Press release: What’s cooking in the community? Find out at the MERL Village Fete


Students, Ben and Deiniol, met with members of the Chinese Association

Food Science students at the University of Reading have been challenged to create new dishes from ingredients used by the diverse communities in Reading. The results will be revealed in the ‘Reading, Steady, Cook!’ demonstrations at the MERL Village Fete on May 31st.

The Village Fete at the Museum of English Rural Life, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, will be on the theme of food (production & consumption!) this year. The cookery demonstrations will showcase the diverse culinary heritage which exists in Reading today, including ingredients such as including salted boneless cod, bonnet peppers, tofu and oyster sauce.

Members of the Barbados & Friends Association, the West Indian Women’s Circle and the Chinese Association have met with the students to exchange ideas and give them a list of ingredients to use in their new recipes. The Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdistan members of the ‘Newcomers to the University’ group have also selected ingredients which they would use for a dish called dolma, also prepared in the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece and Turkey) and in the Middle East. Representatives of each the groups will help the students prepare the recipes – and taste them for the first time – at the Fete. 

The students, Ben Smith, Lydia England and Deiniol Pritchard, are in their 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of Food Science degrees respectively. They aim to make the demonstrations informative by looking at some of the science behind the cooking and the food we eat, as well as making some tasty dishes!

Ben said “This is a great initiative from MERL to bring the department and the public together so we can explain something of what we learn about on our degree and perhaps dispel a few myths about what food scientists do!”

Bob at Fete

Professor Bob Rastall at the Village Fete in 2013

Professor Bob Rastall, Head of the Department of Food & Nutritional Sciences, will be joining the students and members of the Reading University Baking Society (RUBS) at the fete demonstrating the science of baking and cheese making. Visitors will also be able to taste Caerphilly cheese made by colleagues in the department using milk from cows on the University farms! Professor Rastall said “This is a great opportunity for our superb students to engage with the people of Reading and for us to showcase the ground-breaking work taking place in our department.”

Phillippa Heath, Public Programmes Manager at MERL said “If visitors want to get involved, we’d love them to bring along their favourite homemade biscuits to enter the Biscuit Bake-off at the Fete. We’re hoping to inspire people to revive one of Reading’s famous culinary skills!’

The MERL Village Fete takes place on Saturday 31st May from 10am to 4.30pm. For more details, visit Tickets are available in advance for £2.50 and on the door for £3. Admission for children is free.


Press are welcome to attend on the day. Please contact Alison Hilton, Marketing Officer at MERL, on 0118  378 8660 or  for details or to arrange interviews.