A mu­sic fes­ti­val chef is al­most a rock god

Sunday Herald - - WEEK IN PERSPECTIVE - Hardeep Singh Kohli Hardeep Singh Kohli is a Scot­tish writer and broad­caster. Fol­low his an­tics @mis­terhsk

THERE has to be a ve­gan dish. Al­ways. Even though there are only a few ac­tual ve­g­ans at­tend­ing, it’s al­ways eas­ier to have the dairy-de­niers pro­vided for than not pro­vided for. (Be­sides which, I al­ways have ex­tra but­ter to add to my daal once the egg es­chew­ers have eaten.) There are lots of veg­e­tar­i­ans, though what al­ways shocks me is the amount of chicken they get through. Welcome to Nor­mafest. Around this time of year, I ea­gerly await a mes­sage from my dear friend, High Priest­ess of the Eng­lish Folk Mu­sic scene El­iza Carthy MBE, invit­ing me to par­tic­i­pate in the next fes­ti­val. Folk mu­si­cians are far too egal­i­tar­ian and mer­i­to­cratic to have a royal fam­ily but if they did El­iza would be the next queen. Her father, Martin Carthy, re­mains one of the most in­flu­en­tial of all tra­di­tional mu­si­cians, a man who changed the way mu­sic was played and heard. He in­spired the likes of Bob Dy­lan, Paul Si­mon and gen­er­a­tions there­after. And he bakes ex­cel­lent bread and brews a proper cup of tea. But we don’t gather for the first week­end in Jan­uary ev­ery year to honour the king of Eng­lish tra­di­tional mu­sic. The epony­mous Norma, from whence the fes­ti­val de­rives its name, is El­iza’s mum, Martin’s wife: Norma Water­son. This will be the fourth year of Nor­mafest and the third time I’ve gladly ac­cepted my du­ties as fes­ti­val chef. I was re­minded of how joy­ous this job is when I re­ceived a book through the post. Dark Side Of The Spoon, apart from hav­ing the most ex­cel­lent ti­tle, is de­scribed as a “rock cook­book” of 30 recipes. Il­lus­trated with al­bum cover-style art­work, it’s pub­lished later this month. But in the mean­time, I may well have to bor­row a few recipes. Au­thors Joseph In­niss, Ralph Miller and Peter Strad­den have cer­tainly em­braced the sub­ject mat­ter, with dishes like Pig Floyd, Tofu Fight­ers and Bach­man-Turnip Over­drive. They would fit hap­pily along­side my Chicken Ko­rma Chameleon. The book is very funny, well put to­gether and clearly comes from a pro­found love of mu­sic. That’s ex­actly how my in­volve­ment with Nor­mafest be­gan.

I owe my par­ents so much. I’m not sure that with­out our weekly pi­ano lessons with the long-suf­fer­ing Mrs Laf­ferty my broth­ers and I would have such a pas­sion­ate love of mu­sic. And while my brother San­jeev played on stage thrice with The Grand Ges­tures and has been for­ever im­mor­talised as Syn­the­siser Pa­tel in the BBC spoof sci­ence com­edy Look Around You, that is the ex­tent of the Kohli sons’ mu­si­cal out­put.

I’ve spent my life wish­ing I could be that guy at the party who picks up a bat­tered old gui­tar and, af­ter a mag­i­cal re­tun­ing, brings the in­stru­ment to life. As the hands of the Hill­head Hen­drix glide, slide and elide up and down the fret­board, mere mor­tal men look on in awe, and wooed women gaze with gooey-eyed de­sire.

I re­mem­ber think­ing just this thought as I stood in the Carthy kitchen one day watch­ing some of the finest folk mu­si­cians jam­ming over a wee dram. King Carthy was there, joined by his daugh­ter on the fid­dle, the bril­liant Neill MacColl on gui­tar and the un­der­stated ge­nius Kate St John play­ing any in­stru­ment she could get her hands on. We of­ten use the phrase “jaw-drop­ping” but I was as wide of mouth as I was of eye.

“I wish I could play some­thing,” I mut­tered as our glasses were charged and the Talisker bot­tle emp­tied.

“You can play the stoves,” one bright spark sug­gested.

It tran­spired that Nor­mafest needed to feed the mu­si­cians; the fes­ti­val isn’t a money-spin­ning ven­ture. Folk come and play for ex­penses and the least they de­serve is de­cent food. El­iza asked; I said yes and the rest is his­tory. I am now the of­fi­cial caterer for the mu­si­cians who play Nor­mafest. It’s one of my all-time favourite gigs even though I’m far from the stage and of­ten alone in a hot kitchen. There’s some­thing deeply ful­fill­ing about muck­ing in with your friends, be­ing there with them when they need you.

It’s not as if they don’t re­gale me with beau­ti­ful bal­lads and time­less tunes as I dis­tract­edly stir over a pot of bub­bling lentils. One day I’ll burn the daal and be left with a burned pot and a burned spoon. My very own Dark Side Of The Spoon.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.