Monmouthshire Comes Together to Cook and Share

The Cook & Share concept is simple: people come together to cook a meal, and then enjoy eating it. On 2 March 2023, Monmouthshire Food Partnership hosted a Cook & Share in Abergavenny as a way for our Steering Group to get to know one another better, to meet people from the local community, and to support local food and drink businesses. We had the best day!

Abergavenny Community Centre kindly agreed to let us use their kitchen and hall. The kitchen is brilliant: kitted out with everything you could want for communal cooking at scale, and available to hire. If you’re looking for a Monmouthshire venue for cookery activities – as a community project or small business/start-up – you should definitely check out the Community Centre.

Monmouthshire Food Partnership (MFP) worked with local producers to plan the menu based on what would be available. In the end we supported 15 local businesses (full list below), who provided us with delicious ingredients for:

Main course

Welsh lamb cawl with local regeneratively farmed vegetables

Vegetable stew with British-grown fava beans and carlin pea (vegan)

Abergavenny bread with Welsh butter and cheddar cheese

Pudding

Cookalong Clwb lemon curd tarts

Baked apples with crumble topping (vegan)

Local ice cream

To drink

Local single-variety apple juice

MFP members Elaine and Marianne gathered the ingredients, and we started cooking at noon. Volunteer cooks were guided by experienced cookery leaders Elaine and Angharad. Gradually people trickled in, and soon there were 18 of us at work, spanning three generations. Thanks to the school strikes that day, members of the Cookalong Clwb were able to join us; they took the lead on puddings under Angharad’s watchful eye, while Elaine looked after the cawl and stew. If you haven’t heard of the Cookalong Clwb, which teaches children to cook nutritious family meals in their own homes, look them up online: “Kids can cook!”

As the pots bubbled, more guests began to arrive, including several of the producers who had provided food or drink. Everyone mucked in to lay tables, fill water jugs and get the hall ready. Shortly after 5 o’clock, over 30 people sat down to eat: community members, producers, local councillors, volunteers, and activists all enjoying nutritious, delicious, locally sourced food. MFP’s Chair, Martin, welcomed everyone and introduced the Partnership’s work, and we all tucked in, the happy buzz of conversation briefly replaced by the clink of glasses and cutlery. Once the plates were cleared, the floor was opened to impromptu speakers: the Cookalong Clwb, Monnow Valley Cider, Tir Awen Market Garden, and Our Food 1200 all spoke with passion and eloquence about the power of food to change lives and communities – to a background of squeals and giggles from the kitchen as Cookalong Clwb members got to grips with washing up using a squirty hose and commercial dish-washer.

A group of stalwarts stayed on to help clean down, again under Elaine’s expert supervision: surfaces were sanitised, floors swept, and laundry gathered. Leftovers were covered and wrapped ready for the Community Centre’s coffee morning and lunch club the following day. As we turned out the lights (powered by the Community Centre’s solar panels) and locked the door, we left feeling well worked and well fed, and with the satisfaction that we’d wasted nothing and given something back.

Since the event was so successful, we hope to run another Cook & Share in the south of the county later this year.

Local enterprises who provided ingredients and/or assistance:

Abergavenny Community Centre

Abergavenny Market

Brookes Dairy, Devauden

Castell Cwrt Lamb, Llanfoist

Castle Dairies, Caerphilly

La Mediterranea Food UK, Abergavenny

Langtons Farm, Crickhowell

Little Green Refills, Abergavenny

Monnow Valley Cider, Llanarth

Moor Park Garden Organic Vegetables, Llanbedr

N. S. James & Son Butchers, Raglan

Neil Powell Butchers, Monmouth & Abergavenny

Riverford Herefordshire

Square Farm Shop, Mitchel Troy

Tir Awen Market Garden, Gilwern

The Cookalong Clwb, Chepstow