Good Food, Good People
In early September we enjoyed a wonderful few days with a really great bunch of people on our Coracle Building Experience. It got us thinking about eating outdoors and the power of communal dining.
Anyone who has visited The Lint Mill knows how important food is to us. Not just the loving attention we give to the rearing of our animals and the time and dedication we give to growing organic fruit and vegetables, but crucially in the sharing of it. We share our food with our friends, our B&B guests and our course participants. We’re all about nourishment on every level: nourishing the body, the mind and the soul.
The sharing of food, the breaking of bread together is a universal human activity and yet in our daily lives many people eat alone or only together in front of the television. Recent research from the University of Oxford revealed that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives. Laughter, singing, dancing and storytellling are all known to trigger the endorphin system (where the ‘feel good’ hormones are released) and these activities are more likely to happen when we are gathered together to share food. The semi-dark into darkness makes evening social activities more ‘magical’ and engaging and can be some of the most powerful social bonding occasions we experience. We can’t deny our primordial nature and we love to gather around a fire together.
The sharing of food is central to everything we do at The Lint Mill. We never use a meal as just the opportunity to refuel, even when it’s only Colin and I eating. We know sharing food strengthens social bonds and contributes to a sense of well being and we also know the aesthetic of the setting can create a conducive environment for this to happen. We have mixed feelings about the ‘food as art’ movement. We’re not overly enamoured of oversized plates containing tiny morsels – exquisite though the morsels can be. Our food focuses on our own organic ingredients (the best we can provide), simply but beautifully cooked and simply but beautifully served. (I could go on about the quality of the beautiful earthenware bowls and dishes that we use to complement our food but I think you know the distinction I am drawing.)
Our Coracle Building Experience was our most recent event. We enjoyed creating the space for our communal eating, a long table set with plates, glasses, and linen napkins, softly lit with candles and overhead twinkly solar fairy lights. The firepit was lit by one of the participants so it was ready to gather around as we moved from the table. After a day of physical work, the food needed to be plentiful and nourishing, the flavours robust and vibrant enough to be eaten outdoors. A little toasting of marshmallows was a compulsory cliche! The space for our communal eating was importantly outdoors and there is much I could write about the special joys of that. If you’re interested in this particular aspect I’d encourage you to read the gorgeous introduction from Gill Meller’s Outside: Recipes for a Wilder Way of Eating cookery book. We hope that as the days shorten and the nights darken earlier, the pull to light the firepit will remain strong.
Our efforts were rewarded by the most appreciative comments from our guests. We believed everyone left the Coracle Building Experience feeling nourished by new learning, nourished by organic food, nourished by sharing time together, and perhaps most importantly, nourished by wider nature.