Foragers of the Ballinskelligs

Photo essay by Johan van der Merwe & Tanya Houghton

‘Foragers of the Ballinskelligs’ is the first collaboration between London-based photographer Tanya Houghton and food stylist Johan van der Merwe. Having bonded over a shared passion for wild landscapes and the bounty they offer, the duo set out to produce a body of work that focuses on foraging along the Kerry coastline in Ireland.

Ballinskelligs (originally Baile en Sceilg, which translates to ‘place or village on the craggy rock’) has a wilderness-rich landscape, an amalgamation of coastline, mountains and huge areas of undisturbed bog land and forest. In awe of the landscape’s history and inspired by the diets of early settlers, van der Merwe and Houghton combined their knowledge and set out to forage for and catalogue some of the area’s edible flora and fauna, which includes shellfish (clams, mussels and oysters) and a wide range of highly nutritious seaweed.

Van der Merwe creates his recipes for the project using only the ingredients found foraging, while drawing on his rich culinary background. These dishes are one of the focal points of Houghton’s images, sitting alongside photographs of the landscape in which they were found. The resulting body of work is the first chapter in a continuing series by the duo to catalogue a year’s worth of seasonal foraging in this wild Irish landscape.

You can view more of Tanya’s work here and catch Johan’s food styling here.

Borough Market

Photo essay by Sébastien Dubois-Didcock

Tucked beneath the Thames Link Bridge in central London lies one of the most intriguing food markets I have ever had the chance to visit. This place, caught between the modern world and what I imagine a medieval London would have once looked like (although much, much cleaner) has, in many ways, captured everything I love about food. It is a culinary oasis in the heart of the city that continually draws me back. If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about Borough Market.

I was first introduced to Borough Market by a friend who took me there to cure our jet lag with some good eats. Walking the small, winding paths that guided us from stall to stall, I was overcome by the variety of beautiful smelling food on offer. Pork sandwiches, vegetable curries, pad thais, Spanish paellas, freshly baked breads and, of course, mountains of warm pastries. There was something to make your mouth water at every turn.

Now, most people who have been to Borough understand that making a decision about what to eat isn’t always an easy task. And they’re not exaggerating. I could literally spend a week there and not have the same food twice; that was my experience on this most recent visit to London.

Waking up early to battle the morning commute to London Bridge was a necessary evil, given what awaited me at Borough. Wandering around as the merchants set up for the midday rush revealed why this market feels so different to the many I’ve encountered on my travels. Mixed in with the sounds of whistling coffee machines and the smells of aromatic spices was a deep appreciation of and respect for food and tradition. There isn’t a rush to set up stalls. Instead there is a sense of thoughtfulness and purpose. It was these instances, during my mornings at Borough, that made me recognise how much this London market values the food it offers and how this in turn helps to create the energy and atmosphere that makes it unique. 

Come lunchtime, the market’s energy changes from quiet reverence to organised chaos. As I made my way through the crowd of people pondering what to enjoy, freshly cooked delicacies enticed me from one stall to the next. This game of culinary tiki-taka quickly overwhelmed my senses, before I realised that I too could not decide what I wanted to eat.

When you get a chance to sit back and take in the Borough Market atmosphere you’ll be taken with the buzz, friendliness and foodie adoration. There is something about this place that makes people slow down and enjoy the time they spend eating; something that isn’t very common in a large metropolis. Most importantly, it is in places like this that one can witness the true power of food – where issues are set aside and a sense of community is created through a collective need. That is where Borough Market has found its strength, by bringing people together through food and a passion for doing it right.

Lofoten

Words and photographs by Lise Ulrich

Driving around the archipelago of Lofoten in the Norwegian county of Nordland on a midsummer’s day is at once as wondrous and soul soothing an experience as it is near exhausting for the shutter-happy landscape photographer.

Jam-packed with jagged mountaintops, majestic fiords, quaint fishing villages and coloured wooden houses, Lofoten deserves every bit of the hype it’s generating as one of Norway’s most spectacular points of interest – and in a country known for its overall natural splendour, that is saying quite a lot.

In June, Lofoten bursts with every nuance of green, patches of yellow, white and blue flowers sprinkled in the fields. But watch out for those low-hanging clouds; volatile weather changes are common on the archipelago and a mild summer breeze can turn into a menacing gale in minutes, dramatically transforming the waters and colours of the fiords to the sounds of eagle cries above.

Despite being located a whopping 1,364 kilometres north of capital Oslo and well above the Arctic Circle (most visitors fly in from the city of Bodø), Lofoten’s largest town Svolvær, with a population of about 4,200, is bustling, with many young families and creatives moving to the area. Once you have experienced the archipelago for yourself, you will seriously consider joining them.

