08 . 10 . 15
A Pot Full of Love: DOH 2015 Part II
A volvo and three mattresses that were waiting for us on the first night, pea soup with knackebrod bruschetta, rye bread dough and my feet, aggressive home brewed beer bottles, cup of tea, baked pears and a cinnamon bun and smoked fish we ate by the beach. Writing and images by Julia Georgallis
As the winter draws in, I find myself daydreaming again about sleeping outside in a Swedish field, where I spent summer 2015. However, the thing that I actually miss the most is not the camping – it’s the cooking. Just to recap, Designers on Holiday is a project run by Featuring Featuring, a design duo who are building a camper’s paradise amongst the poppies and high grasses of Gotland island in Sweden.
Not to sound like a recluse but I live on my own and work on my own, the point being that I don’t cook for many people very often. It’s generally meals for one. I don’t even have a cat I can feed. So maybe you’ll be surprised to read that, as well as building a bread oven, my task on the island was to cook for 20 people, three times a day for two weeks. I went into this quite naively. I had heard stories about the inaugural DOH the year before, where everybody lived off things in tubes and Swedish hot dogs. Now I love tube-food and a hot dog as much as the next girl, but I couldn’t imagine living off pickled herring and reconstituted fish roe for two weeks, not least because we would probably have come back with scurvy. So when I saw that there was an opening in the campsite for a mum and feeder, I decided to fill the position.
When we arrived in Gotland there was a volvo in a field, 3 mattresses and a community hall from WWII with a kitchen attached to it. Until the bread oven was built, I stationed myself in the hall’s kitchen. Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is funny at first. It’s like wearing someone else’s shoes. But the thing I immediately loved about this particular kitchen was its pots. Vast pots. Pots that I could have swum in. And so, I just needed a bit of time to accustom myself – then I jumped straight in (to the cooking, not the pots).
I am not a trained chef – I went to art school. I’ve never cooked for that many people before. There were two key things that I learned almost immediately – one is to over season everything. The other is that the cheapest and easiest way to combat the hunger of a bunch of people who have been working outside all day is mainly with carbs and dairy. The produce was an absolute treat to cook with. The veg on Gotland, despite it being just from a supermarket, was knobbly, unperfect and fresh. The eggs and meat were given to us by Bokeslundsgården, a farm that supplies some of the best chefs in Sweden. And Gordon Bennett, the flour was amazing. Proper top banana flour. There was even a mill up the road from the campsite.
Working between the kitchen and my oven, spending my days thinking about what to cook next, I never got bored. And what I loved the most, was that despite all the space and all the places on the campsite people could have gone to hang out, the kitchen was always the place to be. I found that I knew exactly what was going on that particular day, even though I spent the least time outside (although having said that I did still spend quite a lot of time outdoors).
So because of the pot situation and the oven situation and sheer quantity of food to be cooked and people’s perpetual hunger, I got into a rhythm of cooking quite simple one pot dishes each day, followed by a baked dessert or dough related item (and there would usually be something green on the side). I enlisted people to chop and slice. My good friend Laylah gave me ideas for recipes and egged me on to season things more. After a while, we started to have the same thing for breakfast – a bircher muesli with cinnamon, honey and whatever fruit we could find with a lovely natural yog. We did revert to eating tubed and pickled things with glorious knackebrod for lunch, but it was great and scurvy free. And then at dinner, we’d all sit down together under a tree or out by the oven on a long table with candles and share what had happened during the day. Sometimes we picnicked on the beach, or built a fire and melted chocolate and marshmallows. But wherever we were eating, we were still sharing a big pot, a big table and a big adventure.