Latitude: Sally Butcher, Persepolis – Theatre of Food

Reviewer: Robin Winters

Last year’s Latitude was criticised a little for reducing the amount of theatre/spoken word performance spaces that were on offer with The Speakeasy combining the Poetry and Literature tents and the removal of The Little House, so it is good to see some new areas having popped up around the site. One of these new additions is The Theatre of Food – a relatively low seating capacity tent with a fitted kitchen-style stage and working ovens; IT would have been rude to let the festival pass without checking it out.

The concept is quite simple; a series of guests appear throughout the day who chat their way through a cookery demonstration matching whatever expertise or products they are peddling. Cameras are mounted above the stage so we get an overhead view of the dishes being prepared and there are occasional opportunities to taste the finished product (or at least some that has been prepared earlier, in true Blue Peter Style. It does all feel a bit Saturday Kitchen but is entertaining all the same.

For this hour, Sally Butcher and her husband Jamshid – owners and chef of the Iranian corner shop-cum-cafe Persepolis in Peckham – have shut up shop at home to spend some time at the festival and show us how to create some authentic Iranian delights. As we witness the makings of three simple dishes, the smells are enough to make you wish the pair had a stall in the Street Feast; this is even more the case when the opportunity to sample a cup of ash – the Iranian soup – arises and we wish Jamshid had cooked enough of everything for all. Overall, Sally and Jamshid end up being the sort of people you want to invite over for tea, genuinely interesting and often funny. Sally does plug her five books on display at the front of the stage and does advise that a lot of the own-branded ingredients she uses are available online, but does so very humbly and seems quite embarrassed to play saleswoman.

You’d miss most of the festival if you tried to see everything that is on the schedule in the Theatre of Food but, despite initial reservations, it is a great new addition and a perfect place to dip in and out of if you spot something of interest and have some time to kill (there’s also seats…with backs!). Let’s hope it returns next year.

Image: Contributed

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