I've just returned from a trip to the South of France, mostly a holiday but a work meeting ahead of a pitch was squeezed in. The week was full of fine but very simple food. Crayfish griddled in herbs straight from the garden, local cheese from a few miles up the road with figs from a tree outside, I could go on but I am getting hungry again. The point of the post is that knowing what to do with food is a skill I treasure.
We came home to a bounty of home grown tomatoes, luscious plums and yellow cherry. With a very empty fridge it was a store cupboard supper to eat as I work through my emails tonight. A tub of pancetta bits, some good quality pasta and some garlic would accompany the main event - my handful of home grown toms.
Roasted slowly in the oven with the garlic I left the stalks on the tomatoes and cooked up the pasta, simply fried off the pancetta bits in their own oils then once the pasta and toms were done I tossed through and added a spoon of pasta water and seasoned. That's it - 4 ingredients but it tasted delicious and I grew some of it myself.
I realised as I sat down to eat, that I am really lucky, I was taught to cook at home and had great school cookery classes and I also had gardening classes - we nicknamed it Double Digging! Now I am not claiming that I adored standing outside in my school uniform and wellies in winter but I do instinctively know about how to grow and nurture things and I know how to match flavours and cook. I think I am really lucky to have those foundations.
Which is what hit me as I sat down to work this evening - especially as I am working on the final plans for Countryside Classroom. A brand new online hub for teachers that brings together that whole journey - food, farming and the natural environment for the first time.
The partnership is supported by the likes of the NFU, Natural England, Soil Association, LEAF, Chef's Adopt a School, AHDB, The Prince's Countryside Fund and many more. The aims are high - to support teachers to enthuse children about things like forest walks, cooking and learning about where our food comes from to ensure every child leaves school with skills, confidence and knowledge about food, farming and the natural environment. I think my lovely Cornish school may have been the exception to the rule, and it was 20 ish years ago but the Countryside Classroom team want the next generation to grow their own tomatoes and cook their tea too!