Food On The Edge held in October last year was a beacon of light and hope in a deeply challenging year. Chef JP McMahon from Anair and Tartare in Galway gathered an impressive line-up of speakers from around the world to encourage and inspire us. The theme was Social Gastronomy with the stated aim of gathering ‘a network of like-minded chefs together to build long term partnerships around the world using the power of food as a vehicle for change and development at a grass roots level’.
Inspirational speakers shared their pandemic experiences, insights and hopes for the future. Many iconic names such as Alice Waters, Anissa Helou, David and Stephen Flynn of The Happy Pear, Eoin Clusky of Bread 41, Joshua Evans, May Chow…and also a couple of speakers whose names I had not been familiar with previously. I particularly remember Martin Ruffley and Anna King who shared the stage and gave a riveting talk. Anna has a doctorate in Philosophy (ethnography from NUI in Galway and a lifelong interest in mindful meditation. She became hooked on the healing benefits of eating seasonal, natural foods, she has lived and studied on a number of organic farms, both in the UK and France, who follow the philosophy of Mahatma Gandi and Rudolf Steiner.
Martin Ruffley, a recovering alcoholic, spoke with enormous courage about his lifelong struggle with addiction and his long and convoluted journey from ‘dark to light’. He told how cooking and sharing food became a vitally important part of a cathartic process of exorcising his demons and finding peace. Martin, now a chef lecturer at NUI Galway, has travelled and ‘staged’ in top restaurants around the world, fuelling his passion and honing his craft in pursuit of culinary excellence. In 2020 he received the prestigious President’s Award for Teaching Excellence. He spoke humbly and honestly, the audience were riveted, there was scarcely a dry eye in the tent and at the end there was a unanimous standing ovation.
Fast forward to March 2022, he and Anna King have collaborated to produce a cookbook entitled ‘Rekindling the Fire, Food and the Journey of Life’ – it is dedicated to all those still struggling with addiction…. ‘May the light of loving kindness illuminate your path, and the darkness of the night inspire your wildest dreams’.
Anna and Martin hope that this collaboration will inspire anyone who reads their book to cook. ‘The recipes offer home-cooks, amateurs and seasoned chefs alike an opportunity to experiment with both new and old techniques, through easy-to-follow, concise instructions that will really ‘up anyone’s game’ in the kitchen. ‘You will learn how to create some magical dishes, as well as discover invaluable insider tips that will transform a meal from the ordinary to the exceptional’. The title is a combination of Anna’s beautiful prose and Martin’s eclectic recipes gleaned from 40 years of experience and his travels around the world.
‘Rekindling the Fire, Food and the Journey of Life’ published by Austin MaCauley Publishers