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It’s been a long summer of surging about the country in Transits, catering in fields, getting weird and sleeping rough. As autumn crept in, Simon Luard (of Luardos fame) had another gig for me that saw us heading back to the West Country and back into the festival spirit. We were going to Dorset, to make lunch for disc golfers. I knew very little of the sport, other than it was long-distance Frisbee and that Simon had a long history in the game. Penelope Mercer, my favourite florist, was in the Transit with us and unreasonably excited about seeing some golf. We left London at 6:30am with our first destination being Yeovil Booker. Booze, Snickers and other essentials were bundled into the van before we’d even called break for breakfast.

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We were staying in the summer house of a farm in Whitcombe. The farm is home to one of the country’s handful of 18 hole disc golf courses and that weekend it was hosting the top 16 players in the UK for their end-of-season match-play tournament. It was going to be a direct knock-out ranking event. When we arrived the trophy was on the table amongst papers and plastic pint cups and there was a neatly designed tree diagram of the clashes to come. I’d soon find out that I’d already been out-catered as there was a cask of beer outside from nearby Yeovil Ales. Alongside this was a box of beer from the same place: two styles of Black Country ale – these were my kind of sportsmen.

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As we settled on the Friday evening, players arrived and work on the beer began. Far from the world of popular sports, these people were decent humans – full of good humour and genuine enthusiasm. Aside from being majority male, the golfers were from all walks of life. I only got vague ideas of people’s jobs because they mainly talked about discs, but we definitely had a farmer, a student and street food trader competing against each other. Dedication to the sport came in the form of a couple named Lena and Steve. They met in Thailand then moved to Sweden, Lena’s home country. Sweden is big on disc golf and so was Lena. Steve got hooked and has recently won the UK amateur division. Their story was lovely, but the main impression came from Lena’s craft with cake. Her contribution to the weekend was a huge iced sponge cake detailed with a disc golf bag, that even had hand-shaped sugar Frisbees; if catering was a competitive sport, I was 2-0 down.

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The Saturday began with some tension, as I was distracted by various projects left to ferment in London but completely cut off from my phone and the demon Internet. Still, we began butternut squash and bacon stew using a base I’d already prepped – loads of carrot, celery, onions and garlic with some treacle cured bacon from the Cheshire Smokehouse. We added some pre-roasted squash and things were coming together nicely. The plan was to add some chicken and more liquid and we’d have a very quick stew. The chicken came out of a freezer and was frozen fresh so we thought nothing of trouble until we’d started cooking it and noticed a funk in the air.
‘I really don’t like the smell of this chicken. Very weird.’
‘Smells like pork scratchings. Bad ones.’
We cooked it off separately and stared the dish of odd, maybe off, meat down. The stew looked and tasted great but still needed the bulking of the meat.
‘I can’t take this, I’m going to get dressed.’ I left the kitchen and got myself refreshed for the last push. I’d settled that there was no chance I was taking a risk on chicken. When I returned I found Penelope stirring the pot.
‘I’ve put like half the chicken in. Not sure it needs all of it.’
‘I’ve thought about it and that chicken is almost certainly off. Or will probably taste terrible either way.’ I tasted a piece and it was truly fucking gross. Penelope welled with tears, had a little self-curse and started frantically picking out the chicken. I had to do some light calming and rationalising of the situation.
‘Pel. If we think the chicken is off, the stew is contaminated. We can’t use it.’ So we gathered ourselves and went big for black beans.

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The menu was pulled together from various sources, from Luardos leftovers to Booker basics. Penciled in for the Sunday was a black bean and chorizo stew but it had to quickly become Saturday’s lunch. Due to the convenience of the prep, we pulled the thing together in about half an hour. We had some black bean soup made by Luardo’s Max (fine caterer), some cooking chorizo, roasted red beets, more pre-cooked black beans and various seasonings. We served it with a swirl of chipotle sour cream and smoked paprika toasted pumpkin seeds. The lone veggie (Hippie Dan) got pumpkin and carrot soup and, due to ‘portioning difficulties’, so did the last four or five people through the doors.

‘I’m never doing this again. I can’t take it.’ I debriefed with Simon and he talked us through his day. He was winning at that point but the second session saw a one-shot loss (to the eventual champion) that put him down the table. Still, he was in a position to finish as high as 5th. Simon is always in high spirits and my flushed cheeks just made him laugh. This man has catered Glastonbury and there I was fucking up lunch for 30. By the evening everything was fine, as I reflected on the catering mantra of ‘solutions, not problems,’ and smoked a joint. Without the fog of being really fucked off about everything I realised that in reality I’d encountered a problem, catered my way out of it and should really be assured that I can cater anything. With that, and several beers, the weekend turned around and I was able to embrace the warmth of a fine bunch people brought together by a shared love of tossing plastic discs into chain baskets. The Saturday night was complete as the organisers had ordered the most enormous takeaway curry I’d ever been party too and we settled in by the fire. Only one thing bothered me – I’d marveled at the kit and been wowed by a great bit of cake making but I’d still not seen The Thing.

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Due to Saturday’s emergency measures Sunday’s lunch service had an obvious issue, but one we could embrace. The issue was that we didn’t have any food due to the broken stew of Saturday. Whilst the golfers were on the course Penelope and I took to the country road and headed into town. What we didn’t particularly expect was that the local fruit and veg place would be closed. I channeled my inner THC levels and stayed calm: we’ll just go down the Co-op and at least try to buy British. The shop was the same as anywhere in the UK, stocked with the same old reliable shit. We left with all of the things necessary for a spiced carrot and squash stew.

This lunch went without a hitch. We served the squash stew with a topping of crumbled Nduja and pumpkin seeds, alongside cheese and oregano quesadillas. Penelope even made time for a wonderful apple crumble to which I only contributed some cinnamon caramelised cashews. She really is a wonderful caterer when she doesn’t worry. We settled that today we’re just going to have a quick wipe down and get out into the fields and follow the final round of matches. We’d head out with Simon’s group and watch his match with the wonderfully named Jester. Si had retained his form and could finish fifth with a final round win.

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The course was beautiful – spread across rolling hills and through gnarly woodland were various ‘tees’ and ‘holes’. We watched with fascination as men of varying ages and persuasions flung their chosen discs with power and accuracy towards chain baskets in the distance. Unlike the other golf, this sport doesn’t avoid the rough. The hills are steep, the hazards are frequent and there’s no dress code. The quality of our group was great, with some fine play from everyone involved. The two ties were tight but Simon came out on top in his. There was positive sportsmanship on show all round, with the guys all helping each other find their lost discs and genuine appreciation of good play. On our approach to the summerhouse after the hike, we realised we were there just in time to see the last shots of the final between young James Luton and the elder statesman of the British game Derek Robins.

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What we witnessed here was the crowning of James as the number 1 of the weekend and Derek losing one of his favourite discs to a pond. The tournament awards followed on the terrace of the summerhouse. The highlights included Lena receiving the ‘Spirt of the Game’ award for her cake and James picking up a trophy he’d long coveted. In a strange twist we also picked up an award, but I forget the title. Let’s say we won at catering. Our reward was our very own tournament discs, just in case we’d really fallen for the sport and were about to start tossing ourselves. To be honest, the weekend was just so pleasant and people so kind that I’d almost be tempted to get involved. But as we well know, you can’t play and cater and my hands are best kept in the kitchen.

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