Therapy Kitchen

Re-wilding our Human Spirit - Campfire Con-panis

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During Covid19 I have found myself (gratefully) busier than ever. The place of cooking as a cornerstone of well being, of understanding food as potent medicine has never been more significant.

Kitchen therapy is all about finding our sense of belonging as a human soul in an increasingly alienating world. One where supermarkets have machines rather than people to buy food from. Packaged and perfected vegetables straight-jacketed into the grocery version of size 0. Seductive ready meals and sauces that offer to make our lives quicker and easier to satisfy, forgetting to ask our creative mind how satisfied they feel.

So, during lockdown and the challenges of isolation this has brought, many of us have found ourselves in the kitchen seeking solace, not just from the fridge opening with something ready to offer, but in the interaction of making food. For many, there has been an opportunity (OK necessity) to return to simple, basic pleasures of making food for ourselves - as Nature intended.

Cooking is fundamental to who we are as a species. This primal alchemy gave us ready access to a vast array of resources, whilst establishing the creative confidence to feed our growing minds. Our specific human relationship to food is a defining feature of who and how we are today. Like music, it is uniquely human. Unlike music, learning to manipulate fire can separate us from Nature, as we can seek to dominate, control and own her generosity. Maybe like the know-it-all teen, who’s forgotten his manners, where his daily bread and support comes from and his necessary reliance on familial connection, we are culturally stuck in the Kevin-Trump teenage archetype, who we all recognise is not going to work out well as a leader…

That’s where the story of Campfire Con-panis picks up - connecting round the campfire and its caldron, in companionship with each other and with Nature. Revelling in her bounty, even in an English November. Arriving on the farm, we picked, chopped and cooked our shared lunch, all outside getting muddy and messy, slightly chilly, very happy. Using camping stoves, an open fire and the piece de resistance - a wood fired clay oven, we made some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted.

These workshops were set up to support families during Covid19. As one participant said “it’s so amazing to be out from four walls”. We may all be experiencing the same weather in lockdown, but we certainly are not all in the same boat. We began work on this project the day Lockdown 2 began, so the appreciation of being outside and working with others was heightened. The availability of fresh as possible foods, that supported our well being just looking at them, preparing them, let alone in the smelling and tasting of them… quite incredible.

As I planned this project to support mental, physical and spiritual health I had no idea how much it would mean to me. How it would ignite the notion of re-wilding, returning, respecting our natural human spirit. Recalibrating. Remembering ourselves as intuitive, creative and resourceful creatures, who love music for the sense of harmony, pleasure and connection it offers. A pleasure and sense of belonging that lasts long after the music ends.

The food we made startled our senses with its vibrancy. Even the sun had to come and take a look, smiling at our efforts, on Friday 13th no less. As we stir fried broccoli leaves with sesame oil and teriyaki we could smell the goodness and couldn’t wait to tuck in. Our bodies responding to the feeling of harmony, pleasure and connection this Campfire Con-panis offered.

Participants in this project took away food for their families at home, but more than that, they took away ideas, inspiration and interconnection that nourishes heart and soul, beyond the belly.

In fact, they took away even more… As I mused on this project, I returned to my favourite style of cooking - cast iron. Using my Grandmother’s Le Creuset, I have a sense of safety, security and the taste of luxury from this containing, beautiful vessel. So, as yet unclear how the project was going to emerge, I asked Le Creuset if they would donate a casserole dish, like Grandma’s I use today, for each family. They said yes. Amazing grace. The sense of community support and fraternity in times of loss, uncertainty and confusion was more meaningful than the dish alone. Remembering it’s ok to reach out for help, that resources are there when we engage our imaginative, cooperative spirit of gratitude, offers a chance to re-think, re-wild, refresh our place in the natural world.

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