Farmer / Food Producer / Knife Maker
The problem when wanting a translation from English to English is... there is no translation. Tom, Fingal’s father, is a true Irish farmer. So true that it is within his genetics to speak English in a way that cannot be understood by someone who speaks English. There I sat at the table listening to him tell a story and with absolute concentration I attempted to piece a story together. Then came the punch line. Everyone laughed... except for me.
So began the trade with Fingal and his partner Ciara in Schull, a small town in the South of Ireland. Fingal taught me anything that my eager mind wanted to know. He was a master brain. A man of knowledge. If I had something to ask about his knife making, he would take me on a journey about different metals and density through to timber and shaping. If I wanted to know about the salami he made for Gubbeen, I’d be shown the pigs happily playing in the mud, all the way through to creating different moulds in temperature controlled environments. Sometimes I had so much information going into my head it was like listening to Tom.
Interview with Fingal
Describe your most memorable adventure as a child.
My family has travelled a lot, I was a west Cork hippy kid in the back of a citron 2CV van for a lot of my child hood, seeing lots of Europe but too young to realise what I was seeing. I feel like I have travelled a fair bit to amazing places but I feel my most memorable adventures happen at home!
Growing up on a farm... The best adventures that first come to me are the giant straw house and tunnel system we built back when straw bails were small and a child could lift one, or the tree houses made from pallets from the machines that would be delivered to the farm, the bows made from holly trees and arrows from bamboo, making targets with child hood friends that would come and play at my house!
Have you ever found it hard eating animals that you raised on the farm?
No, I'm quite the carnivore, and my grandfather showed me the honour in rearing your own food and justifying it by making as many wonderful things as possible and the honour from that. I have done the full process from beginning to end including rearing and killing. It's more realistic then pretending that meat doesn't come from animals, and in fact I feel it makes the food taste better.
What is it about ‘Farm to Fork’ that you really enjoy?
Farm to fork is a shit load of work, there's pride of place, but it's also a logical process. If you're doing it right it's a great way to get a better raw material at a good price! If you're doing it wrong it's an over load of work and something is going to pop! You can't do everything by yourself on a bigger scale. There's 20 people employed in Gubbeen. It's taken 5 generations to get it to that stage and we still have loans and overdrafts, bills to pay!
But most importantly we are creating something: tasty food, jobs in the community, great relationships with fellow producers and customers! As well as the challenges of keeping it all going which keeps a day exciting! The barter of products with others, the knowledge of learning new skills, the spin offs like always having fridges full of amazing food and good wine on the table and exciting people to talk to!
If you had to do something else, like a city dweller, what would you do?
It would probably have to involve food in some way, from a deli or a food stall, but if it was to be something 'Else' I would love to have a lot of different jobs in different places to keep life interesting as opposed to one job in one place! I would offer to work for free in places if I had to at first - in places that I respected or was interested in to get a feel for their working environments and creative inputs but most importantly to be able to learn something new everyday!
What is the best part about making your own knives?
I get to be alone in a workshop turning basic materials into something beautiful, through different stages involving spark's, power tools, etc ! In the end it's a practical tool which involves navigation though a series of challenges. The best part is it's a skill that I can spend the rest of my life getting better at it, and a knife can become something completely different every time. I can just feel my way though it!
Tell me a secret about Ireland
The Blarney stone was a toilet and we've been getting people to kiss it for ever.
If you could teach one lesson to any child, what would it be?
Respect others would be the most important. Also how important it is to eat unprocessed food! To have as much fun as possible but involve other people in it! Having a positive mental attitude is paramount and makes your life a lot easier!
What was the most dangerous time of your life?
I've jumped out of planes, off mountains snowboarding, I've done crazy water sports, partied with the some of the craziest people! Made explosives and blown shit up! lots of that kind of stuff, but as a dangerous time of my life, most likely all the above was from 17- 25 years old!
Having kids in my life has made me respect my own more, I still like to blow shit up, just from a safer distance ;)
Describe your most memorable adventure as an adult.
One of my fondest adventures as an adult would have to have been planning and creating our wedding with my wife Ciara! it was from day one a big undertaking, and I would consider it an adventure as it was filled with random projects involving lots of friends!
Part of the adventure was about doing it with Ciara! revolving our day around the food and music and people that we loved.
Several years ago We put a floor down in an beautiful wooden large horse arena, filled it with tables and chairs and created a farmers market theme with lots of food stalls, dessert's, pigs on spit, paella, cheese, coffee, cocktails etc lots of fun that day!
If you had to recommend a favourite music album, what would it be?
At this moment i'm set on shuffle mode, and like everything from classic, jazz, funk, but in my heart of heart I loves to Rock! So Queens Of The Stone Age, Black Keys, that kind of thing.