Many many thanks to Carla, herself no mean chef, for taking us to ‘Food Unplugged’, a festival which cunningly combined food, company, education, sustainability and cycling – all things we love – in one of the most attractive areas of the Netherlands.
For 2014, the town of Ede in Gelderland, population about 100,000, has been declared ‘Hoofdstad van de Smaak’ (Capital City of Taste) a tribute to its position on the edge of the Hoge Veluwe, the Netherlands’ largest national park, surrounded by small farms.
Here’s how the Food Unplugged festival worked…
Participants, about 400 of us, were asked to arrive in the morning, bringing basic ingredients from their local area. Inner-city Amsterdam not being a noted food production area, the best we could rustle up at short notice was an assortment of vegetables from (shock, horror) a local supermarket.
The table with the map of the Netherlands on it was groaning under the weight by lunchtime, with our offerings discreetly stripped of their plastic wrappers.
The ingredients were then handed over to a local chef, while we were fed by the ‘Rollende Keukens’ (Rolling Kitchens) – food stalls on wheels, serving hamburgers, cookies, coffee, the Icoon cones pictured above, and beer from the local boutique brewery.
Then it was roll up your sleeves time for practical food workshops. Mevrouw T enrolled for baking lessons with Edwin Klaasen of Desemenzo. He’s charismatic, enthusiastic and energetic, his baking class a thoroughly entertaining performance.
I joined the Fermentation workshop with expert Christian Weij. Lots of stuff we eat is fermented, I learned. All the good stuff – cheese, bread, beer, wine…
Our mini-course was about pickling vegetables. Fortunately I like sauerkraut, ‘zuurkool’ in Dutch. I have a colourful vegetable jar in the kitchen now. I understand I’m supposed to do something to it soon to stop it exploding.
Meanwhile there were lectures on buying and selling locally from food entrepreneur Willem Treep of Willem en Drees. They link local farmers to local outlets – an admirable enterprise and one which is becoming increasingly successful.
Then it was time for the uniquely Dutch part of the festival, the cycling. We all climbed aboard the buses that would take us to where a flotilla of rental bikes was waiting.
And off we rode into the countryside, visiting local farmers, sampling and buying their produce. Our saddlebags were soon full.
Finally we were delivered back to Ede, where in the field behind the former army barracks our chef had been doing his thing with our goodies.
The local wine flowed, we chatted with our new friends and the food, needless to say, was fantastic.
It was truly an excellent event, which Ede should certainly repeat, even when it’s stopped being a taste capital! May the flavour of Ede be this good in 2015 and beyond.