Apologies for my relative quietness lately but I’ve been tucked away for the past week and a half in the beautiful surroundings of Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons, cooking four meals a day for the hungry crew members that put together the Green Man festival.
The job came about through Ellie of salad club who cooked for them last year. I’d always fancied trying my hand at festival catering and the Green Man is my most favourite festival so I emailed her to say if she was doing it again, I’d love to do it with her. A year passed by and then out of the blue I got a message from her saying Green Man were looking for a caterer but she wasn’t doing it, did I want the job? Of course I phoned the organisers immediately and the rest is history!
I promptly set to looking for helpers. For the first ten-day feat Welsh supper club host Delyth from Calon y Cegin in Cardiff stepped in. We’d never met before but through our Facebook link I contacted her and asked if she would be interested. She jumped at the chance.
Despite being privileged in that we got to stay in the Lodge, a lack of internet access (a fault on the line) and the relentless workload kept me from the computer. Cooking for between 30 and 50 a day it was monumentally hard work. Up at six to prepare cooked breakfast, a brief sit down before starting on lunch, which consisted of soups, bread, salads, cheese, ham, Quiche, fruit and cakes, followed by afternoon tea at four and then straight on to dinner which was usually a big pot of tagine/goulash/stew/ chilli accompanied by potatoes, rice, couscous and various other salads and dessert. The last bits of clearing up and the night security pack lunches were usually done by nine, at which point we collapsed in a heap.
We cooked everything from scratch using supplies from the local producers plus we both brought with us some of our favourite ingredients, equipment, knives and a few odd extras such as special spice blends, black currants from my garden and toffee vodka (which went into a sticky ginger and toffee vodka cake)!!
Everyday we put our heads together to get creative. I’d worked out basic meal plans on a spread sheet but we often ad-libbed, changed things according to what we had in, or what needed using up. Food waste was minimal as numbers grew day on day. Five days in we asked the crew for feedback. What had they liked so far. They responded
we like cheese and we like cake….and we like cheesecake
We knew we were on to a winner…seeing as I’m a bit of a cake fiend myself.
It was a steep learning curve for both of us and at times a struggle to keep the energy levels high enough to keep going. We both had days where we felt like death and providing enough food on budget was my biggest headache.
There were days when we ran on caffeine and cigarettes. We sometimes worked through hangovers. Most of the time I didn’t get enough sleep, lured by the hypnotic charm of the crew camp fire and a cold beer, but despite all that Delyth and I made a great team, produced some fantastic inspired grub and didn’t fall out.
The best bit of all was seeing how gratefully received our meals were. There’s nothing that makes a dedicated cook smile more than to see people enjoying their creations. In the words of Bill (designer and builder of the main stage)
I love you…you keep me alive!
My three-day break back at home with the kids is drawing to a close and I’m back off the Brecon tomorrow for the festival and five more days cooking. More tales of crew catering will follow…