Browsing Tag

Food Camp

Green, Lifestyle

Eating is Instinctive. Cooking Isn’t.

October 28, 2013
Savour Kilkenny Food Festival 2013

Savour Kilkenny Food Festival 2013

I’ve just spent the weekend at Savour Kilkenny food festival which isn’t just a celebration of all things food, it’s about listening and learning.

As well as supporting the KLP community garden project on The Parade, I spent Saturday at Kilkenny’s Food Camp which has become an annual opportunity to share thoughts and learn about the many elements that umbrella the term Food.

This year the theme was ‘We are What we Eat, Fact or Fiction’ and as a result the terms obesity, nutrition and food awareness somehow managed to wind their way into every talk and topic of conversation, whether it was in Marion Hearne’s session about the difficulties faced by people eating extreme diets (by choice or forced) or Elena Piana’s on fish farming versus wild sea catches.

It wasn’t until Suzanna Campbell mentioned the new TV campaign aimed at raising public awareness about obesity and how she’d heard the controversial Professor Mike Gibney’s shocking talk about our eating habits that many of us became quite alarmed. It really struck me during the panelled discussion that followed, where statistics were shared with us about the implications of our food choices, just how URGENTLY more money needs to be found and spent on food education, both for ADULTS and CHILDREN.

Working with various groups on the ground and talking with people about their experiences, I can see first hand the damage that’s been done by removing home economics from school curriculums. I’ve talked to adults that don’t recognise basic vegetables when they’re plucked out of the ground and answered questions they’ve asked me about how to cook them. I’m not judging anybody, this is the reality.

Is it laziness, busyness or lack of education that stops us cooking from scratch? Time certainly plays a huge part in the food we choose to cook as well as tiredness after a busy working day, especially when freezer foods are so cheap and effortless.

It’s very easy to empty a packet of peas into a microwave dish, grab a bag of fish in breadcrumbs out of the freezer and throw it into the oven along with a bag of ready cut chips.


How long does it take to flash fry some trout fillets, chop up a couple of potatoes, lightly sauté them in olive oil and serve them up with a quick salad? Our healthy supper would be warmly sitting inside our tummies before the oven has even reached temperature, yet we think the first option is a quick one, and yes, I’m guilty of it myself at times.

Given the two choices, which one will our children benefit the most from seeing, tasting and learning from? What habits are we passing down to them?

Edward Haydon & Anne Neary

People with Passion: Anne Neary & Edward Haydon

In order for many of us to make those healthier food choices, we need to be reminded or taught why and how we should be doing things differently. Whilst recipe books and cards are cheap and handy, many of us physically need to see and smell food being cooked in front of us, by a real person who’s weighing and chopping and stirring. Preferably, we need to be doing it with them…

“Tell me and I forget
Teach me and I learn
Involve me and I remember”

Cooking isn’t instinctive but eating is.

Step House Chef Alan Foley

People with Passion: Step House Chef Alan Foley

If we haven’t been TAUGHT to cook from scratch, unless we have a passion for it, who wouldn’t take the easy option? Unless we’re shown over and over by people with enthusiasm and knowledge, we’re not likely to make those changes either.

Two billion euro is the cost to the HSE of diet related illness (that’s two thousand millions for anyone like me who’s heard that figure so many times it’s almost lost its meaning).

23% of children aren’t eating any fruit and veg at all. Top of the list of Irish foods sold are cakes, confectionary, sweets, crisps, butter and we all know how difficult it is to break the sugar cycle, whether we’re informed or not.

We urgently need to dispel the myths about what healthy food is, we need to be convinced that food that doesn’t contain added sugars and sweeteners is tasty, that it makes us feel good and gives us more energy and we need to do so in an engaging way. We have to learn to find alternatives for our sugar addictions and we need financial help to do this from the government in terms of grants and funding.

Most people who need this food education can’t afford to pay for private cookery lessons yet I know from personal experience how effective even simple demonstrations can be on my own food education.

Full Cookery Demo at Savour Kilkenny

Packed out cookery demonstration at Savour Kilkenny

What better way to change our behaviour than to offer affordable (or free for some) cookery lessons combined with the basic life skills of growing the food. Just look around at cookery demos next time you have the opportunity (and Savour Kilkenny was a case in point where they were all free this year.) They’re popular, well attended and the seats are almost always full. People want to learn, want to see, want to make changes. We’re getting really cross about the lack of education, confused by the mixed messages about what’s good or not, what should or shouldn’t we eat. We want to know where food comes from, how it’s processed and with what (wood pulp in cheese and ice cream, seriously?!?!?).

Sarah Baker of the Cloughjordan House Cookery School is doing great work with school children where they head out to the fields, pick the vegetables then come back and cook them. But she’s one woman in one village with one cookery school. This should be the norm, it should be happening everywhere.

