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Hochs Jagd I (High Hunt) - Marie de Luna

There are a lot of ways to run a kitchen and its very individual; ie there is no one way right or wrong. I have been head cook for 40+ events; everything from picnics and Revels to fully catered weekends events. With every new event I am always humbled by the sheer hard work and dedication my kitchen crews would give freely and with such good humour. In return I tried to make every kitchen an even better place to work and play than the last, and to create a Feast that every member of the kitchen could feel pride in.

One particular event was the first Hochs Jagd. This was a fully catered weekend camping event that I ran essentially with a core crew of 4 and a couple of newbie kitchen people as trainees. Having checked out the kitchen facilities as best we could beforehand with the caretaker we arrived on the Friday to find the following; fuse box turned off and locked. No problems; find the care taker and have him unlock the box. It took a few hours but eventually the fuse box key and caretaker arrived and we used the time to unpack the food and set up the work stations. Problem 2, the reason said fuse box had been locked off was the hot water system had developed an electrical fault and kept blowing the circuits. Hmm. Heads together and Eleonore and Hrothgar volunteer to go home and collect a chuffer and start a fire to keep a hot water supply. Sorted we thought; identify the hot water system fuse and keep it turned off.

There is a saying that troubles come in threes and they certainly did this time. The fridge had been turned on and chilling nicely when I turn on the oven and- blew another circuit. Right. After careful experimentation with the 2 x domestic ovens, assorted hot plates, grillers and 2nd fridge we realised that over the many years of use, a lot of interesting rewiring had been done and that we had in fact only 1 fridge, 1 operational oven, a griller and 5 hot plates between all the equipment on site. The smell of burning electrical wiring not being my favourite thing we downed tools and put the word out. We were in luck; Finnian the Red came forth and through his extensive experience as a Roadie with all things fuse box like and electrical (not too mention a lot of duck tape and electrical tape) he was able to give us 1 fridge with a freezer compartment, 2 hot plates over 2 ovens, and 1 oven (which we could only use if the hot plate wasn’t on).

Okaaay. We had food for 60 people, 3 meals a day for 2 days in the middle of a paddock and less than 1/3 of the original facilities. Time for a major rethink and some creative ‘out of the box’ ideas. Rather than bore everyone with the details suffice to say we resolved the issues, in no small part by using the very systems which our medieval counterparts used to overcome the issue of storing fresh food, pre-preparation of as much as possible and every dish having at least one cook who had trialled and perfected the receipt beforehand. By this process, we were able to re-arrange the menus so that delicate foodstuffs were used early and a modest supply of ice turned the 2nd fridge into a giant esky so all the pre-prepared frozen food stayed frozen until taken out to be thawed. I think our most persistant yet entertaining problem was a local brush tailed possum who could smell the bread and delicious fresh fruit and vegetables. He certainly exercised our talents in pantry fortification and in the end we compromised with a little bribery as well.

This was an event that put to the test all our combined kitchen and food hygiene knowledge and experience, both modern and period. It is said that times of trial and tribulation bring people together and I think all of us in the kitchen that weekend can attest to that. Despite the extra work there was time to laugh and share good moments (many thanks to the good gentle who regaled us with drive by Elizabethan poetry readings) and a huge sense of achievement at the end of the event that those attending had no knowledge of the ills that had beset the kitchen. We all came away from the event wiser and stronger, both in ourselves as cooks and as friends and pride in an event well catered for.