Somewhere deep in West Wales, Hazel Thomas leads a mission to encourage us to document our Welsh food heritage, calling out to cooking enthusiasts across the world. Hazel hosts Cwca Cymreig – a new community all about Welsh food traditions and sharing Welsh recipes. We caught up with Hazel to find out more!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I was born in Ceredigion West Wales, where my mother’s family ran the village pub. We also had a 60 acre farm with milking cows, sheep, hens and a pig. Peasant farming nurtured my love for food and eating what you either grew or reared. At 16, I went to London to train as a Chef, and 3 years later found myself being offered a post as a Commis Chef at the Dorchester Hotel. You can read more about me on my profile page.
How did you first get involved with Cwca Cymreig?
Cwca Cymreig is a passion; I love cooking. But since working on the People’s Collection Wales programme at the National Library of Wales I now understand how important it is that we document our heritage, so for me, Cwca Cymreig is an opportunity to reach out to anyone who has traditional Welsh recipes, and to encourage them to document them in some way. We need to make sure that our food culture and heritage here in Wales is kept safe for future generations.
“St David said take care of the little things. Having a community page for me is doing just that.”
What motivates you?
Life itself motivates me. I almost lost my life at 23 when I was involved in a serious road traffic accident. Every day since then has been a bonus. I faced cancer in 2013 and again with the help of an amazing National Health Service I am still here today and loving every single moment of every day.
What is your favourite Welsh dish and why?
It has to be any recipe that I can add a little laverbread to! Laverbread is such a nutritious ingredient full of iron and iodine and there are not many places in the world where it is harvested but Wales just happens to be one of them. I make a cockle and laverbread quiche with a herb flavoured pastry which is up there with my favourite dishes.
What dish would you recommend to someone who has never eaten Welsh food before and why?
I think it would have to be 3 recipes: Welsh Rarebit, Cawl and Welsh Cakes. These are traditional Welsh recipes and in many ways sum up the peasant style of cooking that I remember from my childhood growing up in West Wales. However, Wales has many counties and each one will have their own take on these traditional dishes. That is what is so exciting about this project for me because in North Wales they call Cawl ‘Lobscows’ but in nature the ingredients are pretty much the same. Water also influences the taste in your cooking and we are blessed that our water in Wales is so good and makes the tea taste even better, which would go down a treat with a few Welsh Cakes hot off the griddle or some buttered Bara Brith.
If you could bring back 3 Welsh people from history to have dinner with, who would they be and why?
My first guest would have to be Ann Griffiths. When I studied for my Welsh degree at St David’s University in Lampeter (as it was known then) I chose to study Welsh Hymns. Ann Griffiths (née Thomas, 1776–1805) was a Welsh poet and writer of Methodist Christian hymns. Her poetry reflects fervent evangelical Christian faith and thorough scriptural knowledge. I would love to understand her personal spiritual journey which is so powerfully expressed in the words of her hymns.
My second guest would be Santes Dwynwen, who lived in the 5th Century. She is the Welsh patron saint of lovers. She is celebrated throughout Wales on 25 January. I named my daughter Dwynwen after her. My questions again would be of a spiritual nature to understand the depth of her faith.
My third guest would be Kate Roberts who ignited in me a passion for Welsh literature. I cried when I read Te yn y Grug for the first time. Mainly because I had not read such beautiful stories in Welsh before, having left school at 16 with very little academic Welsh and secondly because I too knew the pain her character Begw had felt on losing a loved animal. I would want to discuss with her that gift and ability she had for making you feel the emotions of her characters.
How can St David’s World help you achieve your goals with Cwca Cymreig?
This has to be one of the most exciting projects for Wales that I have seen for a long time. We worry about being heard and that our language is not appreciated but the truth is, the world knows we are here and the language is a living language. St David said take care of the little things. Having a community page for me is doing just that. I don’t need to sweat the big stuff, the guys who manage this website are doing that. Thank you for this inspirational project!
Cwca Cymreig: https://stdavids.world/communities/cwca-cymreig/