During the Focus on Fish Day at Goatsbridge Trout Farm I asked a food distributor why supermarkets don’t offer food cookery demos as a way of teaching shoppers how to cook fish in particular, to encourage us to buy and eat more of it. Fish is a healthy and plentiful food source but younger generations have stopped adding it to their weekly menus. His reply was simply “demonstrations are too expensive to put on”.

Some would argue that government doesn’t have the funding for food education, yet TWO BILLION euros of taxpayers money is being spent on healthcare for food related illness because people have made bad, or more likely, uneducated health choices….

I’m not alone with these thoughts. Dorcas Barry wrote an excellent blog post here about how she would address the issues.

Why aren’t Ministers listening? How long will it take for changes to take place? What do you think?


Food & Drink, Travel

Two Squash Soup & Kilkenny Food Camp

October 28, 2012
Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny

Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny

Kilkenny is buzzing this week with the sixth year of the annual food extravaganza that is Savour Kilkenny currently taking place. There’s so much happening in the Marble City – from cooking demonstrations  competitions, foraging and markets, tasting, talks and tasty tweet ups – every year the programme looks better and better.

Unfortunately I’ve yet to spend time at more than the atmospheric weekend market or for the third year running, Food Camp, but maybe next year we’ll make it to one of the evening meals instead of watching them unfold on twitter from the comfort of the sofa.

Blight Resistant Potatoes

Blight Resistant Potatoes on the Parade

I’m a big fan of the Food Camp which I’ve written about before and would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet been to one to make a date for next year.

Food Camp is a place where anyone with an interest in food is encouraged to talk about it. This sharing of passion sends you home motivated, worried, excited and above all more informed about aspects of the food world than you were four hours previously (or seven if you’re there for the day). This year was no exception. It can be difficult to choose which topic you want to sit in on as three run at the same time, but I wasn’t disappointed listening to Sarah Baker share her passion for teaching children of all ages about where food comes from and how to cook it, William Despard of The Bretzel Bakery confused that parents would sooner buy fancy buns than decent bread or Natasha Czopar share her knowledge and enthusiasm for raw food.

Savour Kilkenny 2012

Savour Kilkenny 2012

The last topic of the morning that sent me home uncomfortable about our future however, was from journalist Suzanne Campbell when she talked about sky rocketing global food prices that haven’t quite filtered down to us but soon will do.

Make no mistake, next year we’ll see food prices rise higher and higher, and they won’t be coming down in the foreseeable future either so we’re going to have to get used to paying a lot more for our weekly shopping. The global weather conditions – including droughts in the US to the long wet summers in Ireland and the UK will impact heavily. With our weekly or monthly housekeeping already stretched (and that’s before the November budget) surely it makes more sense than ever for people to grow their own food? Anything we can do to help keep our food bills at manageable levels has to be good and I for one will be planning to sow and grow more for my family next year.

In the meantime, this year we’ve had lots of squash growing in the polytunnel so when thinking about what to cook for the Food Camp lunch, given the event that it was, choosing to take a seasonal recipe along to the pot luck lunch seemed obvious. Slight confession here in that I didn’t use one of the several large winter squash growing here as my children had pestered my to buy some bright orange pumpkins for carving and we didn’t grow any this year. I did however, add some courgettes to the saucepan giving this a slight twist on the usual pumpkin soup. This recipe could easily be spiced up with the addition of some chilli or even a touch of five spice for a Far Eastern twist.

Winter squash harvest

Winter squash harvest


Diced flesh from a medium pumpkin
Medium Courgette, diced
4 medium potatoes, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 ltrs vegetable stock
25g (1oz) butter
finely grated nutmeg
freshly ground salt & pepper
150ml milk

Carefully cut the top from the pumpkin and scoop out the contents. Place the empty pumpkin to one side. Discard the seeds (or clean and roast) and spread out the pumpkin flesh on a roasting tray. Bake in the oven at 175ºC for about an hour.

Once roasted, melt the butter and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan, without colouring.  Add the potato, roasted pumpkin, courgette, carrots and vegetable stock.  Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 mins until the vegetables are tender.  Cool a little, then purée in a liquidiser.  Return to a clean saucepan and stir in the milk, grated nutmeg and season to taste.

To serve, empty the hot soup into the empty pumpkin and grate a little more nutmeg onto the top.

Ron & Mona Wise

Ron & Mona Wise  aka “The Chef & I”

My Savour Kilkenny experience ended by spending a few hours on the parade with two of our three children. Here we munched on the tastiest free range chicken baps, supped on Badger & Dodo lattes and hot chocolate then enjoyed meeting up with twitter friends and listening to Ron and Mona Wise talk and demonstrate how to cook a thanksgiving dinner…. mmmmm is all I can say to that, Ron’s stuffed turkey was something else and what a finish to a lovely couple of days.

The festival runs until Monday, 29th so you still have time to catch some of the events there.  See the website for more details.