Food & Drink: Diary

SOME OF Gastropod's best friends are vegetarians, but that doesn't mean this slimeball can resist a dig in their spare ribs.

National Vegetarian Week ends tomorrow, but culminates today in a gathering of the like-minded in Manchester for the unappetisingly named Vegfest '99, the UK's only Vegetarian Food and Lifestyle Festival.

What's this about lifestyle? Aren't you always saying you don't necessarily wear sandals? There will be barbecues and food stalls, cookery demonstrations and inflatables. Vegfest '99, The Castlefield Events Arena, Liverpool Road, Manchester (0161-834 4026). Free, 11am-5.30pm.

MEANWHILE, IN London yesterday, Club Gascon on Smithfield Market closed for the day as a posse of animal-lovers, activists and anarchists gathered in the flesh-pots to protest about global capitalism.

The restaurant, which specialises in the cuisine of south-west France, notably foie gras, decided it would be a good idea to shut up shop. This may have been less to do with the fact that it works wonders with engorged goose livers, more because it is a favoured trough for City swells and fat cats - and any persistent omnivore who can get a table. On the other side of Smithfield, St John's crusading carnivorous chef, Fergus Henderson, was made of sterner stuff and carried on serving pigs' tails and chitterlings regardless.

TO MARKET, to market to cut out the middle-men. This summer, almost a score of Farmers' Markets are blossoming around Britain, selling local produce direct to the public. Today there's one in the Kent town of Wye (9am-1pm), home of the agricultural college; tomorrow, Ashford in Kent plays host to 40 stallholders in the High Street (10am-2pm). The theme of their first monthly market (every third Sunday) is strawberries, but stallholders drawn from a 40-mile radius include organic wine-makers, a free-range egg producer, the south-east's only duck farmer, fresh meat suppliers, and pickle- and chutney-makers. There will be tomatoes, honeys, herbs, new potatoes and goat's cheese, too. The next will feature the first national cherry-stone spitting championship. You can't say you haven't been warned.

IN THE just-add-water department, there were panic stations here when the Rock's Organic Orange Squash ran out. The local health-food shop only stocks Rock's stronger (and more expensive at pounds 2.95 a bottle which makes three litres) cordials such as Summer Fruits, Ginger, Tangerine, and Elderflower.

Parched inquiries revealed that Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury's have a monopoly on the orange and lemon squashes (pounds 2.49 for five litres). I demand orange squash within crawling distance. Now.

ROBINSONS, WHICH calls itself the maker of the nation's favourite soft drinks, would probably describe Rock's quaffable squashes as "dilutables", which is how it refers to its own Fruit & Barley range. The company is "celebrating 60 years on the Umpire's chair at Wimbledon". After being sedentary for so long, is it any wonder that Lemon Barley Water can be recommended for alleviating kidney and waterworks complaints?

GOOD KITCHEN equipment must count as one of the best reasons for getting married. The single among us are only too aware how much it costs, and recognise a good deal when we see one. Setting a sprat to catch a mackerel, Jerry's Home Store is offering in its summer sale (26 June till end of July) a chrome Waring blender for pounds 99 (was pounds 149) to those who spend pounds 50 or more in the store. There are Home Stores in London and the south-east - call 0171-581 0909 for details.

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