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If you’ve enjoyed any of the posts from this blog, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the Stories from the Soil, Stories from the Sea eating sessions on Friday 19th September in Skibbereen. The event is being organised by ourselves at West Cork LEADER Co-op and is part of the Taste of West Cork Food Festival. We’ll be sitting down to on three occasions during the day to dine on local seasonal food and listen to the personal stories of 2 local producers at each sitting. Diane Curtin will be on hand to guide diners and introduce the speakers. Diane is a journalist and chef and is deeply involved with food in West Cork, particularly through Slow Food. She recently published her own book The  Creators, which combines the life stories of farmers and food producers in West Cork with enjoyable recipes. The breakfast session focuses on fish and we will hear from Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery and Frank Fleming, a fisherman from Crosshaven. Sally is one of Ireland’s most highly acclaimed artisan producers and has been smoking fish in Castletownshend since 1981. She has an unswerving commitment to producing the very highest quality food. Like everyone else involved in seafood though, her business has had to cope with turmoil and uncertainty. Frank Fleming has been fishing with his brother Martin for 24 years. They concentrate largely on catching prawns. Frank has strong views about the future of fishing and is committed to finding positive solutions to many of the industry’s current dilemmas. Lunch will have a bovine theme with talks from Paul Johnson of the Traditional Meat Company and Bill Hogan of West Cork Natural Cheese. Paul rears Dexter cattle on his farm near Dunmanway. Dexters are a rare breed of cattle native to this part of Ireland and as such are uniquely well adapted to live in harmony with our environment. Bill Hogan is one of our foremost cheesemakers, he and Sean Ferry produce Gabriel and Desmond Cheese. Bill is a real champion for the small producer and the importance of food for rural areas. The final session of the day will be afternoon tea, a chance to enjoy some very fine baking and patisserie with Jean Domican from Buns ‘n Stuff in Macroom. Jean will be joined by food historian Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil, who besides writing the fascinating history of Cork’s English Market, also spins a great tale.

Places for each session are limited so I would advise booking early by calling West Cork LEADER Co-op at 023-34035, tickets cost €15 per person.

The Stories sessions will be followed at 5pm by the launch of a new food map of West Cork by West Cork LEADER Co-op. The map presents the area as a photo montage of food and is bursting with colourful images of cheeses, fish, fruits, cattle and fowl. The map will be used by local retailers promoting food from West Cork and will also be available to local schools as an educational resource. As part of the launch I have been asked to present some of the stories from my Food Culture column. This is a free event, so come along if you’d like to hear more about the people I’ve met in researching this column and the part they play in creating such a thriving food culture in West Cork.

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