A wonderful festival to celebrate wild food in Macreddin Village
Since September it feels like there has been a whirl of food events and festivals, with so much going on that there hasn’t always been time to keep up with it. It’s so exciting, when there is so much gloom and doom about, to be involved in a world that is really moving and growing and to come into contact with so many passionate and talented people. I always enjoy food events and festivals, but the Wild & Slow Festival at Macreddin last weekend surpassed any event I have been to in a long time.
Foraging is an area that holds huge interest and fascination for me, it’s always truly amazing to gather wild ingredients and create something really special and unique with them. A passion for foraging was very evident at the festival where various different groups were selling produce made from wild food collected during the previous autumn months. There was an amazing selection of delicious foods, making it almost impossible to decide what to choose, but I finally settled on wild strawberry jam, rosehip syrup, wild mushroom essence and a marmalade with marrow and buckthorn berries.
Beside the abundance of produce from wild food available to buy, there was also a wide variety of cooked dishes to eat producing glorious aromas everywhere, making it impossible not to resist.
Wild game casserole, spit-roasted venison rolls, and wild monkfish kebabs were included in the hot foods on offer, with lots of delicious desserts to follow such as bilberry cheesecake and chocolate brownies with sloe frosting. Serious thumbs up to any food gathering that leaves you with a list of things in your head that you really wished you had had the room to try, but were too full to do so! Even nicer still that I had no regrets in the choices I had made, everything was beyond delicious.
Throughout the weekend of the festival various workshops were taking place on a wide range of wild food related topics including a game tasing workshop, medicinal foraging, harvesting and preserving native Irish seaweeds and a guided visit of the wild food pantry at the Strawberry Tree restaurant at Macreddin. I went to a talk with Evan Doyle of Macreddin, Ed Hick and Biddy White Lennon to hear about seasonal foraging in Irish Hedgerows and to take a look at a range of wild food templates that the trio have compiled. These templates are available to download on www.wildandslow.com and include instructions for 10 Irish wild foods with instructions on how to collect, find and preserve. I was very disappointed not to be able to go to the visit to the wild food pantry at Macreddin and also a talk by Darina Allen the following day, but spent some time mesmerised by the display of foraged preserved food which was both inspirational and fascinating.
Leaving Macreddin in the cold winter air with a smell of woodsmoke wafting in the air and delicious cooking smells, I felt so excited and invigorated by the festival, and am filled with a sense of having been shown a wonderful world to be discovered. I vowed to make sure and book in time next year to stay overnight, so that I won’t miss any of the wonderful experiences on offer at Wild and Slow. With so many commercial events happening at this time of year, this event stood out head and shoulders for me. A day pass to attend as many of the talks and workshops that were taking place cost only €5.00, and all of the food on offer was generous and very reasonably priced. I really got the sense that what was happening was driven by a motivation which had nothing to do with money. Very exciting, very inspiring, very enjoyable and very, very uplifting.