Friday, 15 April 2011

An interview with Anna Herbert


I discovered the lovely Anna Herbert, of blog 'She Shops Local', last November, when she started a challenge to buy all of her Christmas shopping from local suppliers. As a mother of four children, I found her quest inspirational and asked whether she would be interviewed for my blog, and I'm delighted that she agreed!  So make a cup of tea, grab a biscuit, I hope you enjoy our chat…


Emma:
What inspired you to take on the shop local challenge, and was it successful? 


Anna: 
Back in early November I had a dream, that I would do all my Christmas shopping in Nailsworth. Of course I do a lot anyway, but I felt that just wasn’t enough. It’s a tiny gesture really, given the challenges faced by our local town, but if I share my experiences virally it might encourage more people to shop locally and help us keep our High Street alive.  I bought everything in Nailsworth and the Horsley Community shop, with the occasional foray into the independent shops and markets of Tetbury and Stroud.  I have not been using any chains or supermarkets.  

I was already shopping this way, but there are some things I always bought from the supermarket:  butter, loo roll, cooking chocolate and tooth paste. There are also things I never bought, meat, fish, vegetables and bread. What I needed to offer our fantastic local towns was and is my exclusivity, anything less is not enough.  

Emma:
You have quickly moved from one challenge to another. Tell us why you chose your new challenge/cookbook? 

Anna:
The film Julie and Julia inspired me to start writing my shop local blog but after Christmas I was looking for a fresh challenge.  In Julie and Julia she cooks all of Julia Child’s French cookbook.  I have always coveted French provincial cooking and known how much current day celebrity chefs aspire to it.  Of course I already own a lot of cookbooks but my tendency was to repeat the successful recipes and ignore the scary ones.  So this was about cooking everything even the pigs trotters!

Emma:
How many recipes are in the cookbook? How are you progressing? 

Anna:
417, I think I’m nearly half way.

Emma:
What has been the most difficult/ most successful recipe so far?

Anna:
Elizabeth loves to make me sieve and it’s taken me a few attempts to sieve a celeriac.  I eventually achieved this for a potato and celeriac soup but the effort far outweighed the flavour.  My most successful was her bouillabaisse, which I made for my Mother’s 60th birthday.  Elizabeth advises not attempting to make this outside the Mediterranean but our selection of fish from a Newlyn fishmonger made a delectable fish soup. 

Emma:
Are you still sourcing your ingredients locally? 

Anna:
Yes, I still haven’t been to a supermarket either.

Emma:
You have four children, are they joining in with the challenge?  What do they think? I can't imagine my boys eating some of the recipes! 

Anna:
My kids are counting down the days left, they immediately respond with urghhs but I think they are secretly enjoying it.  We got off to a bad start as I was trying to cook my way through the game section during the game season and we all tired of this a little.

Emma:
Do you have any pearls of wisdom to share on childrens cooking/ family eating?

Anna:
We try to eat together as much as possible so the children see that eating is a time to celebrate and share.  As an antidote to Elizabeth the children have Little Chef Friday, where they choose, shop for and cook whatever they like. 

Emma:
and what about any guilty food secrets?  

Anna:
My guiltiest secret is probably my sheer love and obsession of food and the amount of butter we get through.  My favourite food and recipes is something that can be shared and just served with fine bread.

Emma:
Being a hopeless bread maker myself, I was intrigued to discover you are married to Tom Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery and BBC TV series 'in search of the perfect loaf' – so who bakes the bread at home? 

Anna:
Tom bakes and experiments more and more at home.  Our nine year old son now bakes at home, he has made his own sourdough starter which he feeds daily and has knocked out a couple of outstanding loaves.  I can just about manage a pizza dough.

Emma:
are there any other cookbooks you covet? 

Anna:
I always enjoy using Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall’s Meat book, but I now see that a lot of his inspiration comes from Elizabeth.  I don’t own any Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks and would love to expand my Indian cookery skills.

Emma:
What does your favourite day involve?

Anna:
My favourite day involves my kitchen, walking or cycling to Nailsworth to buy ingredients with my children, then returning to cook up a feast, perfect.

Emma:
What will the next challenge be?

Anna:
There is an idea to take a year out starting in October and travel exploring breads of the world.  My task will be foods of the world, educating the kids and blogging.

Emma:
and finally, is there a recipe you would like to share? 

Anna:
My blog contains an increasing amount of recipes from ones I have made up to some Elizabeth triumphs.

Thank you Anna,

Read more of Anna’s food and family adventures on her blog www.sheshopslocal.blogspot.com
www.hobbshousebakery.co.uk

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