About ten years ago, I had a sudden panic – my oldest son was about to leave home and he had no idea how to cook!
Whilst I am a very keen passionate home-cook I had failed him in that respect by not passing on the knowledge; I had prioritised his academic work and achievement and had made the mistake of assuming that he would learn by osmosis.
With a wide variety of restaurants and convenience foods, cooking has felt less of a requirement. However, there has been a shift in recent years. People are beginning to realise what a crucial life skill it is. Cooking puts you in control of the ingredients you use, your health and wellbeing; it makes you responsible for what goes in your body; it connects you to your past and culture through the recipes and ingredients you use. It affords you a sense of independence. So, when better to start the journey of appreciating food than as a teenager?
The teenage years are fundamental – a time to develop a sense of identity and formulate your outlook on life – when you’re still open to new ideas and experiences. Having the confidence to cook allows you to embark on adulthood without relying on convenience foods. At the same time it’s a great way to impress friends with culinary competence and flair.
But Root Camp is much more than just a cooking course. We take a holistic approach to educating participants about food and its provenance. The course encompasses a wide variety of hands-on experiences: foraging, farming, cooking, fishing and more. Central to our ethos is social inclusion and diversity. We have a strong bursary fund and can fund 50% of the places on each course.
Provenance is a bit of a buzzword when it comes to talking about food. It is important to value its meaning in this context – the origin and source of what we eat. Our food is so often cloaked in mystery – how does it get to the supermarket shelf? De-boned, chopped, tinned, packaged, plastic wrapped, pre-made (but how long ago and with how much salt, sugar or fat?). Knowing where food comes from, because you’ve seen it in the ground, or picked it, or planted its seed, inspires young people to make informed and choices. It opens up possibility.
The power of the supermarkets and mass-producing farms ensure that we can have any produce any time of the year and cheaply. At Root Camp, we put a price tag on this – in terms of environmental impact and quality of produce. As a society, we are increasingly urbanised and divorced from the countryside. Our job at Root Camp is to reconnect people to rural environments and to healthy food in a social, celebratory way.
We have had several successful years running courses in Wales, Devon and Suffolk, and now we are excited about our very first Scottish Root Camps, which will be held in partnership with the Mount Stuart Trust on the Isle of Bute on the stunning west coast of Scotland. The courses will coincide with both Scottish and English half term holidays and will run Sunday to Friday, 9th-14th October and 16th-21st October; they are open to any person aged 14-21, who likes the sound of what we offer and would enjoy taking part. It’s always a fun experience and I know that the friendships made often last long beyond the week they spend with us.
For more information or to book a place on the course, go to the website or call 0203 567 1039.