Let the battle of the bellies and the blaggers commence! Birmingham NEC is home to its annual gourmand gathering this weekend and it's bigger, beefier and more bulging than ever before. Home to heaps of badgeringg bloggers, millions of keen foodies, and hundreds of nonplussed, tired looking husbands (with equally worn out credit cards), whether you're trailing along behind your more munchie-minded other half or you fancy yourself as a bit of a masterchef, it's actually a bloody great day out... Butchers, bakers and edible candlestick makers are all on hand, and they've all got free samples for you to try. So much so, it's quite easy to leave stuffed without putting your hands in your pocket once.
I've just returned from the opening day, playing the swanky temporary salesman for risotto company Riso Gallo. Considering I swore I'd never do sales again (not after my disastrous stint as a volcano insurance salesman) I actually didn't do too badly. And while I sweet talked the foodies into buying more arborio, venere and carnaroli than they could possibly dream of, I also made some astute observations. If you happen to be visiting the Good Food Show this weekend, bare these crucial tips in mind....
Do a few savoury rounds first, then BANG: go in for the fudge, chocolate, cake round. Trust me; there's more than enough choice.
- Plan your route. Don't walk around aimlessly! That type of behaviour is for oldies and muppets. Apply military tactics or you'll miss out on that really cool single 15 year old malt hiding amongst the tat you normally see on QVC.
- Be selective! Don't just reach out and grab any old freebie... Did Jesus really die for us to assault our tongues with super hot balti sauce one minute and fudge the next? I very much doubt it. Remember: these cats are here all weekend. Play it cool. You're there all day so work the room. Do a few savoury rounds first, then BANG: go in for the fudge, chocolate, cake round. Trust me; there's more than enough choice.
- And if you are just going to reach out and grab everything, try this: remember that massive coat Marge wore Vinus De Milo Simpsons? That. But with plastic lined pockets.
- But be careful: Some of these freebies aren't quite the type of treat you're looking for. I waltzed past one promo girl and took a small sample without looking... It turned out to a bran flake. In soya milk. No, really.
- Here's an insider's tip. Wear an apron. Draw a fancy logo on it and make chatter like you're in the food game (Ask how business is going, the answer will ALWAYS be steady). The vendors will drop their sales blurb, thinking you're a fellow worker and they might, just might, give you a little discount. It's an unwritten rule apparently... And a bloody good one: I got a fiver off a bottle of caramel rum! (warning: this one might not work,)
I waltzed past one promo girl and took a small sample without looking... It turned out to a bran flake. In soya milk. No, really.
- Sales aside, don't be a sucker; naturally there are LOADS of incredible edibles on offer... But not all of them are worth the often hefty price tags. The prefix of gourmet does not guarantee quality! Once you've finished your gourmet bacon roll, washed it down with a bottle of gourmet water and slurped on a gourmet ice lolly you'll be crying all the way to the gourmet bank.
- And if you do decide to make an investment, wait until the very end of the day for extra bartering power. This is especially wise on Sunday, the last day of the event; a lot of these guys don't want to cart leftover stock back to their HQ. Give them a hand and make them an offer they can't refuse.
- Back to the freebies; a great way to get gratis tucker AND meet a famous chef AND get some attention from randoms is to get involved in the live demonstrations. Most chefs will ask for a volunteer from the audience to taste or stir or sniff or just stand there and look awkward. Make sure that person is you. Sit at the front, smile broadly, stretch your arm in the air, tickle that big old ceiling like a school kid. If possible, be a girl. A pretty one. It's scientifically proven that 80% of male chefs are womanisers.
- Letchy chefs aside, stop and take time to relish in the impressive collection of clever, talented food producers we have at our disposal. Embrace our nation's current love for proper independent artisan produce, and admire the witty ways the producers hanker for your attention. The Well Hung Meat Company and tropical beverage called Pussy Juice were particularly chucklesome.
- Finally, eat risotto! What with its price, taste, versatility low glycaemic index and high biological nutritional value, it's a darned sight more healthy than all the fudge and curry you've been packing away since you got the show. And a lot easier to cook than people make out. Hmmmm.... Maybe this sales malarkey isn't so bad after all.
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