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Archive for August 25th, 2008

On Thursday last my colleague Jean and I enjoyed an opportunity to show off a bit of West Cork to two visiting Italian journalists on a familiarisation trip organised by Failte Ireland – Gabriele Zanatta from Milan and Massimiliano Rella from Rome. They were accompanied by Kinsale based Italian speaking guide Marguerite Condon. We kicked off at the Kinsale Wine Museum where we had an excellent guided introduction to Desmond Castle, the Fitzgerald family and the winegeese. From there we stopped in to chat with Paul McBride and Iain Flynn about their growing food business. I was delighted to hear that they are looking at moving to a larger premises to handle the growth in demand and get their excellent meals out to more shops.

Oriental clams at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

This was followed by a delicious lunch al fresco at Fishy Fishy Cafe. I had the clams with ginger and sweet chili sauce (see pic). The two guys were very interested in the area and the local food, particularly seafood. Chef and proprietor, Martin Shanahan joined us when we had finished eating and shared his thoughts on fish. Now that he is running two businesses he finds that he cannot spend as much time in the kitchen as previously. “Part of my role now has to be teaching. The most important part of the business is buying the fish and I will never give that up. I go to Skibbereen for the fish auction nearly every morning and also buy directly from about 10 local boats. In the last 10 years fish has become a global commodity, it wasn’t like that before but now generic white fish can be flown in for a fixed price at any time of the year from Chile, Thailand or elsewhere.

Martin Shanahan, chef & proprietor at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

Martin Shanahan, chef & proprietor at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

 For me fish is a gift, not a product. It’s not guaranteed what you’ll catch on any trip. You must treat it like a gift. It’s very important that we support our local fishermen. If this generation stops fishing, then that’s it, they won’t go back to it and we’ll have no more fresh fish. What we’ll be eating will be like plastic. We won’t know where it comes from.”

We left Martin and took the coast road to Kinsale, pulling up at Garretstown to get a sense of beach life on an overcast summer’s day. This surf lesson created a lovely splash of yellow against the gathering rain clouds.

Surf lesson at Garretstown Beach

Surf lesson at Garretstown Beach

 

Anthony Creswell met us at Ummera Smoked Products in Timoleague and gave our visitors a run through the process of smoking salmon. Anthony is fairly confident that we don’t need to go to Norway or Scotland to trace the roots of fish smoking in Ireland. “Smoking to preserve fish caught in times of plenty would have been practised all around the coast. All you needed was salt, which we did import in large quantities. Of course the smoked fish they produced then was quite different from this. It would have been extremely salty and much drier to last through the winter months. They’d eat it when there was nothing better to be had.” Happily, the same could not be said of the Ummera smoked salmon and gravad lax that Anthony treated us to!

(You can watch Anthony talking to ifoods.tv here.)

Jean, Masimiliano, Anthony, Gabriele and Marguerite pictured at Ummera Smokehouse

Jean, Masimiliano, Anthony, Gabriele and Marguerite pictured at Ummera Smokehouse

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I meant to post this right after the event. It’s not really news now, but for anyone who missed the public meeting regarding the Clonakilty market last week (and that won’t be many I know), it was tremendously positive. Over 90 people attended, most had to stand at the back of the room, some were left in the corridor, listening attentively. Mick Hanly, chaired and very well too – if there had been any dissenting voices in the room it was clear that he would have been up to the task of affording them space to be heard. But as he said himself “The first thing you find out if you’re going to a duck shoot in West Cork is ‘who’s the duck?'”. There was no-one present willing to put a case against the market. The absence of the 4 who voted against the proposal was a real source of dissappointment, even anger, for most of those in the room. The feeling was that the people of the town had elected these people to represent the interests of the town not themselves. It’s fair to say that there was a high degree of frustration among many at the meeting at the ability of a few individuals to block what appears to be the will of everyone else. Even the Mayor, Michael O’Regan, who had missed the vote, was prepared to say that no-one in Clonakilty was opposed to the market in principle. One or two of the traders expressed their cynicism about local authorities and argued that the only way forward was to force the issue through continued trading on the basis of ancient market rights. I do not think this is the way to go. For one thing, a victory for this initiative would defeat the Casual Trading Act and result in an unregulated market – anyone could come in and sell anything, without paying any license fee. It would not be the food market that Clonakilty wants. And besides, local democracy can only work if people are willing to make it work rather than try and exploit weaknesses in legislation to subvert it. I’m glad to say that this was the outcome of the meeting. It was agreed to send a delegation to present the market proposal again and that the coucillors present would all support a new motion. The town council meeting to discuss the motion will be held next Tuesday September 2 in the Town Hall at 7pm and as Cllr Anthony McDermot said “There’s nothing like people power”. There is an open invitation for people to attend and observe the meeting (some 30 can be seated, but more could show their support outside the meeting). Attendees cannot speak but the 3 person delegation will have the opportunity to represent the views of the townspeople as expressed at the public meeting. See my post above for details of the motion.

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