Intrigued about what teenagers can learn from Root Camp? We caught up with Root Camp’s founder, Cassia Kidron, to chat about her motivations, memories and more.
A I was approached by Mossad to be a spy. Most people think I declined…
Q Where did the name ‘Root Camp’ come from?
A My son came up with the idea. There’s the obvious vegetable association, but also the idea of taking root in life, which is so potent for this age group (15 to 21 year-olds).
Also, the rhyme with ‘boot camp’ seemed to fit – muddy teenagers coming back from a rigorous morning in the field, the exertion and camaraderie.
Q What inspired you to start the Root Camp project?
A My teenage children couldn’t cook, despite my own interest in food and cooking. Our excuse was the pressures of academic work – exams and so on. It just seemed easier and fairer to provide the meals rather than add to the workload.
I worried about how our kids would survive in out there in the world, and then I thought, ‘well, maybe other parents are in this situation too’. So I created Root Camp with the idea to connect field and fork in a vital hands-on way.
Q It’s a potentially life-changing experience for young people. Are there any particularly special Root Camp memories you’d like to share?
A On the last night of Root Camp we make a fire and sit around it. Sometimes we sing and play instruments.
On this particular fire night everyone was quiet, watching the flames and a little sad to be leaving. One student recited a poem she’d written, a few people followed with little speeches or observations.
Then the ‘naughty’ guy of the group stood up and I thought ‘where’s this going to go – will it be another challenge?’ But he surprised me by saying, ‘this has been the best week of my life; I’ll miss you guys’. And then he turned up his music and started break dancing.
Q Give us your top three reasons why parents should choose Root Camp for their kids.
A I’d condense it like this:
1. Kids will learn to cook. Not in a regimented way but through experience. We teach by making incredible meals together that we share with guests. When they leave they have a different approach to food. As one of our students put it, ‘I saw this fish in the local market; I didn’t know which kind it was but I thought ‘I’ll buy that fish and work it out’.’
2. Kids make nettle soup and eat celeriac. We explore ingredients; introduce unusual veg and spice up cabbage. Kids become clearer about the effort and knowledge it takes to grow things, so they value produce more and don’t waste it.
3. Kids will have a good time. They live and work closely with their fellow students, and meet adults who are passionate and committed about their area of expertise – be it forestry, foraging, cooking or beekeeping – and about Root Camp as a force for change.
Q There’s a lot of emphasis on teaching young people about good food. Which lessons do you think are most important to instil?
A Cooking from scratch, however simple the dish, is empowering. It’s an act of creation, knowledge and independence. And it’s also an act of generosity to oneself and to others. To break it down into key points:
- Fast food can be healthy, and slow food can be quick to prepare (just slow to cook).
- Know what’s in your dish. Too much salt, sugar and fat are palate killers, as well as being bad for your health.
- A just-plucked tomato doesn’t need dressing, and you don’t need meat and fish for a hearty meal.
Q What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from working on this project?
A That discussing the question is as important as knowing the answer.
James Markey, Retail Graduate
Follow the link to find out more about this summer’s courses: http://www.rootcamp.co.uk/courses.php