River Cottage: A Video Reflection

Not sure it translates in the video above, but I am surprised John’s microphone didn’t pick up the audible buzz of my childlike excitement. Sitting now, aboard my return trip from England, my thoughts reflect on the many blessings that aligned this trip. I first crossed this same pond half-planned and cautiously ready to improvise. Comfort rested in the knowledge that the portion of my soul I can only describe as a “traveler” had surprised me with her returned presence. She was very palpable during my early twenties, but snoozed in my late, allowing me to instead focus on the gift of responsibility – learning to cook, getting married, starting a small business and everything else that fills our days. Yet, she returned, to grace me with her presence, once again. She saw experiences I wanted to have, people I wanted to meet, and I welcomed her return. Hello England.

The coolest thing about traveling is heightened awareness. Because so many things are different, the mind must analyze everything anew. Simple things like flushing the toilet and paying for coffee require some figuring out, along with the accomplishment of successfully doing so. The mind gets sharpened, and confidence in one’s own ability to “wing it” becomes strengthened. When private cheffing, a client sometimes dramatically changes things up on me at the very last minute, forcing quick thinking, my only other day-to-day experience reminscent of the growth attained by traveling.

Here I am below, visiting the downtown Axminster River Cottage Canteen, the morning before our visit to the actual farm; you may pick up on the steadily increasing excitement of a dream becoming reality. I’m like a translucent bubble of gum a hair’s breathe away from bursting.

Seeing a vision through to completion is quite addictive. From the first moment I realized that River Cottage could actually become a reality, this bubble gum excitement began. River Cottage is a farm experience created by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and team. Hugh, a celebrity chef in England, is deeply committed to improving the sustainability of the world’s food supply. He does so by growing his own food and inviting others to visit his farm for dinners, cooking classes and various events. John and I were signed up to attend a Saturday Night Dinner on the farm, and I would stay in town for a Fish Course the following Tuesday.

We spent all Saturday afternoon in anticipation of our dinner meandering around Lyme-Regis, a small coastal town near Axminster. A stream runs to the ocean through the center of town, shown in the video below…

We explored the coast and entertained ourselves, as shown in John’s video below, proudly self-titled “The World’s Tiniest Volcano.”

And on the upper deck of a two-story bus that barely skimmed below the strong limbs of the tree-lined streets, John took this video on our ride back to the Hedgehog Corner B&B.

The clock chimed River Cottage and as the taxi dropped us off, we saw a fire burning in a metal barrel next to a shed where the others awaited a ride down the hill for dinner. Our bright red noses absorbed the chill, and we quietly talked with those we knew before hearing the roar of our unexpected ride – a gigantic blue tractor pulling a large tented trailer. A gigantic transporter of people…

Greeted at the bottom by a smiling River Cottage face named Mark, we were invited into a Yurt, wood-burning fire in the center, bales of hay covered with animal skins for seating and most importantly, more friendly faces passing out bits of local sausage for dipping into homemade mustard and glasses of local Elderflower bubbly with two stiffly brandied cherries dunked below. Oh my!

I’d briefly describe dinner as unique, nourishing and perfectly seasoned. I passionately hurled my typical diet out the window and enjoyed every bit of the following, washed down with some more Elderflower bubbly and a bit of red wine.

Waldorf Salad, River Cottage Style

Home-cured Bacon, Apple, Celery, Candied Walnuts, Watercress and Blue Cheese Dressing

Black Ink Risotto topped with Marinated Grilled Cuttlefish

Haunch of Venison

Braised Shoulder and Offal Stew, Celeriac and Roast Onion Puree, Buttered January King Cabbage

Chocolate and Cider Brandy Tart (holy smokes, was this good!)

Chantilly Cream, Blood Orange Salad and Candied Peel

Coffee and Petite 4’s (aka more chocolate!)

Sitting at two long country tables, the diverse, yet like-minded conversations of those similarly drawn to this experience increased in volume with each passing course, eventually offering a roar nearly competing with the deafening growl of the monstrous tractor who soon returned to transfer us back up the hill.

I was up till 2am after all that chocolate and coffee, grinning at the ceiling, thinking about how much I like dreaming something up and then figuring out how to live it. In closing, if you wish, I welcome hearing a culinary dream that you might have – one you’ve already lived or maybe one you’d like to try. I’ve still got 4 hours left to this marathon flight, and I’m all ears…

xo – Organic Spark

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