One of the country’s most enlightened coffee businesses, Dublin’s Cloudpicker continue their involvement in Project Waterfall, a worldwide initiative from the global coffee industry to support those primary producers whose lives, not to mind livelihoods, have been gravely compromised by a lack of access to clean water, an issue for some 771m people around the world. The majority live in isolated, rural areas, especially those growing coffee beans.
Project Waterfall endeavours to bring clean water, sanitation and education to coffee-growing communities across the world, which sees child mortality rates drop, girls spending more time in school, women starting their own businesses, and the communities as a whole seeing an overwhelming benefit.
As well as practical involvement in water hygiene promotion, Project Waterfall also promotes education in areas such as gender, safeguarding, women’s empowerment and climate change. Cloudpicker is focusing efforts on Ethiopia, donating €1 for every 250g box of coffee sold to Project Waterfall, which The Menu can assure you, is one of the tastiest ways possible to contribute to a very worthy cause.
Bakestone Café & Pantry, founded by Joe and Maura Carey in 2013 in Carrigtwohill, has made it to double digits, now celebrating a whole decade of dishing out very tasty grub to visitors to the garden centre in which it is housed, and to which they have also added a very well stocked deli offering in The Pantry, further expanding to open a Bakestone outlet in nearby Fota House.
To mark the celebration, they have announced a special partnership with Badger & Dodo, launching an exclusive house coffee blend called Common Grounds, available exclusively in the Bakestone outlets.
The ecological challenges facing our planet are unfortunately myriad and so the appalling degradation and destruction of the earth’s soil tends to grab less of the headlines. The Menu would like to quote the great Wendell Berry, writing in The Unsettling of America: “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
The Menu continues to believe the best cure for existential ecological angst is action, and therefore suggests readers check out, Love Your Soil with Ingrid Foley (May 27), a course on offer at the Organic Centre, in Co Leitrim, offering an intimate understanding of soil as a living organic structure vital to not only growing healthy crops and vegetables but also to aid our reversal of the destruction wreaked upon it.
This course taps into soil texture, soil structure, soil pH, soil biology, and soil fertility management, and covers the four vital soil improvers: Farmyard manure, compost, seaweed, and green manures; you can even bring soil samples of your own for assessment and testing.
You may have nothing more than a small plot, maybe a suburban garden or even just a balcony window box, but more important than the practical application of your learning will be the knowledge gleaned to understand what is happening on a wider level, in Ireland — where soils have been hugely compromised by industrial agriculture — and around the world, the better to agitate for real change.
A recent trip to lovely Baltimore in West Cork saw The Menu reluctantly leaving on a Sunday morn when he remembered a hot tip delivered over the previous 48 hours alerting him to a small but perfectly formed community market in the Baltimore Community Hall, taking place every Sunday from 11am to 2pm.
Bringing Neidín to a swift halt, he hightailed it into the building an hour and a half after kick off to find that much of the prime produce had been snaffled up by far earlier birds.
There was none of the usual Lough Hyne Cottage sourdough which he had been keen to try but he did pick up excellent salad leaves and very nice lemon meringue tarts from Jean Perry of the late and much lamented Glebe House, which has reverted from hospitality to become a private home once more.
Jean still produces sufficient amounts in the fabulous gardens to warrant taking a stall. Elsewhere along with several arts and craft stalls were some fine-looking baked confectioneries and comestibles but The Menu’s belt warned him to do no more than look, definitely not touch, and under no circumstances actually consume.
However, while casting his eye over some interesting looking plants at a gardening stall, his eye was drawn to the gorgeous pigmentation of West Cork Mushrooms’ selection of fawn-grey oyster mushrooms, also available in fabulous coral pink and golden oysters in summery tones of light yellow.
Back home in Chez Menu on the evening of his return from Baltimore, The Menu fired up his kettle BBQ and gently braised the mushrooms in herbed garlic butter until they achieved a divine, smokey, tender meatiness to be served up on fire-grilled sourdough bread alongside some of those lovely Glebe House leaves, simply dressed in olive oil and salt.
Any form of cooking, however, depletes the becoming colouring, losing that natural rainbow, so he subjected his second batch to a gentle pickling in white wine vinegar, with sugar and fennel, for a gorgeously pretty and succulent, sweet mouthful that was quite extraordinary served up for lunch the next day in a pastrami and chilli mayo sourdough sandwich.
- Instagram: @westcorkmushrooms