Taking to the waters of Trollfjorden is a must on Lofoten. Surrounded by steep mountainsides and rocky cliffs, the fiord is an ideal place for spotting eagles as well as absorbing some local history: A vicious battle was fought here in 1890 when the first industrial, steam-driven fishing ships and teams of traditional open-boat fishermen rowed over access to the fiord. One guess as to who came out victorious.

Although a tiny fishing village with only 500 residents, Henningsvær boasts an internationally renowned modern art museum, Kaviar Factory, as well as a surprisingly hip bohemian vibe thanks to a steady influx of rock climbers and surfers alike.

Explore Lofoten like the old settlers did: On horseback. Back in the day, seafaring Vikings actually imported the sturdy Icelandic horses from Lofoten to Iceland. Hovhestegard.no

In the village of Vikten, visitors can sample local glassware at Glasshytta Vikten.

The minute village of Nusfjord, population 37, is one of the oldest fishing villages in Norway, with houses dating back to the early 1800s.

Eating in Ortygia

Words and photographs by Kate McAuley.

I’ve come back to Ortygia to eat. It’s been a year since I first visited this the historical centre of Syracuse, arguably the prettiest city in all of Sicily. Back then I was here for the history, stomping around the impressive Duomo, replete with its mishmash of Greek and Baroque styles, and the ubiquitous archeological sites whose ruins tell the story of the Italian city’s lengthy and chequered past.

This time, however, I am here to imbibe – and imbibe I did: mind, body and soul. I visit the daily food market and bite into a tomato as if it were an apple, the juice running down my chin. I watch in awe as the purveyor of sea urchins makes like work of his product, cutting open each spiny creature with a pair of rusty scissors to reveal the delicacy within. Freshly caught squid and octopus squirm and glisten. Salted fish, spiced olives and oranges as bright as the centre of the sun draw my attention in equal measure.

I walk along the ancient walls spooning gelati into my mouth. I sip a negroni as the sun sets over the water. I pester a chef to teach me how to make the perfect spaghetti ai vongole. His secret: crushed garlic, fresh clams and cherry tomatoes (when they’re season) flash fried in a pan with olive oil his wife’s family make and some salt water from the pasta pot. Try as I might and despite its simplicity, this perfect dish is something I’ll struggle to recreate at home. Looks like I’ll have to come back.

If you’d like to read more of our Italian adventures, you can order our Italy Issue here.

 

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Spring sunshine in Faro

Words and photographs by Kate McAuley

Given its underwhelming popularity, it would be easy for Faro, the capital of Portugal’s Algarve, to have an inferiority complex, but it continues to hold its own. At the airport, as the hoards to tourists head west, lured by the region’s epic beaches and resort towns, I breathe a sigh of relief and take a short taxi ride into the sleepy port town that is to be my home for the next three days. 

I’d been to Faro before, so when it popped up as a relatively cheap destination for a few days of spring sunshine following a fairly dismal London winter, I didn’t hesitate. With memories of clams cooked in butter, white wine and garlic, and endless blue skies, I knew it would be the perfect salve. 

With its broken cobbled streets, ubiquitous graffiti and decaying buildings, it’s hard to call Faro pretty. The town has the rundown feeling of a place forgotten, but there are pockets of beauty if you take the time to look. On the pedestrianised streets by the marina, I eat freshly baked pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) while inside Faro’s ancient walls, I walk past the fruiting orange trees by the cathedral to drink a glass of vinho verde as the sun sets over the water. I eat the aforementioned clams at every meal they’re offered – invariably prawns, octopus and chorizo (barbecued at the table over a mini spit) join them. 

Before heading home, I take a short ferry ride to Baretta Island. Also known as Ilha Deserta, this small parcel of sand has a single restaurant, a few fishing huts and nothing much else – unless you count the seagulls and other birdlife I encountered on the 2km boarded walk I took before heading back to the mainland. 

And here lies the reason I returned to Faro – sun, sand and peaceful moments. An unusual find in this part of the world. 

Bolivia the Beautiful

Words and photographs by Kate McAuley.

Frozen fingers. Lonely flamingoes. Tufty scrubland. A dome of blue sky. Pastel lakes. Slow trains with white tablecloths and real china. Cheap beer. Hand-knitted alpaca wool socks. Salty pentagonals. And a light case of high altitude pulmonary oedema. These are just a handful of memories of Bolivia in late May.

I crossed the border on foot – from La Quiaca (Argentina) to Villazon (Bolivia) – and jumped on a leisurely train to Tupiza. From there, along with a guide called Elvis and an evangelical traveller preaching a new religion, we drove into the mountains.

