It seems an unlikely place to start a revolution: a tiny island off the coast of far west Cork, inhabited by less than 30 people and without even pub to call its own. And yet Heir Island is now home to the Firehouse Bakery and Bread School, headquarters of Patrick Ryan’s self-styled Bread Revolution, one which you can read all about in his book of the same name, or, better still, which you can discover for yourself by making the trip to West Cork and taking one of Patrick’s bread-making courses. Lucky me, then, to be invited to do exactly that last weekend, and what a joy it was.
I was extremely tempted to post this picture, along with a note that said simply “gone fishin’.”
And fishing is exactly what I was doing yesterday from a boat such as this, at the very edge of West Cork in Roaringwater Bay, on a day when the bay, thankfully, did not live up to its noisy moniker. It was, instead, a picture of grace and calm, interrupted only by the occasional flip-flopping of a freshly caught mackerel, each of whom had clearly had other plans for the day before becoming hooked and then briefly, and gloriously, airborne, followed by a final plop into the communal holding bucket. Baked, later, in the embers of a wood-fired clay oven on Heir Island, there could have been nothing sweeter to eat than those fish. It was the kind of food – and the kind of day – that sends you to bed happy.
Well now, this is clearly not so much Spud Sunday as it is Tuber Tuesday. Sorry to keep yiz all waiting but, in my defence, I offer up two words: Electric Picnic.
The mammoth festival of music, comedy, craft and sheer spirit, which made its annual descent onto the midlands village of Stradbally this past weekend, is one which draws you into another world for three days, where nights last forever, days start slowly, and wellies are de rigeur. Spending the weekend as a judge for the food awards at the event – which prides itself (among other things) on bringing a better standard of festival food to the 30,000+ electric picknickers – might just be the jammiest gig in town. Suffice to say that I didn’t need to be asked twice if I wanted the job and, along with the legend that is John McKenna of the Irish Food Guide, we munched and crunched our way through the best of the festival grub and deliberated over who was dishing up the good stuff. Given the quality, range and value that was on offer, it was a tough job. Really. Whether it was the hearty, seafood-filled Rathmullan coddle from Rathmullan House in Donegal or the sausage and egg breakfast baps from Offaly-based Organic Kitchen or the honeycomb ice cream from Featherbed Farm in Wexford or just about anything from the local ladies of the Stradbally Country Market, there was plenty to please the picnic-going tastebuds.