“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” Julia Child
Yesterday was Snact‘s baptism of fire: we had our first stab at making snacks in a commercial kitchen on a larger scale. It wasn’t a raging success but it was the first of many snack-making sessions at which we’ll only get better. So what did it take?
Two crucial ingredients
To make this happen, we needed two things: a professional kitchen and a lot of fruit. Finding a suitable kitchen wasn’t easy. But we managed to find one near Battersea Park, conveniently located a short walk from New Covent Garden Market where we get our produce. Convenient, at least, until we realised we had to carry 45 kilos of fruit to it at 6.30 am for 1/2 mile – which doesn’t seem like much but my back and arms will vouch for the pain. Finding the fruit wasn’t an issue: we bought apples, bananas, raspberries and mangoes, though the mangoes were, sadly, all rotten.
We started at 4pm (that’s when the kitchen was free from) by sorting through 10 kilos of raspberries. We then moved on to cutting and cooking some apples into purée, and blending bananas. We made three blends: raspberry & apple, raspberry & banana, and banana & apple.
We felt pretty chuffed with ourselves when we managed to pop those in the oven by 7.30pm. We went for a quick wander to the corner shop but came back to find our snacks rather different than when we’d left them shortly before… That’s when the evening took a left turn.
Some parts were burnt, others looked diseased. We panicked, thinking that maybe our raspberries were unedible but upon closer inspection we realised they’d been contaminated by leftover grease on the baking trays. And that the ovens were cooking them unevenly. The damage was mostly aesthetic but it was done.
What followed were 3 frantic hours of tray cleaning, fruit sorting, rinsing, chopping, more cleaning and mashing to make new blends. I’ve never seen 3 hours go by so quickly. Going into this, we thought we’d have hours of sitting around waiting for our snacks to slowly bake in the oven before rolling them into the finished product. I even brought my laptop to do other work and Mike brought a book…. How naïve we were! From 11pm to 4.30am – the time at which we finally wrapped up – we didn’t sit down once.
Reflecting on the 12 hour cookathon
We were knackered. In the early hours of the morning when we were about to go home, I think we both felt rather defeated by the whole process. But it’s funny how different you can feel about an experience in hindsight. The next day, as I’m writing this blog, I feel amazed and happy at what we achieved. This was after all the first time either of us tried to manufacture food products on a big(ger) scale. We didn’t make as many snacks as we’d hoped, and we had to throw some away… which in the context of what we’re doing is obviously heartbreaking. But it allowed us to test our process, start learning the rules of the game, eat a lot of fruit leather off-cuts (to keep us going) and most importantly, produce a decent amount of delicious snacks.
Our ambition for the coming weeks is to distribute samples to as many people as possible for feedback. So give us a shout for a snact attack (or if you have a kitchen full of dehydrators or state-of-the-art ovens you’d like to generously share with us, even better).
And we’ll keep on exploring the worlds of food-making and creating a better food system. We’ve already met some more really cool people along the way like Tom from Rejuce who makes juices with fruit surplus; the guys at Brixton Brewery who brew 3 local Brixton beers; and the Beyond Food Foundation who work with vulnerable groups to give them the opportunity to build a better future through apprenticeship programmes at the Brigade near London Bridge.
There are so many interesting things that can done with what we have come to see as waste in our society, food or otherwise – something I’ll write about in a future blog…. In the meantime, I’ll keep on baking & rolling.