I’m staying in the Irish community of Tilting on Fogo Island. It’s a place of leaning fences, rust fishing stages and patchwork quilts on lines.
The people here speak with more of a lilt and are known for their singing talents and shed parties. The green, white and orange-striped flag flies everywhere, and many of the houses are painted white and green. It really is a lot like Ireland, only more Irish.
This is not my white and green house, but if it were, I’d want first dibs on the room with the pink lace curtains. This house is actually one of the last you see before hitting the main road to Joe Batt’s Arm, the next community, 10 km away.
I set off by foot this way today to go interview Murray McDonald, the executive chef of Fogo Island Inn.
The first stretch of my hike is right by the ocean, so I can hear the waves break as I pass the beach and Turpin’s Trail—a hiking path that cuts through tall grasses and wild flowers, rippling like waves in the wind.
Further into the forest, there are many tasty treats, such as tiny sweet-tart raspberries and the first of the tongue-staining blueberries. There are around twenty types of berry on Fogo island and berry-picking is a popular pursuit–after a good tea-and-toast session at the end of the day, I sometimes get to thinking the place needs to be officially recognized as World Capital of Jam.
I keep stopping to take photos of wild flowers, plants and trees. The island is just 25 km from one tip to the other, but it seems like there’s enough diverse plant life squeezed in for an entire country.
Trees and bushes of all shapes and sizes stand side-by-side like the kids of a one-room schoolhouse jostling to get out for recess.
It should take about two hours to get to Chef’s house, but with all the distractions, I feel like I’m never going to make it on time. Luckily, at around the halfway point, Liz, the local taxi driver, passes in her own car, and she pulls up and offers me a ride. Finally I get to Chef’s house, where he’s spending his day off with his wife, Judy, and their kids.
I have an extensive list of topics to cover with Murray, but still under the influence of the hike, I ended up grilling him about edible indigenous plants, aka weeds. They’re an essential element in his dishes, and beyond garnishes, he’s using them to make things like hot curry paste, garlicky pesto and even an all-natural ice cream stabilizer. Some of his most pared-down dishes are wild indeed.
Check back in tomorrow for more on Fogo Island’s free pantry!