The broadcaster, author and adventurer shares fond memories of Doll noodle sandwiches and eating 10,000 calories a day while rowing across the Atlantic.
Ben Fogle, 43, found fame in 2000 after he took part in the BBC reality show Castaway. Since then he has presented programmes including Crufts, Extreme Dreams and the award-winning Through Hell and High Water. In 2005 he rowed across the Atlantic Ocean with the Olympian James Cracknell in 49 days, setting the British pairs record. Ben took part in a race, on foot, in Antarctica to get to the South Pole in 2009, and in 2013 he and James crossed the Empty Quarter in the Arabian Peninsula on camels. Ben’s bestselling books include The Crossing and Race to the Pole. He lives in London with his wife Marina and their children Ludo and Iona.
Childhood food memories
My first food memory was when I was six.
I was obsessed with banana sandwiches: banana sliced and stuck between two slices of brown bread, no butter. I specifically remember eating carefully stacked sandwiches on a little paper plate in a tree house in Canada. My paternal grandparents lived in Ontario so we went out for eight weeks every summer, and a big part of my childhood was spent on the shores of a lake where my grandfather had built a cottage.
Doll noodle sandwiches are what I remember most from school meals.
Doll noodles came in a hard block with a sachet of seasoning. If you had a kettle you could make them in two seconds, so even a 15-year-old boy who didn’t have a clue how to cook could do it. I went to Bryanston in Dorset and the catering was amazing, but I was a typical growing boy with a massive appetite and starving the whole time. Doll noodle sandwiches were what we’d make between meals. We would wedge the noodles into a cup, pour on boiling water and then, having drained off as much of the liquid as possible, eat between two slices of bread.
My mum used to do the most amazing spaghetti Bolognese.
She would let it stew for a long time and it would sit, bubbling away. We lived above my dad’s veterinary clinic and to get to our house, you had to walk through reception and past Dad’s consulting room. An abiding memory is coming in to animal smells and then the distinct smell of Mum’s spaghetti Bolognese which was, and still is, one of my favourites.
- Check out our recipe for the best spaghetti Bolognese.
When James Cracknell and I were rowing across the Atlantic, we ate rehydrated food that comes in a sachet.
When you’re using up nearly 10,000 calories a day you’re just concerned about getting enough food, you don’t really care about taste. We took along a couple of bags of army-ration stew that we saved for Christmas Day and they tasted delicious.
On expeditions I crave comfort food like cottage pie and hamburger and chips.
I’m often filming in countries where there is amazing food, in India, Sri Lanka and Guatemala. When I go to a restaurant I always order whatever is local. If I’m near the sea, I only ever order seafood. If I’m out in London, I like to have something that we can’t or don’t make at home, such as Indian or Ethiopian food. I will tend to go for whatever the restaurant recommends rather than just my favourites.
When my wife has gone out with friends or is working late...
I have been known to make myself up an expedition meal at home through laziness and, out of context, they taste like dog food.
- For more information about eating for endurance activities see our eat like an athelete guides.
The first meal I ever made for Marina was from a recipe given to me by my great friend Kate Humble.
It was salmon and salad. I poached the salmon and cut the salad. Although I love food, I’m not a good cook. Marina has never really let me cook since, so I don’t think it was particularly memorable for her!
The current household favourite is chicken soup.
We often also have chicken in salads and with pasta. My dream breakfast is a slice of toast with butter and honey. I’ve been keeping bees for about eight months and I’m hoping they are going to thank me for my careful management with a bumper harvest. We live between London and a little cottage near Henley where I keep the bees. I’d like chickens, too, as soon as we move out of London. Then I can have freshly laid eggs for breakfast.
- Try our roast chicken soup recipe.
I last cooked a few nights ago.
Marina does antenatal classes, so I’m often home alone in the evenings. I did some fresh pasta – I didn’t make it myself, I’m afraid – with mozzarella, pesto sauce, cherry tomatoes and some basil and chilli.
My last supper would be...
A massive plate of Mum’s spaghetti Bolognese with lots of parmesan.
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