Your local market may not just be the provider of an excellent supper – keep your eyes and ears open, and you may just find it also provides you with a fabulous story as well. This turned out to be the case when I spoke to Beth Parkinson, who runs the stall Beth’s Buns at Leominster and Hereford farmers’ markets.
Cakes are all the rage these days. Anyone who’s anyone can whip up a decent sponge with a bit of fancy butter icing, and honestly I was expecting a story that could probably be replicated at any other market across Britain. Beth, however, has hit upon a culinary combination unlike any other I’d seen before (N.B. I’ve seen rather a lot – my mother runs a cake box business, so I’m regularly updated with what’s hot in the nitty gritty world of cupcakes).
For not only does Beth make and sell her own cakes – she also has a pilates business. She cheerfully explains the provenance of the name of her business, Beth’s Buns: “Cakes and bottoms are the buns that I work with. But mostly cakes!”
And apparently it’s a combination that works well. With a logic that cannot fail, she demonstrates how pilates and cake are concepts that are almost inextricably entwined: “Some people think that pilates and cake combination doesn’t work, because they kind of counter each other, but I figure if you have a piece of cake you can then work it off with the exercise and then have a piece of cake as a reward, so I think it works beautifully.
“I love teaching pilates because it’s a real feel good kind of exercise and cake is a very feel good thing as well, so generally it’s about putting a smile on people’s faces.”
If cake and pilates weren’t enough, Beth is trained as a singer and a dancer, and she also works for a Christian charity. Her work here means that unfortunately the residents of Hereford will soon have to find their cakes elsewhere, as she is about to move out to Cambodia to help set up a church. While Hereford’s tummies and bottoms may be bereft, their loss is Cambodia’s gain.
Beth says, “I’m hoping to do the pilates out there, because there are lots of hotels that I’ll be able to do that in, and I don’t know about the baking because I’ve got no idea what ingredients I’m going to be able to get hold of. The guys I’m living with are hoping I’m going to be able to make cake, but we’ll see if this actually stays as a business. But the pilates hopefully will carry on.
“I have no idea if Cambodians like cake. I hope so! Otherwise I’m going to be at a loss on how to make friends, because that’s how I make friends generally. I give people cake to make them like me. It’s bribery, plain and simple.”