It’s great to see the sun rise... We all get up early. But no one minds when there’s such a full day ahead.
The fforest barn kitchen
We help ourselves to cereal, toast (all homemade at Root Camp), fruit, yoghurt and porridge. On the last day we treat ourselves to a late breakfast after an egg-making demonstration. If we’ve made sausages, we eat those with our eggs – poached, fried or scrambled…
We’re divided into two groups for the day. The first group takes the van to the field in the morning, while the others make lunch. Fieldwork can mean any number of activities: planting, harvesting or weeding, foraging, milking or sausage making, even preserving and apple pressing. It depends on the course, the venue and the season. In the kitchen, we learn the key skills essential to any cook; how to chop an onion, peel a pumpkin and make simple yet tasty dishes. We do, however, explore more unusual ingredients and international menus, using more ambitious techniques. An important part of cooking is learning to keep our work stations tidy and the kitchen clean.
The two groups always eat together, and then the first group washes up while the others prepare for their afternoon of fieldwork.
Helping in fforest kitchen garden
Now the second group takes the van to the field, the vegetable patch, or the orchard – or even to see the salad packing house or the butchery. And while the second group has their chance to get their hands dirty, the first return the favour of cooking dinner for the very hungry workers. Sometimes two cooks will make the same dish and we will taste and analyse the results. One team is on bread duty as all our bread and biscuits are homemade. If there’s time in the afternoon we will run to the beach and take a dip.
Planting leeks with Nathan
In the evening, we invite a guest speaker to tell us about their area of expertise. It could be someone involved in growing, producing and selling food - a beekeeper or a farmer for example. However, it could be anyone from an expert on the politics of agriculture, to a fair-trade fashion designer.
nomad tents in 'our' field at Manorafon
We all eat supper together with our guest speaker. Cooking for them is our way of thanking them for their time and for sharing their passion and knowledge. The second group wash up, just as the first group did after lunch.
If we’re not too tired, we watch a food-related movie with a clear connection to food as in Food Inc. or Delicatessen (Suggestions and offerings are very welcome). Sometimes we play games or we might go for an escorted night time bat walk. You can of course just go to sleep if you’re tired after a long day.
Lights out is at 11 o’clock.
The Next Day
The two groups swap their morning/afternoon slots, so that everyone makes the same number of lunches and suppers for each other.
At the end of the course we prepare a farewell brunch to use up any remaining ingredients and polish off some of the delicious creations we’ve learned to make during the week. It ends up being quite an offbeat meal but it certainly is quite a celebration of a fantastic week.
"I've liked the cooking a lot. At home I don’t really cook that much, I'll make a sandwich, some cookies. I've really enjoyed making lots of different things and I've found it really interesting that even though you have a recipe you can elaborate on it and make something really nice"
"Ed thoroughly enjoyed himself and has shown new skills not previously seen in the kitchen, long may it continue" - parent
"The best non-cooking activity was going to the beach. It beats anything really"
"I've learnt some really useful things that I'll use in my future life.
Maybe in the far, far future I'll have my own kitchen, my own restaurant,
and I'll use what I've learnt"
"I've cooked a bit but mostly Caribbean food, but since I've come here I've learned about food from other countries"
"I came to Root Camp to enjoy outdoors and learn about what's out in the open. It's different from living in London. Just look at it, it's beautiful!"
"I loved yesterday when we walked up the mountain and collected the bilberries because I love walking and being on top was quite incredible"
"What you do is excellent and I think that it has room to touch many more people" - Benjamin Grey (forester)
"It's all about teamwork, meeting other people and working with people you don't know"
"One of my favourite meals was Grilled Mackerel with Salad. I am looking forward to attempting to make it for my mum"
"I'm really enjoying it, I'm so happy I'm here. I love the people. I love the atmosphere. I love almost everything about it"
"The staff, chefs, local people and participants at Root Camp were all very helpful and friendly and made my experience easier as I was out of my comfort zone"
"I've been offered (and accepted) the internship [at America's text kitchen], which makes me the youngest intern (and least experienced!) that they've ever taken on; they normally take graduates from culinary school/professional chefs! So thank you so much for Root Camp, as I'm sure that I wouldn't have been as confident a cook if it wasn't for that week." - Pioneer student
"Thank you for a wonderful evening and supper, truly delicious. I think many adults would like to go on a Root Camp, I would! It is great having you here." - Sian Tucker, owner of fforest
"Root Camp in deepest Ceredigion was an absolute joy. I went there not knowing what to expect but of course vibrant young minds in a stunning setting created its own magic. Under the beating sun we cooked up spider crabs with fennel tops, ratatouille the Elizabeth David way, peach tart, pork belly to name but a few. Thankfully vodka had not been sneaked in Timotei bottles so the week was very productive. All the kids were brilliant. A total joy, if they ask me to do it again I’d do in a shot. Comment of the week definitely had to be I’m telling one of the kids to pull his trousers up & he replied “Boxer shorts have a pattern for a reason you know”. I had no criticism for any of the kid’s aptitude but collectively I would say stop asking where things are in the kitchen before you’ve even had a look. You were all brilliant, keep cooking!" - Valentine Warner (root camp chef)