Originally, Truro was not on our Cornwall bucket list, probably because it is not located on the scenic coast. It is the largest city in Cornwall, boasting a population of 19,000. When we saw that there were having a special food exposition beginning today, we thought we'd sample a bit of the eating culture. England has suffered from having a reputation for terrible food and cooking, but this reputation is rooted in the long ago and no longer deserved. Cornwall seems to be an especially foodie part of the country. For hundreds of years Cornwall's tin mines paid the rent, but as they closed throughout the 1900's, this province became poorer and poorer. It was isolated geographically from central England and has had to remake itself and so it has. Tourism is very important; we see campgrounds everywhere and the small farms have made connections to the restaurants that serve the tourists.
Coming from a major metro area, we over planned to attend the expo. We read about satellite parking lots and shuttle buses and it sounded all too complicated. Ken does all the driving and the poor man has a navigational impaired woman directing him where to go. Understandably he often questions the turns I relay to him via what I see on the GPS screen, but after a few days here, he has come to understand that when I advise him to turn down a lane barely wide enough for a cow, I am not making a mistake. We passed a jogger on one such road and she had to stand aside and pull in her nonexistent belly to give us room to get by. We arrived in Truro as the expo opened and drove right up to the place and parked in a nearby lot. No worries. Crowds mean a different thing to a town of 19,000 than they do in Chicago.
Everyone was enthused about sharing their food with us. The fishmonger got into a long discussion about the relative merits of English versus North American lobster. He felt his were best of course and they were a great deal selling for $14/piece for a fairly small one. There were lots of dairy products - wonderful cheeses and great ice cream to be sampled. Fresh fruits and vegetables were attractively crated in variety packs, so a shopper could take home a bit of them all. Lots of fresh meat - lamb, venison, beef, and all manner of sausages. Here apple cider is a mildly alcoholic drink and a vendor gave us a sample of three different versions. The slightly carbonated one was my favorite. Cornish sea salt is also a big deal here and was sold in many flavors - smoked just as you might smoke a fish, garlic, cinnamon, herb blend - these salts would be tasty to dip fresh veggies into for an appetizer. We sampled lots of baked goods; you could just taste that wonderful Cornish cream in every cookie.
At either end of the vendor tent, local chefs gave demos of special dishes, made with all locally sourced ingredients, of course. It took us a while to realize that many people in their enthusiastic audiences were family members, business associates or most often students from their cooking schools. In a tourist driven economy it is important to have a well trained group of chefs to staff the restaurants. One chef prepared a mackerel, starting by filleting a freshly caught one and brining and smoking it stove top in a pan over oak shavings left over from taking down trees to heat his farmhouse. He made frequent references to all he had learned from his gram and mother who sat beaming in the audience. The other chef we watched took apart a Cornish crab and prepared sushi from it. Both these men were able to cook up a storm and deliver thoughtful and interesting comments along the way. I would love to attend either of their cooking schools.
The massive Truro cathedral was a short walk through the pedestrian shopping zone. It was the first Anglican cathedral to be built on a new site since the one at Salisbury began to rise from the ground in 1220. (Boy, are things old around here.) The residents of Cornwall lobbied for their own bishop for 800 years before the cathedral got going. The church has a light and airy feel and wonderful stained glass windows. The stone carvings behind the altar were vivacious and life-like. Someone was warming up the pipes for an organ concert and the sound added greatly to the ambience.
The sun was still out when we returned to Newquay so we wandered around admiring the people sitting on benches on cliffs who were admiring the people trying to surf below. The town itself is sort of tacky, a Cornwall version of the Wisconsin Dells. Once you see all those fudge shops, you know what you're in for.