I, like I’m sure many of you, have become a little addicted to social media. Scrolling through those compelling apps, be that Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, has become part of my evening vigil and my morning ablutions. Starring at screens, at unattainable lives, has somehow become our idea of being ‘social’, but how many of us would say we are ‘social shoppers’? From the very beginning, that has been something we have encouraged at the Magazine – that the easiest way to become part of the local food conversation, is to have a conversation. Shopping at farmers’ markets, chatting to the hard-working men and women who produce your food, helps you to appreciate it all the more. Whether that’s picking up a tip or trick for cooking, or simply learning more about why it tastes the way it tastes.
A couple who believe firmly in this social, convivial way of shopping are Andrew and Eilidh Ferguso-Hill, the husband-and-wife team behind Cuxham Mill. Based in the quaint south Oxfordshire village of Cuxham, the couple run a private catering business and boutique self-contained holiday let, working alongside and collaborating with other local producers and creatives such as Joanna Oliver Ceramics and Blue Tin Produce farm shop. However, in March of this year they went one step further and started The Kitchen Window, an informal and exciting shopping experience.
On an informal ad hoc basis (but roughly one Saturday morning a month), the couple fling open the window to their kitchen and while Andrew cooks away in the background (he isn’t a man for the limelight), Eilidh sells handmade produce made from local, and often home-reared or home-grown, ingredients. In the last couple of months, shoppers have been treated to black pudding scotch eggs, hand-raised pork pies, butternut squash and local Bix cheese quiches and damson Bakewell tarts or cobnut crumbles. Each handed over with a smile and a chat.
The focus is on local and on seasonal and with the menu changing each month shoppers keep coming back. Cleverly, and rather necessarily, you have to pre-order so there’s little-to-no wastage, and Andrew can customise or tweak any orders as necessary. How far removed an experience to a supermarket, the food shopping equivalent to scrolling through Instagram. Here, your connection to the food is tangible and sensory: the smells of cooking drift out through the window and you’re likely to see Andrew breaking down a joint of meat or stirring on the stove in the background.
If you would like to join in the fun, drop Andrew and Eilidh an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and then you’ll be added to the database and emailed with the menu and dates of the Window’s opening. The next shopping day will be on the 15th December (just in time for Christmas) with the menu going out on the 3rd December.
Or, if you can’t wait that long, why not come along to the Cuxham Christmas Market on Saturday 24 November to try the Mill’s festive fare.
For more information visit: www.cuxhammill.co.uk
Words by Hugh Collins; Photography by Mark Lord: www.marklordphotography.co.uk