This year marks a milestone anniversary for me, I left Brittany twenty years ago, the land of Crêpes and apple ciders for the mythical “Island of Winters” and black beers. Born and bred in Armorica – The Land of the Sea – I could easily have become a fisherman or a lighthouse keeper; as contradictory as it may sound, they both are a form of a calling, a thirst for peace, freedom… Or escapism. Definitely a thirst though! In more ways than one.
Then came the “no more messing now” age of 22; I had to make a decision, write down on a piece of paper my skills, my do and don’ts, my should do and won’ts, will I give my hypothetical Rock’n’Roll career a go or pursue saving wild wading birds in the mosquito infested salt marshes where I have been spending the last ten years? As romantic as it all sounds, I know, it doesn’t put food on the table!
I had recently fallen in love with an island, another one, I have that thing for islands you see, ( which could explain the fisherman/ lighthouse keeper thing), Ireland was my new calling, a hunger for new beginnings, the need to be unknown again… I rang a friend, booked the St Killian 2 for a very symbolic one way crossing, gathered a few bob, packed my rucksack and I guess, this is the way it all started…
The die has been cast, the black coffee poured. Amongst my precious belongings were a couple of skinny Jeans, a smelly and probably third generation black leather jacket, my binoculars and a “Gwen a Du” (meaning “White and Black”), the flag of Brittany. Food wise, this might sound hilarious but it was very simple. Butter biscuits, a couple of bags of ground Coic coffee from Plomelin and a few tins of Hénaff coarse paté from Pouldreuzic. It might be your favourite tea bags in Ireland, Vegemite in Australia, well that is still on my shopping list when I go back! Creature comforts at its best. My mother insisted in giving me a few tins of sardines from the local cannery “La Quibronnaise”, you know, just in case… It was a big part of every kitchen’s landscape, picnics and snacks. Unfortunately, I never developed the lip for it… There goes the fisherman!
November 6th 1994 and Tuskar rock is already behind us. The Rosslare Harbour pier is flooded with light, orange beacons flashing and an army of trucks waiting. My old friend from secondary school is waiting for me on the car park, with his U2 “WAR” stencilled Renault 4… Still on its wheels! Amazing… I was hungry, that’s what the ocean does to you, and frankly, I had to forget about that 50p bowl of baked beans I had in the cafeteria. When you’re broke, you’re broke but hey, I enjoy them now! We just went on top of the hill, you know, where the palm trees are, to the first pub for a bite and a pint… As soon as the barman laid down the frugal feast and a pint of black, I knew something had just happened…
… This was my first big food memory of Ireland! That evening, that simple ham and cheese toastie, cheese and onion crisps (hello?) and a pint of stout triggered something, the birth of a food memory that I still truly enjoy now. Little did I know it but it was also going to be the start of another little big adventure, something I didn’t know I had in me, but that was going to be part of me for the next twenty years. A passion for food but also the people behind it, their stories and an amazing journey on this Island… Through the eyes of a Hungry Breton!
Hungry Breton, August 2014