My friend Dave Lewis has a pet hate – Pot Noodles. I can vouch for the fact that they can be drop kicked quite a distance ;-).
Food is a subject that is very close to my heart. I cannot call myself any sort of chef but I am more than capable of cooking in a variety of methods while outdoors. Thankfully though, I do have a number of friends in the world of bushcraft who are chefs and so I regularly eat like a King when out and about (have a look at my blog page on Memorable Meals). The downside to creating outdoor feasts is the time it takes to prepare them. When you have a dozen kids to teach over a weekend with lots of activities to cover, too few staff and little money to spare (welcome to the world of the Sea Cadets), then you need to think out of the box a bit more. I would love to always get the kids to prepare fresh foodstuffs and cook it themselves, for example ponnassing fish. This takes time and it’s not always possible, but when we can do it, the bushcraft experience gained is well worth it.
The reality much of the time is quite different. With time constraints and limited fresh food available then just heating your food over the fire may be the limit of your bushcraft culinary experience.
Thankfully most kids are more interested in lighting fires than cooking the perfect bushcraft meal.
I personally try to walk a middle path here making do with what I have (is that not what a lot of bushcraft is about?) and give the best bushcraft food experience I can.
Before we light fires and cook food I love to head out for a mooch, either to teach navigation or to do a bit of tracking. Along the way we will introduce the cadets to some of the foodstuffs they can forage. I love to see the looks on kids faces as I pinch off a piece of nettle leaf and munch on it. The thought of eating anything in the wild is alien to many people these days. It is not long though before most of them are trying some foraged food.
One of my favourites is to eat Hawthorn leaves and buds in the early spring. The Hawthorn is also named the ‘Bread and Cheese’ tree because of this delicacy. The picture says it all.
The lovely fresh taste of a Spring Beech leaf. Another favourite.
A nibble on a Primrose leaf. I make sure we identify this plant to the cadets where they can also see a Foxglove (not edible) as they can be similar when not in flower.
Back at camp a firm favourite is to sit around a fire with your mates and chat while you cook a sausage.
Always puts a smile on their faces.
Wherever possible we will get the cadets to make up some bread mix and cook some twizzle stick bread.
When time is of the essence (too many other activities to do), thankfully we have a large Muurrika to cook a lot of food fast.
We also have a large cooking rack with a tripod that is good for cooking for many people. This set up was donated to the Sea Cadets by my friend Mark Beer.
A simple system cadets can set up themselves is to drive four stakes (green wood) into the ground and use them as a platform to cook on.
On more advanced courses the cadets will cook in different ways.
A recent experiment was to bake pizza under a fire tray. It worked a treat.
For puddings the favourite is chocolate oranges or chocolate bananas.
Melting chocolate is always a chore that is over-subscribed.
And lastly you must never forget the ‘Must Have Marshmallows’
I like to think our cadets are fed well on bushcraft courses. They have fun but their traditional comfort zones are extended every time they come out.
The next Bushcraftage will be on some of the knife skills the cadets and instructors are taught.