Some of you know that I am a complete and utter foodie and cooking nut. When I began developing the lodge with Murray there was so much to do, so many possibilities as the camp was more or less a blank canvas. The one major drawback was the kitchen. A mud hut with a thatch roof, river stones on the floor and poor lighting, it was a very difficult environment for us to get excited about food in and I used to go to bed at night, dreaming of the day I would be able to build a better one. Once the major infrastructure was in place, my priorities became very clear, very early on: Create a lodge for families and small groups of people who wanted to commune in nature and have adventures that brought them closer to the earth, grow our own food, make our own honey, rear our own animals to be entirely self-sufficient and when those things were in place, save whatever we earned and build the most beautiful, airy kitchen I could muster this side of the Equator! And so we did, it took years but it made such a difference to our kitchen team, the motivation they felt, the inspiration for menus, the communal feeling that developed where guests come in and chat as we cook, learn our recipes and feel welcome.
As the years have progressed, I've probably designed about 1000 menus, tested I don't know how many cook books and videos and been given free and magical licence to try out my food and ideas on our guests and our team - all willing and consenting I should add.
There are some limits to what you can do in this environment compared with others: some foods are too expensive or unsustainable to buy, some ingredients just don't exist, but none of those things limit us in any way because our focus is eating fresh, seasonal and local. Kenya's remarkable climate and rich soil offers so many possibilities to green fingered foodies. We mix our own soil now for our beds using silt, top soil, compost, rabbit, chicken and sheep poo. This has proved to be just as successful in our smaller raised beds as using the slurry, compost, soil mix up at our larger garden near the farm HQ, where a small calf-friendly dairy makes slurry and cow manure easy to come by.
We are so fortunate to be able to grow incredible chemical free vegetables, to harvest our own honey, lamb, eggs and in some cases chickens and I have been no more grateful than right now as we are in lock down to protect our community and we cannot move out of the conservancy.
In 'normal' times, what we cannot grow ourselves, we work closely with local suppliers producing organic food like the wonderful family run Farmer Max Products that provide us with plump, happy chickens and Highland Castle Pork down in the Burgeret about 50 kms from here who bring us sausages and bacon from their happy, organic pigs. We take great care to understand the provenance, but also great pride in being able to support local entrepreneurs doing great things in our community through our small business. These linkages are so powerful when it comes to uplifting communities in regions like ours and It is the heart of what we do. Small business is everything.
So back to our video. I am in the middle of finishing a cook book and my team have been so patient as I juggle this with the millions of other projects we set ourselves, hosting clients, ferrying our bush kids to their school in the local town 1.5 hours away. It's 2 years and it's still being written, but it's fun and fulfilling and the question now is how do I stop writing....
With that I feel really indebted to my kitchen team, we have essentially grown up together, taking our tiny little eco camp to a reputed safari lodge known for its food and charm, it's authenticity and adventure. So now it was time to give back. For those who could not be in my kitchen, I decided to make them some videos to teach them any new offerings we were producing here to test, so they didn't feel they were missing out!
Well, apparently making a video requires Goddess-like patience from us all, arms the length of a chimpanzee, serious organisation and preparation and then a total lack of vanity when you realise your face is crooked and asymmetrical, your voice sounds like a school teacher from the 1950's and there's a serious possibility that this could be used as a training video for what not to ever do in a kitchen or on camera. Oh I also worry that Maggie and Janie look like they've been forced into this because none of us are comfortable talking to a camera yet...just breathe....Oh dear....
But as it is we had a shed load of fun, have a little bit of content to share with our agents who really need our input and support and it gives us all another little part of our routine to fulfil every few days and plenty of food for our hard working team members who remain to eat.
You can look out for our next cooking video on our El Karama Lodge You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=el+karama+eco+lodge+