Showing posts from October, 2012

Dancing through Darkness

I love this time of the year when golden afternoons on the mountain turn to silver evenings by the sea. I love the smell of frost on the grass, the low light casting long shadows and the mist drifting low on the slopes of Mount Brandon.   Most of all I love the sense of warmth and nourishment that comes from the familiar round of each year's winter festivals. As Halloween approaches, the house fills with the warm fruity smell of baking brack, the sharp tang of vinegar, and the satisfying sounds of onions, apples, and spices being chopped and ground up for chutney. Wrapped up against wind and rain, we drive to Dingle to buy monkey nuts, then home again to pile them into a bowl on the bench by the fire. S quelching between the ridges where the last of the potatoes are still waiting to be dug, I pull a knobbly green and purple turnip and carry it indoors, muddy roots and all, to carve into a lantern.  On Halloween night it sits on the gatepo

The Harvest Goddess and The Holly Man

In Corca Dhuibhne, living between the ocean and the mountain, I've become increasingly aware of how profoundly my neighbours' lives are shaped by Ireland's seasonal festivals. It's an ancient inheritance, rooted in the time when the Celts saw the steady turn of the seasons as a sign that the universe was in balance.   Each festival had its own dances, music, customs and food. And each year they're celebrated with the same communal rituals that express joy in the present moment and hope for seasons to come. It's not surprising to find a profound awareness of the seasons in rural Ireland. But when Wilf and I found our flat here in Bermondsey I was amazed to discover echoes of the same seasonal rituals in inner city London. Huddled under Victorian railway arches, in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market's one of the oldest markets of its kind in England: food and drink have been sold there to Londoners since at least the el

Embrace Your Inner Celt

I love watching food programmes on the telly. Could be Indian cuisine, which I’ve never cooked and never expect to, could be fifty shades of feta, or how to do Tarte Tatin without turning your kitchen floor into a skating rink. Basically I’ll watch anything, especially if it includes shots of a windswept presenter ambling down the garden with a trug – and, possibly, a dog – and ambling back up again with armfuls of seasonal vegetables. One thing about this rash of seasonal food programmes, though. It may be trending on Twitter, and tv commissioning editors may think it’s the happening way to go, but seasonal food isn’t, and never has been, just about fashion.  Look at the ancient Celts. A couple of thousand years ago they crossed the Irish Sea moving west ahead of the Romans. As a plan it worked. The Roman legionaries never made it to Ireland, so having got here the Celts could stop charging like lemmings into the west. Which was just as well because, if they’d had to keep