Wild things

07 Aug 2015
3 min read
Murray Mcdonald, executive chef at Fogo Island Inn, in the North Atlantic’s ‘Iceberg Valley’ off Newfoundland, reflects on time and tide on the island.
Food for thought

My main influences are my two grandmothers and my mother. Growing up watching them cooking traditional Newfoundland homemade meals everyday, with pride, using local ingredients and recipes that where handed down to them from their mothers and grandmothers has stayed with me.

After traveling the world for many years and honing my craft, the experience I had growing up in Newfoundland never left me. Now, back in Newfoundland, with my journey coming full circle, working with local ingredients, wild, foraged and cultivated, I have that same pride my grandmothers did feeding me as I do showing the world what Newfoundland has to offer.

What makes Fogo Island unique in terms of seasonality and access to ingredients? It’s the constant struggle of survival and nourishment. We cook with what the seasons brings us, as we always have done.

Things are pretty much the same as they always have been here in rural Newfoundland: you fished for salted cod to sell and for yourself. You raised livestock for its meat, salting and preserving some for winter. You had a garden growing root vegetables and potatoes, storing them in the Root Cellar for the long winter. You hunt and foraged for berries to bottle and preserve. You also had the merchant vessels through triangular trade (Trade among three regions: with one exporting commodities onto the next, for example, Western Europe, Africa and North America’s East Coast, crossing the Atlantic), bringing flour, grains, molasses, rum and staples from our traditional trading partners. And if all of this did not work, you were dead. That was life in Newfoundland.

So this is the task we have; what can we get from Fogo Island and Newfoundland? Foraged, grown, hunted and fished, and what items can we get from our traditional trading partners, bringing the food back to a simpler time.

I wouldn’t call the practice of sourcing local ingredients that are in season a trend. This is something that has been happening for generations and has never left us. It never went away and now, with the mass production of processed food, the consumer is more aware of what they eat and as a result, they want to know more about where and how it is sourced. The good chefs and restaurants out there have been doing this forever has come to the forefront.

I like to think that the menu at Fogo Island Inn is of this place – changing with the wind, time and the tide. This rustic land in the North Atlantic has shaped its people, tradition and food for hundreds of years, what change now?

Here ‘s a piece of literature we came up with about our culinary philosophy:Food has a story to tell. It speaks through cultural traditions of deeper wisdom. It enlightens us at celebrations and rituals. The traditions of island life are passed down through generations, bringing families around the table, a place to belong and discover. It is adventure and pleasure, comfort and security.

Through sunlight, soil, water, and air, we are reminded of the cycle of all life.Nourishing our bodies and our souls, it anchors us to where we come from, sharing with us the stories of new places and determining what, when, and how we eat. In this way we can also glimpse at our future, as it connects us to history, place, and each other.

Seven seasons speak to us; a thousand years of family show us what to do.We hear the old stories; we watch, listen, and remember. We add and share our own learning. Gathering fish from the cold waters around us, foraging wild berries from the bog, pulling up carrots from the rocky land, already seasoned from the salty-sea air. Add it to the boiling pot over the fire. Preserve it in a jar, down in the cellar. Relax and let us feed you. To tell you about this place. As we try to find a new way with old things.

Find out more about Murray and Fogo Island Inn here |www.fogoislandinn.ca