How to run a theme camp kitchen
Handy tips from Eva (Werkhaus kitchen) and Messy (Momma’s Messy Kitchen)
Some basic common sense tips:
• Buy cans of things, not glass jars – you can squash them, which takes up less space before recycling
• You can keep food cool by wrapping a shelf in damp cloth; you can also let the entire thing sit in shallow water
• Bring fly paper with you and fly covers for food as flies are a nuisance and will quickly make people sick
• Have antibacterial hand lotion available for people before eating
• If people have been working, they will want to wash their hands properly before eating – you should put some bleach in a tub for them to do this
• Remember to bring eco-friendly washing-up liquid with you as it's hard to find in Spain
• Put some bleach in your dish-washing water to prevent your wash tubs becoming interesting microbiological experiments
• To save water, washing up is best done in a series of stations, rather than in one big tub:
1. Clean plates over a bin
2. Rinse the plates (in dirty water) (water from step 3)
3. Clean the plates in soapy water (water from step 4, with washing up liquid)
4. Rinse the plates in clean water (with bleach)
Every time one of the tubs becomes too dirty, it moves to become the water at the previous step/station.
• Consider getting everyone to bring (and wash!) their own plate and cutlery
• Check your camp's food allergies and the number of vegetarians so you can plan accordingly. Don’t tolerate fussy eaters (only real vegetarians and allergies!) – people can fish out mushrooms (or whatever it is they don’t like), you can’t be cooking them separate meals!
• Cook one-pot dishes – don't attempt anything too fancy, keep it simple but plan your recipes so that not everything tastes the same every single night
• If cooking for loads of people, it's a good idea to cook ingredients separately in different pots and then add them all together at the end
• Do pastas, rice, cous cous or stews, which can be had with bread
• Dried food keeps well (duh!) but things like dried chorizo and beans are great for the last few days, because they keep really well for a long time
• One-pot dishes are good because you can then do a separate salad or veggie side dish or have extra stuff to sprinkle on top… The more bits and bobs, the better – it gives people a sense of variety
• Big pots full of food are bloody heavy – make sure you have strong assistants and giant ladles to scoop the food out with
• Avoid root vegetables if you can – they're a pain to peel and take a long time to cook
• Know your local food resources: Spain has different things to England/Holland/Norway etc, so don't expect huge quantities of tofu, ground coriander etc in Sarinena – get that kind of stuff in bulk at home and bring it with you
• Adding toasted seeds to anything instantly makes it so much more glamorous and tasty
• You can never have enough tea towels – for drying, for lifting hot things, for using as fly covers
• Kitchen gadgets are essential – lemon squeezers, can openers, scissors, sharp knives, chopping boards
•A key thing is a good food waste bin with a lid – we bought a cheap little red dustbin in Sarinena with a lid that clips shut. That way flies are kept out, you still recycle the food and there is no smell or too much dirt.
• If there is anything you definitely know you need, buy it before you go out just in case – particularly spices, washing-up liquid etc. Unless your Spanish is brilliant, identifying certain products will be hard, if not impossible.
• Keep the recipes simple – people don't want gourmet food, they want full bellies! That way it is much easier for those cooking, and much quicker for the hungry people waiting.
• Check out the ice situation before you go – we went green last year and bought ice packs for coolboxes. These were frozen by the lovely ice camp and we had enough to replenish each day – that way, the food doesn't sit in water, your aren't having to spend money on ice and it is all a bit greener. This only works if you have a friendly ice camp though!
• Gas is essential and hard to come by. Head to a big city petrol station (Zaragoza worked for us) and take a Spanish speaker. One canister should be plenty for a 20–25 person camp for the week. Not all petrol stations will sell you a gas canister without you giving them an empty one first – you just need to drive around until you find one that will!
• Snacks – people need food fairly continuously, what with sweating in the heat, dancing like loons etc, so have plenty of salt and sugar snacks that people can grab as they want. We bulk bought madelines last year, which were a roaring success.
• Maybe take the focus off booze – we ran a no booze kitchen. All the money went towards food, with people getting their own drink as needed. That way no one feels cheated if they don't drink as much as others – it can stop any bad feelings and also keeps the costs down.