For four days we travelled across stark plains and Martian desert scapes. We climbed high and gazed at geysers and braved the biting wind to paddle in geothermal pools. At night, while the the King of Rock practiced walking on his hands, my travelling companion did his best to convince me that God exists simply because so many people believe in her. In bed, with the temperatures plummeting to -10ºC, I tried (and failed) to keep warm under a pile of slippery sleeping bags.

In spite of their beauty and vast horizons, Bolivia’s Andean Highlands are sparsely populated – by humans and animals alike. A few small towns exist here and there – the locals who brave the weather are mostly employed to serve tourists or to farm. Infrastructure is minimal: hot showers are synonymous with luxury, WiFi is practically non-existent, and it’s lights out at 10pm. But what need did I have for these extraneous things in an environment where every twist and turn brought some new marvel to keep my curiosity, and cravings for my creature comforts, at bay?

The annual flamingo migration was coming to an end, so it was only a lazy few that we saw wading ankle deep through the many lakes we passed, scooping up algae with their hooked beaks while pondering where their hundreds of thousands of friends had gone. The only other animals we saw were the ubiquitous alpacas, replete with ear streamers and expressions of complete indifference.

After three nights spent at air-gulping altitudes, we got got up before sunset and dropped down onto the vast plateau of the Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flat. In all honesty, I thought this would be somewhat of an anti-climax, but as the sun rose and the crackly pentagonals began to appear, my wonder grew. Stark white in all directions, our colourful clothes, even my pale skin, in full contrast. If you ever want to feel both small and inconsequential, but so utterly connected to our earth, this is the place to visit.

Kate joined the basic four-day Tupiza-Uyuni tour with La Torre Tours.

A Reason To Travel

Words by Marina Malthouse

A recent trip to Greece provoked me to write this article. My particular experience of travel on this occasion was, on many levels, different from those that I’ve previously had, for I was there to volunteer at a refugee camp in northern Greece.

Having booked and signed up for this trip, and despite being assured of my decision, I found myself feeling somewhat apprehensive. But why, I wondered? I’m half Greek, know the country and culture well and have travelled there countless times – but this trip entailed something different. I was concerned about the space I would inhabit whilst on the refugee camp, a space amongst people displaced by war, who have run in order to survive and whose lives have been on hold for too long. And then, reading a description of the former military-turned-refugee camp as having a heavy military presence inflamed my imagination. But I reminded myself that I usually enjoy difference; it decentres me and challenges me, opening up new perspectives to difference and ways of being. From hereon, the concept of travel took on new meanings.

Departing from my hometown of Bath, I had at least secured some certainty. I’d signed up to volunteer with a charity called Bridge2. I would fly from Gatwick to Thessaloniki. I knew which buses I would need to catch. I had examined the map to locate the places I would be travelling to and the distances between them; noticing that this region of Greece is called Macedon and that its northern border is with Macedonia. I was thrilled that I would be in the region known to produce the best make of my favourite food, halva. 

After twelve hours of travelling by car, plane, two buses and a miscalculated three-minute taxi ride, I arrived at the front door of my hotel it the town of Veria, where all Bridge2 volunteers stay. Apart from the shock of a harsh winter wind that hit me as I exited Thessaloniki airport, my journey had been smooth. By the next morning I got over my final hurdle, of successfully finding Sam of Bridge2. The job of travelling from A to B was done. I could now begin to relax. Sam is the son of Sarah Griffith, the founder of Bridge2. Sarah has mastered the art of disaster relief having dedicated herself to attend to those in need following tsunamis, earthquakes and now, the Syrian refugees in Greece. A mother and son team makes this a very personable charity; all communication is with them directly and they clearly value kindness, goodwill, tenacity and patience. They are extremely organised. And Sam is pretty handy with a drill.

Camp Veria lies a few kilometres outside the city of Veria just beyond a small village called Aghia Varvara. It’s a former military camp, which means there’s a guardhouse at the entrance and wire fencing demarcating the perimeter. The camp has many pine trees in the grounds, a dirt-ground football pitch and a neglected basketball court. Below, a blue-watered lake formed by a dam with the Aliakmonas river foregrounds several snow-capped mountains that tower in the distance. As I stand admiring this view, I see forty or so beehives nearby and hear the familiar sounds of my childhood summers in Greece, of goat bells, sheep bleating and cockerels crowing. I discover that these belong to a farmer whose small land-mass of milk and honey is paradoxically sandwiched between the edge of this military camp and the banks of the lake.

