknames are quite funny, though less flattering, so please forgive me, but I have to mention them here: the Bird and Brat, the Bird and Bastard, the Fowl and Foetus.) This long and narrow pub dates from 1650s. It was owned by University College from the 17th century until 2003; in 2004 it was bought by St John’s College. Today, the pub is very famous for its connection with the literary group the Inklings, which included Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. The Inklings met in the pub every Monday or Friday from 1939 to 1962. One of the famous contemporaries who frequent the pub is Colin Dexter, the author of Inspector Morse. In 1962, the Inklings switched their allegiance to the Lamb and Flag, across the road, and we would have done the same, hadn’t it been closed at that time! If you happen to be in the Eagle and Child, do try the Old Hookie ale!  

In front of the Eagle and Child

The Lamb and Flag, opposite the Eagle and Child, at 12 St Giles, is an old coaching inn. Thomas Hardy wrote some of his novel Jude the Obscure here, and the pub also appears in the novel. The Inklings met here, too, and the pub also features in Inspector Morse. This cosy little pub is owned and managed by St John’s College, who administer the Lamb and Flag Scholarship, funded by the revenues from the pub! Therefore, please come to the Lamb and Flag and support Oxford students! Cheers! 😉 

ps. This was published last year on another blog I wrote for. So, if you see this anywhere else, it’s not plagiarising, it’s just me. Again! 🙂

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