When we chose West Cork, we had no idea we were landing in Foodie Heaven: or rather, a former Foodie Heaven. The recession has hit local producers and fine dining establishments, many of which have closed.
The ‘Fuchsia Brand’ website – Fuchsia is the ubiquitous hedgerow flower hereabouts – a kind of West Cork quality assurance organization for local produce, hasn’t been updated since 2008, although other websites point to farmers’ markets and food festivals. The West Cork Artisan Awards website explains the West Cork food signature thus: It is the individual flourish in an artisan’s way of working that brings forth the best in everything, whether it’s the best loaf of bread, the best farmhouse cheese, the best potatoes, or the best beef. This is the West Cork way: a way of life first, a business second.
Whatever about the wonderful local cheeses, the yoghurt and sausages, what we have found here is that food tastes fresh and homegrown in a way I had almost forgotten in Canada. In the presence of new potatoes I believe in God, and my faith has been given a boost here with a bag of potatoes from Saturday’s Skibbereen market freshly dug that morning. The woman at the fish stall filleted a whole plaice for us and we bought some tiny round squash, about the size of hurling sliotars (like an American baseball). Saturday night’s dinner – delicious!
An Irish staple is boiled bacon and cabbage. I adapted that idea to a hearty soup with a base of leeks and lashings of root vegetables (squash, parsnips, beets, carrots and potatoes) and a great slab of green (unsmoked) bacon. We’ve been eating it for days now, with brown soda bread and aged Gubeen cheese.
We have found excellent coffee almost everywhere we go, often accompanied by scones or lemon drizzle cake. On a recent trip to the Mizen we stopped at The Gateway Restaurant in Durrus for coffee and were seduced by their pear and chocolate tort: the perfect end to an afternoon meandering around the coast of West Cork .