The late Bobby Freeman was born and brought up in Bury, Lancashire, though her maternal grandparents were from North Wales. She qualified in Industrial Design at Manchester and after a short spell in teaching she spent 16 years in advertising and press relations, becoming the first female advertising executive in the Midlands. She had two daughters, both interesting cooks, and four grandchildren.
Bobby Freeman's interest in traditional Welsh food began in the early 1960's when she was running her restaurant, part of her Compton House Hotel, Fishguard, Pembrokeshire. At that time there was no interest and no support from within the trade for the concept of offering traditional Welsh dishes for tourists.
Nobody, in fact, thought it was a good idea, but Bobby had turned to catering from a career in advertising and publicity and she felt she knew a winner when she had one. Although at first the going wasn't easy, in the end she was proved right, because the restauarnt, already on the way to top listing in the major food guides, soon had its Welsh dishes featured prominently in the entries and was drawing an international client?le.
It was the difficulty in obtaining authentic Welsh recipes which eventually led to Bobby's post-restaurant serious research into the traditions, resulting in 1980 in the first, and only, authentic study of the economic social and historical background to the traditions: First Catch your Peacock, which sold worldwide.
There followed eight more titles: A Book of Welsh Bread, A Book of Welsh Country Cakes and Buns, A Book of Welsh Bakestone Cookery, A Book of Welsh Country Puddings & Pies, A Book of Welsh Fish Cookery, A Book of Welsh Soups & Savouries (these six small, pocket-size books of uniform design are intended for the tourist market in Wales); Welsh Country House Cookery (for Mid-Wales Development), and Welsh Country Cookery. These titles are published by Y Lolfa. She edited Lloyd George's Favourite Foods, which included a number of traditional Welsh dishes as well as the great Liberal leader's favourites, and later edited and published Enid Roberts' Food of the Bards - the very first Good Food as the Bards were describing the food encountered on their visits to the Welsh nobility.
A recent contribution has been a 6000 word introduction and explanation of the eccentric Victorian cookery treatise - The First Principles of Good Cookery, by the Rt Hon Lady Llanover, a rarity in its original edition, published in facsimilie by Brefi Press in 1991 - for Bobby the realisation of a 20-year dream: "the more I sought an explanation of the book and delved into her life, which was not only fascinating, colourful, romantic but extremely valuable to Wales, the fonder of her I became. The book was so hard to come by and I wanted it to be more widely available."
In addition to books, Bobby wrote on Welsh food and related topics for the Birmingham Post, The Western Mail and South Wales Magazine during the 1960's and 70's, and for Y Faner the Welsh language weekly, for two years, and broadcast regularly on Welsh radio and TV on Welsh food and restaurant reviews. In the 1970's she spent two years with the Wales Tourist Board which increased her knowledge of Wales and the Welsh. One of her regular jobs there was devising celebration Welsh dinners for special events - such as St David's Day and for visiting foreign journalists. She devised two successful 'Welsh Weekends' of food, drink and cookery demonstrations at Portmeirion, the Italianate fantasy village in North Wales.
During this time there was still little interest in developing Welsh food professionally as there were very few skilled and innovatory Welsh chefs, unlike today.
In 1982 Bobby returned to west Wales after 10 years in Cardiff to found her Welsh Cookery Centre just outside Cardigan at the foot of the beautiful Teifi Valley where there was a good deal of Welsh production going on - restored water-driven corn mills, cheese-making, organic vegetable-growing, and so on, and she devoted much of her time and energy to helping make these activities better known, both inside and outside Wales. The Cookery Centre offered a Welsh cookery holiday, perhaps too far ahead of its time. These years were in any case dogged by her increasing disability, forcing her to give it up before it had been fully developed.
The year of her return to west Wales (1982) was marked by participating in the first ever film about Welsh food traditions - a historically accurate, very evocative and superbly filmed production for S4C.
In 1981 she gave a paper on Welsh food traditions to the Oxford Symposium.
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