Wild and Slow 2012 in Macreddin Village
Last weekend I went up the windy Wicklow roads to Macreddin Village in Wicklow to briefly check out the Wild And Slow festival being held there. Now, the closest I’ve ever come to foraging is picking blackberries but I was curious to find out what it was all about, and any excuse to go to Brooklodge is good in my book. Now, in real life, I’m all about quick and easy as opposed to wild and slow but I was curious about the concept and wanted to see what it was all about.
The weekend event consisted of dinners, workshops and a food market street with various stalls, and attendance was only €5 each day for as many workshops as you liked. Due to other plans and only finding out about this at the last minute I only managed to get to Darina Allen’s talk. She covered a lot of what’s in her “Forgotten Skills of Cooking” book in her informal talk and the hall was almost full to capacity as she talked about preservation of food and reminisced about her childhood in County Laois. For one thing, the talk was the nudge I needed to get the big green book down off the (overloaded) cookbook shelves and have a rummage through it.
Talks that I missed include one by Ross Lewis of Chapter 1, Ed Hick whose stall was giving samples of venison jam, and one that came highly recommended on beekeeping. Next time maybe.
Darina presented her talk with some handwritten notes and went from topic to topic with ease. She was passionate about waste and told a story of being in the Ballymaloe kitchen at about 11pm one night when her mother in law Myrtle was going through the fridges and noted that some raspberries wouldn’t last the night, so she directed Darina to make some jam. Her daughter in law was surprised but followed the direction and said that she was amazed how easy it was. One tip Darina passed on was that she never uses “jam sugar” when making jam as it makes an over-set jam that’s no better than shop bought jam. She regaled us with anecdotes about gluts of fruit needing to be preserved, of making sausages at her country cousins (but not being allowed to watch the slaughter),
She talked about preserving eggs by putting butter on them when still warm (this is for hen owners, not supermarket shoppers), how to make apply jelly from windfall apples, preserving herbs in vinegar, and butter making. The hour went by very quickly, and I regretted not having brought a notebook to take detailed notes, but I left with a resolve to take that book off the shelf and see how many of the principles that I can incorporate into my life.
Before I rushed off on my picnic date with my three favourite men I had a walk down the market street and bought some, eh, souvenirs, the Ballymaloe Cookery School Cucumber and Mustard Pickle which I adore, a tasty Spiced Apple Chutney from Woodenbridge Cottage and a takeaway lunch of half a roast pheasant with roasties, how posh, yet only €5.50! Stalls sold befeathered game, samphire, haw ketchup, every type of jelly under the sun (Wild About, a local business in Gorey) elderflower cordial, and the famous venison jam and producers were keen to tell you all about their products.
The next event is in Ballon, County Carlow in the Spring for Grandparents’ Day and I’ve already decide that we are definitely going to go. There’s a lot to be learned from what has gone before, people still ate before best before dates and fridges.