Duck Eggs, Kerr Pinks, Cod, Leafy Beetroot, Apply Jelly… our eating habits seem to be evolving the longer we live beside country markets. The days of Tesco Finest and Avoca soups seem like a distant memory, and now with time on our hands, we are discovering anew the food that we eat, cook and source.It begun with a clean empty fridge. Starting from scratch, with only a late opening village shop to hand, we stocked it with the essentials. Eggs, butter, yogurt, cheese and almond milk, and strangely enough we discovered that in the main, this was all we really needed. No more wading through a decaying collection of half eaten sauces and packaged ready meals. Our scanty fridge is now strangely calming. We try to eat what we have and restock what we need, with expiration dates no longer causing a mild panic attack. Every day we cook. We could probably trek across the county to find a decent restaurant but with cold nights drawing in, its just not worth it. Occasionally we will do a 20km round trip to get a clay-oven baked pizza. But more often than not, we cook. The house we are staying in has a beautiful collection of Irish cookbooks, which suit the food we are eating. With time on our hands, we now realise that cooking allows us to take note of flavours, and think how taste? did it really taste good? if not, why not? how might it have worked better? What do we need to stock up on? Its a whole new realization.
On Thursdays, a local fisherman comes to the village to sell his catch in a kind of pop up style country market. His gruff charm has propelled us beyond our habitual Salmon darns to Halibut, Smoked Cod, Trout and Mussels, broadening our pescetarian palates and ultimately making us eat more fish! From there, its a short walk across to the fruit and veg guy who offers a wide array of herbs, a variety of apples pears and berries, as well as tufted carrots, large cabbages and potatoes freshly dug from the ground with many still caked in mud. Its feels like something from a magazine, as we wander leisurely around the village swinging a wicker basket. My husband has dryly noted that ‘All that is missing is a bike with a bell.’
But come Saturday, our dalliance with country markets takes on a serious intent. This is the day that we attempt to buy bread. There is a mysterious bread maker called Kemal, who is reputed to make the best bread in the county. He has a stall at the Artisan Country Market in the local town hall (famed for its yoga classes …see here). This popular country market sells a wide selection of baked goods and crafts, chutneys, Victoria sponges, bobbled hats and embroidered pillowcases. We had a friend visit last weekend who shrieked in delight when she fell upon daintily made up bundles of kindling, perfect for her chic fire place! Its that kind of market. But we are there, principally to get the bread. The doors open at 11.00am sharp and there is literally a stampede through the door. While many come for the social aspect of the occasion and the ‘wee cakes’, most are here for the bread. A queue quickly forms in front of Kemal’s stall and snakes right the way round the room. Its gets confusing as to which stall and queue you are in, while everyone anxiously waits, all the time counting the number of loaves versus the number of loaf lovers left in the queue. For two consecutive weeks we came away with nothing, the following week we were practically first in the queue, but discovered that Kemal was on a mid term break. Finally last Saturday, the stars collided and we managed to get a loaf of freshly baked bread and it was heavenly! Beyond words, the best bread we had ever tasted. That evening we dined on bread and butter with chipper chips and it was a feast made for the Gods! Was it worth the wait? You betcha. Would we have persevered for four consecutive weeks if we were back at home? Probably not. Which leads us to wonder, how do we bring back all that we have learned about food and incorporate it into our time starved lives? Suggestions welcome!