News of a food history talk in Eden has cooked up a stir in the American state of West Virginia, among descendants of the Cumbrian Lowther family.
Paula Lowther McGrew was intrigued when she saw publicity online for ‘The Vegetarian Viscount – Dining with the Lowthers’, a free talk at Lowther Castle as part of Eden Food and Farming Festival in July.
When her son Stephen became a vegetarian several years ago, Paula had no idea it was a trait shared by their 17th Century ancestors. Keen to learn more, she contacted the festival organisers to ask if the talk by Eden’s renowned food historian Ivan Day would be available online.
“Living in West Virginia makes it a bit hard to come in person,” she said. “We are descendants of the Lowther family, and my son is a vegetarian – the first in our family, or so we thought!”
Paula discovered her English ancestry when she began delving into her family’s genealogy over the past year.
“Although I had always known that my American Lowther ancestors included leaders from the frontier days, it was fascinating to me to discover that Lowthers had also been leaders in the north-west portion of England,” she said. “We are descended from family members who left England in the last part of the 17th Century, went to Ireland for a generation or two, and then came across to the New World at about the time of William Penn, the English philosopher who gave Pennsylvania its name in the late 1600s.”
Paula has been following progress at Lowther Castle and Gardens ever since discovering her family connection.
“We follow them on Facebook and receive their email newsletter, and that’s where we learned of the upcoming vegetarian viscount event. This was interesting to us as Stephen decided to stop eating meat in 2007.”
Stephen’s decision came as a result of his love of animals and his concerns for their welfare.
“He has also enjoyed the health benefits of a vegetarian diet since making the change, which has only reinforced the decision,” Paula said.
Lowther Castle are offering the talk free of charge as part of Eden Food and Farming Festival, promising to be an unmissable opportunity to hear from a nationally recognised expert in food history. With more than half of the 60 tickets now snapped up, anyone who’d like to attend is urged to book now.
“Ivan’s talk explores local food history from an unusual angle, through the eyes of Sir John Lowther, 1st Viscount in the 17th Century, who was a vegetarian,” said Anna Saczek from Lowther Castle and Gardens. “He’ll then bring us forward through time, delving into the feasts, banquets and kitchens of later members of the family.”
With the event expected to whet appetites, the castle café will be open for food and refreshments, helping to raise funds for the ongoing restoration of the historic landmark.
The talk is one of a dozen events during festival week, most of which are free, and places can be booked via www.edenfoodfestival.org or 017683 51699.
The festival is funded by Eden District Council, Penrith Business Improvement District (BID), Pride in Penrith Lottery, Newton Rigg College and North Lakes Glass, and is also supported by DiscoverPenrith.co.uk and Vista Veg.