The cooking: bouncing between hunger and overfilling…

On the days between the 26th of June and the 08th of July, we ventured into the realm of nature, the habitat of bears, frogs and most importantly, mosquitoes. As you already know (if you read our previous blogs), we participated in a “camping” project, while eco-traveling in to 3 countries (Romania, Bulgaria and Greece). Over a period of 13 days, we had a great time getting to know each other, playing games, enjoying different activities and workshops, interacting with the local communities, and yeah… cleaning the toilet and doing a lot of other fun things you already found out, or you will find out in the other articles. I am here to tell you a bit about a specific part of the experience, namely – the cooking. Now, before we even started the project, we all had a video call meeting in order to ask questions about the activities, logistics, the supplies, etc. Well, the Greeks, had only ONE: “Will we have spices?!”, and while the answer was yes, and indeed, there was a variety of blends and herbs, we also brought our own.

[A/N: Now after this prologue and before I actually go into the subject, I will note that, while packing my backpack, I thought to bring my  notebook and a pen so I could write down my thoughts, what we did, what was worthy and notworthy, how it all worked out and I did, I did bring my notebook and the pen. But did I write those things? Nope! Even though we had time for reflection, I lost myself in the moments and didn’t write a syllable (worth it!). But as a result, the days have blended together in my head and what I am about to describe to you, dear reader, may not be as coherent as I’d have liked.]

It all started with the rice, well not really, it actually started with the breakfast but I wasn’t awake for that seeing as I am stubborn enough to withstand the hellfire temperature of the tent in the morning (spoiler: I wasn’t awake for all the other breakfast makings, even though, I bow in front of people who prepared every morning a ‘buffet‘ table made of boiled eggs, veggies, bread, spreads, milk, hot water for coffee and fruits).

Anyway, it started somewhere… First, we had to organize the people, who will cook, who will gather wood and who will make the fire. And then we had to decide what to cook. You know that feeling when you have a fully stocked fridge with ingredients but no recipe comes to mind? Yeah that, plus the pressure of busload of people getting hungrier by the hour. We finally improvised a delicious (If I do say so myself) rice with grilled chicken, mushrooms and vegetables. By 5PM everyone had their lunch and by 10PM their dinner (I know it was late, but the first day was for the adjustment, okay? Ahem, and the second and the third but we did eat).

Anyway, with each meal prepping and cooking we got better. We may have to use unorthodox methods and our meals may have ended up looking like the DIY projects of preschoolers, but we made it work!

P.S. This thing here that looks like a ball of anything but food its a very traditional romanian dish, called “bulz” and its crazy delicious! The cheese inside, melted on the hot coals, well… trust me, its brilliant!

In Bulgaria, we had more or less gotten the hang of it (less with the time management but, health!, as we Greeks say.) Our meals were more efficiently planned, prepared, and cooked. Our amazing team managed to provide food for the whole pack of hungry animals! Eh, I mean people and I dare say we made some campers there hangry (both hungry & angry) with all the wonderful smells that were emitting from the grill and our (borrowed) wok. We meals included grilled meet and vegetable, chicken with sour cream and mushrooms, a lot of salad in different shapes and mixtures, and even banita, a traditional bulgarian pie with yougurt and sour cream.

However, by the time we reached Greece, weeeellll we could say the temptation of gyros and souvlakia was too much, we succumbed, once or „thrice” (for some of us in the same day – yes, I am one of them).

For the first night, we went to a taverna and oh it was glorious! We still ate all together but someone else was doing the cooking AND the cleaning. It was collectively agreed upon, the beach was too close for us to spend time cooking, so instead, we would each get an amount of money to be spent on whatever food items we wanted! I can say I greatly benefited from this change! (the benefits may include a couple of extra kilos but again, worth it).

The cooking experience of this project was a success. We all had something to do with our meal, we worked as a team and I strongly believe that the cooking was a big part of what brought us together as a group, we bonded over making kebabs while telling blue stories and getting slowly cooked ourselves over the fire. Sure, we will change some things in our future experience (yes, we will apply for another project like this!), but overall we all learned so much and we all gained a lot of memories to cherish…

Ecoventure bit: „Sir, are you here also tomorrow?”

We are in the beautiful eco-camping of Batak… our cooking team is a little bit struggling today since we all are a little tired from yesterday’s trip (Romania – Bulgaria). While cooking in the camping, of course, you are not alone… the cooking space is shared, as well as the fancy “dining room”. Today, our companions were a group of Germans on a teambuilding trip. Poor people, they do not know how to really connect with each other (with cooking, of course, as we do!), so they hired a catering company that brought on their table enough food to feed all the people in the camping. While we were cooking, they were eating, so of course, we started to interact… we told them about our project, about the Erasmus+ program, what are we doing there, how it was our experience by now, and what we expect in the next days, and they were telling us about… well, they were just eating and putting questions, to be honest – at least this is why I remember… These German people were very curious people!

After some time, we finally finished cooking our food and little by little (very funny – like in 3 seconds), all our team was gathering to eat. Exactly at that moment, the German group decided to leave the place and the manager of the place asks them what to do with the food that was left on the table (a quite sustainable amount).

  • Give it to the students, said one of them, while a loud wave of applause and shouting filled the peace of the place.
  • Everything that is on the table? continues the manager.
  • Yes, give it to the students!

The owner approaches our table, bringing some of the food, and on his return, with some shyness on his face takes a piece of steak and grabs it into his mouth…

  • I will take one piece of meat too, he said.
  • Ok, but only one, says one of the participants while looking back to the Germans who were moving away, and shouting – “sir, are you here also tomorrow?”

We all started all to laugh like a drain and, when we finally managed to get back to reality, we invited the manager to eat together with us… we had a great meal (or better say meals – cause we also had leftovers that we kept for latter)!

The content for this post is part of our online blog called “Ecoventure” which aims to share our experience in the Erasmus+ Youth Exchange ”Ecotourism Ventures for Youth Environmental Education”. The project was financed with the support of the European Commission through Erasmus+ Programme. This blog reflects only the author’s views, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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