In a few days, on 21st of October, many of us, from different parts of the world, will take a plane, train, bus, boat, car or whatever serves us best, and travel to Ireland to take part in the food symposium organised by JP McMahon and his team in Galway, at the wild and beautiful west coast of Ireland.
What is the big force that is driving us there? The strong power of attraction gathering the chefs and writers from all over the world to a small city on the wild west coast of Ireland?
It is JP McMahon, the man behind the Food on The Edge (FOTE), with his genuine passion and love for food and belief that each of us can contribute to make our planet a better place. And it is the people who come there, the community that is built around this event. We talk about food, about feeding, about nutrition, about health (also mental health), about friendship, working conditions and many other things that any of us who are professionally engaged with food world on the daily basis, encounters every day. At the same time this strong attraction is also a merit of Ireland. A very special country on the edge of Europe, exposed to the wild winds of the Atlantic.
When I asked JP how would he describe Ireland, he was very humble.
Ireland is a wonderful hospitable place, with a rich cultural heritage and beautiful food to match. Food on the Edge brings the best of Irish food, drink and hospitality to the fore, showcasing this to our international speakers and those attending the conference.
But you need to visit Ireland, to understand these humble words. Ireland may be humble as those words, but its heritage is wild, poetic and magical like its nature. At my very young age I had a pen pal in Ireland who introduced me to the Irish poetry. I never met him. But we had a beautiful exchange of poems and somehow Ireland remains for me an island of poetry and fairy tales. Once I asked one of my Irish friends (some of my favourite people are Irish – they are really open, warmhearted, vibrant) what is the reason that Ireland is so strong in poetry and fairy tales, he said that the weather (lots of rain) may be the reason behind it – people had to spend lots of time inside, so that made them talk and invent stories and poems. It may be true, in any case, there are not so many places with so much magic and poetry as Ireland. Go there and nurture your soul! Last year the wild Atlantic way with Burren and County Clare made me fall in love with the country that I already admired through the poetry and photos. My next visits to the country were dedicated to visits of the museums and different restaurants that allowed me to see the history and get to know the people and flavours. This culture is so rich and so fascinating, that it easily captures your soul when you visit it and it makes you addicted to it! It is one of my favourite addictions!
What is was for JP the biggest impact that FOTE made in Ireland and in the wider world?
And what does JP see as the greatest issues in the food world? (and how can FOTE help to solve it)?
The role and value of food is probably the most pressing issue of our time. Why do we waste so much? Why do people starve when we have enough food in the world? It all comes down to how we value food. Food security should be the most important aspect of any society. Instead, food is often an afterthought. Governments need to lead the way in terms of food waste and better food systems. Everyone should have access to good food. Food on the Edge helps highlightng these issues but also puts forward ways we can change our way of thinking around these issues.
If JP had an unlimited budget, how would FOTE look like?
Has JP ever thought of moving FOTE to another country or will it always remain Irish?