Despite having learnt that all of the refugees on the camp had risked their lives crossing over from Turkey and had since survived dehumanising conditions in previous camps (Idomeni, Polikastro and Oreokastro), as Sam walks me around, I have a sense of peace and settledness. Each time we encounter a refugee, we stop. I observe their huge smiles as they warm-heartedly greet Sam, and between the men, some form of physical contact occurs – a handshake, a friendly thump on the upper arm, or a hug. A mixture of Arabic and English are spoken and a conversation may ensue in English, or not. Communication, of course, is vital so those that do speak English are often used as interpreters to enable Sam to understand the regular bombardments of questions or requests for one thing or another. Life on the camp can become tedious for its residents. What seems like the tiniest of problems when life is good can magnify into something pressingly important when there is little else to do.

Our tour around the camp includes army and other NGO offices, four residential blocks for the refugees, each of which has been divided up into small, individual living units with shared bathroom facilities. Bridge2 supplies every family with an electric kettle and portable cooker and another refugee organisation provide beds and bedding. We pass a building that has been set up as a school where refugee children are taught by refugees who were formerly teachers back home in Syria or Iraq. Other buildings include storerooms, a space for men and women to hang out separately, and the ‘shops’ for food, clothing and shoes that are run by Bridge2. These are shops by name only as there is no requirement for money – it is Sarah’s method of distributing food, clothing and shoes. In time, I see the fine motive behind her careful planning where creating opportunities to ‘shop’ provides individual refugees with dignity and choice, offering them perhaps a reminder of better days. It’s a limited choice as it does depend on donations, or what Sarah has bought in from local providers by way of fresh fruit, eggs, vegetables and groceries. With my Western eye however, and with hours and hours of volunteer time dedicated to sorting through boxes of food, toiletries, toys, clothes and shoes, it was my impression that Sarah’s shops have a lot to offer. Her standards are high – when volunteers ask her advice on finding dirty, misshapen or shrunken goods, she’d say, “if you wouldn’t eat, wear or use it, bin it”.

By the end of my first day, Sam hands me a set of keys and assigns me the responsibility of running the supermarket for the month. Opening on Tuesdays and Thursdays for ‘sales’, the supermarket also requires restocking of shelves in-between times from the storeroom behind. Here, there are boxes and boxes of donated goods for volunteers to unpack and sort through, cooking oils to decant and spices, seeds, coffee, cocoa, lentils and chickpeas to be bagged into smaller-sized portions. Inevitably whilst the volunteers work together, life experiences are shared and friendships are forged. 

Of more importance though, my days in the supermarket enabled me to spend time with each of the refugees. In total, there were approximately 250 refugees, mostly families with young children, but also single young men and one single woman. They came to shop in turn, block-by-block, unit-by-unit. More often than not, it was the husbands who came alone leaving their wives to care for their babies and young children. When husbands were already in Germany, as was the case for three wives and their young children in Block D, they shopped together. I didn’t need to know Arabic to understand what they seemed to be saying to one another – their expressions and laughter told of women sharing lives whilst shopping together. Occasionally, teenage daughters or sons had been sent by their parents to shop, or young single men who shared a unit space might come alone, together, or with one of the women from a neighbouring family unit to theirs. A glance at Sam’s spreadsheet revealed that two of these young single men were only 17 years old. When I asked about their families, they told me their parents and siblings were either already in Germany or yet to leave Syria. Hearing and reading these dates of birth always made me swallow hard and grab the largest of fruits and vegetables for their food allocation.

By the end of four weeks helping out in the camp, I witnessed a touching humanity where an environment of mutual care and support seemed to prevail over personal and collective loss. I felt ashamed that I had allowed my consideration of the refugees to focus on them more as a collective, one that had risked blunting my compassion for their individual suffering. If it wasn’t women cooking for the single men, it was a friend who’d shop for fellow refugees if they’d been called for a re-location ‘interview’. Young always gave way to old and parents lovingly attended to their children. 

Experiences on the camp overlapped with life away from the camp. At the end of each day’s work, Sarah or Sam would return the volunteers to Veria. Leaving the refugees in the evenings was always a stark reminder of the vulnerability of life, that any of us could have their misfortune, of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This particular experience of travel brought to mind the work of the late feminist geographer, Doreen Massey. In her book, For Space, she wrote that space is a product of interrelations, a possibility of multiplicity and plurality, is always under construction, a geographical imagination and a simultaneity of stories-so-far. The lives of the refugees I met have been traumatised, they are on hold, in limbo, and Massey’s notion of stories-so-far seems to exemplify their situation. To any of us volunteers, the effects of multiple losses as a consequence of war were brought sharply into focus. But none of us were in a position to find solutions to the plight of these refugees. Our role was to offer help in practical ways and, above all, to show our genuine empathy and compassion so that they do not feel forgotten during this difficult time in their lives. Sadly, the ending to this story seems a long way off; so much more work needs to be done, and so much more of the story-is-yet-to-be-told.