Saturnalia Festival - The Best of Days Join Figtree Food and Honey in a night of fun and music at Cobargo School of the Arts Hall in July. Whilst Christmas in July may have become a favourite Australian festivity, Figtree Food Company are taking a new Winter Festival one step further by tracing the Christmas tradition to its farming and pagan origins. “Reaching into ancient farming cycles and celebrations of winter fare is really important to us”, Richard Lawson, chef at Figtree Food company says. The agricultural festivals in early times were known as “Saturnalia”, named after Saturn, the Roman god of Agriculture and Time. “We know that the festivals of the winter harvest were celebrated as a festival of ‘the best of days,’ when the food and tastes go underground to escape the harsh frosts in winter,” Mr Lawson says. A Taste of the Region Saturnalia is based on the best of regional foods. It will feature Figtree Food Company award winning products matched with more regional award winners including Honorbread, as well as Tilba Real Dairy and produce from SAGE markets and Tilba Markets and Bermagui Markets (which are in recess but food will still be sourced from the suppliers). “Doing great things with amazing seasonal and local produce is key to our ethos,” says Figtree’s chef Richard Lawson. “We personally live the ethos and grow most of our own food as well as supplementing what we can't grow from the markets. We love to see the return of old style traditions in food such as Bermagui Emporium who are now air drying aged beef to order; and Symphony farms who are supplying beef and chicken direct to the customer. We use chicken frames to make stock and polenta, so we are still using meat but making it stretch a lot further”. Selecting this style of working with food could prove to be a good compromise between the choices of vegan and an earth friendly diets, by using small amounts of animal products, but using them wisely and ethically. “We make everything from scratch, including our stocks and sauces, and we try to use honey as a sweetener wherever possible,” Mr Lawson says. “This week we have made our own tahini and halva from fresh organic sesame seeds sourced from the whole food store, and we will be sewing sesame seeds next season. We have planted over 350 fruit and nut trees at our double-sized house block at Mystery Bay, which we bought in lieu of buying acreage. Like many people., we have opted for a small urban farm style of growing food instead of small acreage."
Music Musicians playing at Saturnalia take their sense of the organic beyond the kitchen and into the realm of music. Richard Lawson and Tim Northam knew each other back in the 1990’s when Tim was a sound engineer, long before he went into the kitchen and opened Il Passagio - his fine dining restaurant at Bermagui, which he ran with his wife Honor before the pair moved into making sourdough bread. Back in the 1900’s, Tim and Richard both worked at the Harbourside Brasserie, one of Sydney's great funk establishments. Richard has a punk rock background (The Lime Spiders were the first band to ever pay on RAGE and toured the world before Rich returned to become an Olive farmer). At Saturnalia, Tim will be playing solo with his own tunes and covers, featuring acoustic guitar and vocals. Richard will be playing in his duet Honey with Elizabeth Walton, piano player and singer. Tim, Richard and Elizabeth all share a tendency towards raw, non-overproduced music and are regulars on the live music and festival circuit. Food Medals The road to success Apart from being musicians, Tim, Elizabeth and Richard are all current medalists with the Sydney Royal Fine Food awards. This prestigious Australian food competition benchmarks and recognises the best food in the country. Tim has been recoginised for the bread he makes with his wife, Honor, Richard for his Figtree Tapenade, and Elizabeth for her Figtree organic raw chocolate. “My chocolate has no sugar, no dairy, and it won silver in the confectionary section of Australia’s toughest food competition, even though it was up against sugar laden foods,” Elizabeth says. After her success, Figtree Food was selected to represent fine Australian food and wines at the easter show featuring her hand made chocolate. Cobargo Nightsprites A special guest appearance of a group of tiny young people called the Cobargo Nightsprites is in store for Saturnalia. “These are our students from Lawson School of Music,” Elizabeth says. “We teach piano and guitar at the hall on Wednesdays and love to get the kids involved”. Return to Your Bliss - Sunday 7th Following Saturnalia, Elizabeth will bring a zen touch to the hall on Sunday 7th with live ethereal piano music. Listeners will relax with warm blankets and soft pillows while the music takes them away to another realm. “We recently offered this session to our staff - they loved it so much we have opened the session up to the public, bringing the winter festival to a two day event.