Cooking At Rallies



You've got to eat and over the years of rallying I've noticed the changes and the types of food taken. I started off taking a small camping gaz cartridge stove and the menu was a tin of Plumrose hot dog sausages, a tin of baked beans and half a loaf of bread. Enough to keep the wolf from the door and that's about it. Not haute cuisine but better than nothing. You then start to notice what other people are doing; frying bacon and eggs and sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms. You try it and you then realise that your cooking stove is totally inadequate and you have to upgrade, but which way do you go? Do you go the whole hog and have the double burner gas stove with grill and gas bottle? Very nice, but then you have to carry it along with all the other equipment you need.

We looked long and hard at all the other types of cookers, primus stoves, solid fuel burners, meths burners and came down to the best solution, the petrol burner. Well you've a supply with you and the flame is very fierce. The only down side is it covers the bottoms of your pans with soot.

Alan Giddens had an ex-American army double burner, nice piece of equipment but a little large. I and several others had ex-British army single burners, still a little large and very heavy but soon we came upon the Optimus single and double burners. Ideal but expensive, the smallest would just fit (tightly) into a Belstaff jacket pocket.

Several food stuffs must have been invented as staple dietary need for rallyists. Must take up little space, must not rot if left in panniers until the following weekend. Those that spring to mind are bacon grill, Smash, Fiesta chow mein/paella and other dried or boil-in-the-bag products. Tinned products that were popular to create quick, one-saucepan meals - tinned potatoes, tinned peas and tinned stewing steak. Then again you could always do without the need to cook at all like the one Tees Tornadoes member who would fetch himself fish and chips twice on the Saturday evening, eating one for his tea and the other cold on Sunday morning.

The continentals are content to eat bread/cheese/fruit/cold meats and watch us Brits with amazement, cracking out the stoves and having a full English. But the best one I ever saw was at the Clover Rally in the early 1970s. A group of lads called The Salop Vikings from Shrewsbury had with them a large ex-army tent and what I can only imagine was a tar boiler complete with 20kg propane bottle, cooking chips in a chip pan. The whole thing came in a box attached to an old BSA.

But I will have to mention the fantastic Chinese/Indonesian meal cooked up for six of us at the Tamar Rally in 1975 by Alan (the Banker) Barclay on two single burners. Well he was a chef and it was planned the weekend previous. Well done that man.

Could it be a sign off the times? At the last English rally I attended some had their own little cliques with barbecues and for others there was a gargantuan burger van offering everything you could think off, while back in time all we had was Yorky's poisonburgers, half warm from a greasy van, topped off with a snarl.

- Les Hobbs


Start of quotation I remember a tale that always makes me laugh when I think about it. I used to ask Les to tell me again the story whenever I needed a smile.

Following a lovely boozy night, a few pals felt hungry late at night and were 'cooking' by dim light in the tent. They all pooled their supplies into one big pan, potatoes, stew etc and it was being stirred by the Banker. Whilst stirring, the Banker came across a large lump which he pushed to one side in the pan to save for himself.

He bit down hard on it in the dark. Much to the amusement of everyone in the tent, his wife had put a pan scourer in the pan to help with the cleaning. I suppose it could have been worse...
it could have been a Brillo soap pad!

- Pat Keedwell

Start of quotation Anyone remember the "Tilley Texan" grill? Several members used them, you couldn't do Onion toast without one. It was one of the most useful camping stoves ever designed. End of quotation

- Rob Winnett

Start of quotation Interesting that the Salop Vikings used propane. We used the more common butane and on winter rallies it was difficult to get the gas to vaporise. Before we could cook breakfast we had to stuff the gas bottles into Terry Riddle's sleeping bag. That was one way to wake him. End of quotation

- Ben Crossley

Start of quotation All you need is a small butane stove, a pair of pliers, a couple of cans of Newcastle Brown and a couple of pot noodles.

Open your can and drink half. Heat up the rest, holding the can with the pliers, and pour into your pot noodle. Job done.

Don't use curry flavour. It tastes terrible with Newcastle. End of quotation

- The Black Russian

Start of quotation I was at a rally on the last bank holiday and was sat eating my Pot Noodle and drinking my Newcastle Brown when I realised I have been taking the same provisions to rallies for over 35 years the only difference is that I no longer mix them together (well not externally anyway).

I wonder how many Not Poodles and Nuclear Browns I have consumed over the years? End of quotation

- Russ Shand

Interesting question Russ. Let's make an estimate for rallying in general:

Average 100 riders per rally ...
One Pot Noodle a day. ...
Two days at a rally ...
Number of rallies based on number of badges ...

100 X 1 x 2 X 

... and a few Olympic swimming pools of Newcastle Brown!

Start of quotation This is not rally cooking but rally food. In the early 80s because of work I always set off on the Saturday my provisions were. Two Mars Bars, two cans of Coke, one apple.

The evenings went like this....

Put tent up,
Consume Mars Bar,
Sample beer,
Drink Coke to stave off dehydration,
Go to bed.

Sunday mornings...

Drink Coke,
Eat Mars Bar,
Eat apple to keep the doctor away,
Ride home for an evening snack.

Later on Maggie came on the scene. She said "you're not eating enough." A bag of nuts were added to the menu.

After that Maggie learnt to ride & started attending rallies. This meant I could no longer get away without eating 'proper meals.'

That folks is where my 28" waist went. End of quotation

- Dave Cooper

Wasn't that the regular treatment for tapeworm?

Start of quotation My recollection of Rally cooking is Tony Nightingale (Fat Rabbit) and his Primus Cooker, or the jet engine. This thing produced such an inferno it was bugger all use for cooking. Everything you cooked was charcoal on the outside & completely raw on the inside. Its saving grace was that it would boil water in seconds for the morning brew.

Tony always made his tea in his tankard. It got a bit cold on fine January mornings so he decided to warm it up on the stove & promptly melted his tankard base. End of quotation

- Mark Mingay