The abiding hope we have always had for our Roots conference is that the connections forged between our presenters and attendees are lasting, impactful, and meaningful. One of the most gratifying things we hear from our participants during the four years that we have organized Roots is about the discussions that were sparked at the conference and evolved into an ongoing narrative that has made a lasting difference in the food world.
These relationships that deepen and strengthen over time are the whole point of Roots and the reason we strive to bring industry leaders together year after year to exchange knowledge, foster encouragement, and create a vast network of people who are working together to improve the culinary industry.
In that spirit, Jamie Simpson, the Executive Chef Liaison of The Culinary Vegetable Institute and The Chef's Garden and Jody Eddy, the curator of our Roots conference, journeyed to Ireland earlier this month along with Chef Justin Wolfe, who has joined us at Roots to work in the kitchen of the CVI each year since its inception. Our common goal was to continue the work of Roots and the trip was inspired by a presentation at Roots 2015 by seaweed expert and a guiding light in our industry, Prannie Rhatigan of the Irish Seaweed Kitchen.
Prannie’s commitment to her mission of introducing people the world over to the transformative virtues of seaweed deeply moved us and the epiphanies she inspired with chefs in our audience about seaweed’s nutritional importance in our recipes sparked more than a few ideas. It is what galvanized us to venture to Ireland to learn more from Prannie and several other seaweed experts, chefs and food pioneers who are transforming the Irish food system from one of a dependence upon exports to a newfound appreciation for the natural resources that flourish in Irish fields, forests and seas.
Seaweed is one of the ingredients that used to play a fundamental role in the Irish culinary and agricultural repertoire but has diminished in cultural, farming and gastronomic significance in the wake of the industrialized food system that is blazing a trail of monoculture and mass production throughout Ireland, just as it is everywhere on our planet. But voices like Prannie’s are rising up in Ireland to remind citizens of the historical and nutritional significance ingredients like seaweed once played, and should play again, in the pantries and on the tables of the Irish people.
Our Irish adventure with Prannie was profoundly important to us because it represents our commitment to not just talk the talk about forging lasting relationships at Roots but to walk the walk too. With Prannie and other Irish food pioneers, we covered a significant amount of ground and met new people who not only inspired us but also reminded us that we are a global community of people who share common goals and have the same dream of a future where people work in solidarity with each other in all corners of the globe to better our food system, forging relationships that fortify each other and empower our work.
Our trip began with an event we hosted in collaboration with two of Ireland’s chef luminaries, Kevin Thornton of Thornton’s in Dublin and Enda McEvoy of Loam in Galway. It was here in a tiny village called Lisdoonvarna in the rugged countryside of The Burren, that the collaborative spirit of our trip was illustrated through dishes comprised of ingredients from some of the nation’s most esteemed food producers and vegetables, micro greens and edible flowers from The Chef’s Garden. The dinner sold out and each and every one of the seventy attendees was as passionate about the food world as we are and lasting connections were made.
We then journeyed to Sligo in northwestern Ireland. This wild, ethereal place is Prannie’s stomping ground and it was appropriate that our visit included a seaweed foraging trip along the beaches of the Sligo coastline where we tasted a few of Ireland’s bounty of over six hundred seaweed varieties, walking in step with our guide and mentor from Roots, Prannie Rhatigan.
What a joy it was to find ourselves in Ireland with Prannie who last September inspired us so much to open our minds to the restorative powers of seaweed that we journeyed thousands of miles to walk alongside her on an Irish beach to learn all we could from the lauded seaweed expert who travels the world to teach people about seaweed’s brilliant ability to heal us, prevent illness and fortify us, body and spirit.
Our enchanted trip to Ireland included many more action-packed days of learning and new relationships forged and we will be sharing many of these experiences enjoyed, discoveries made and wisdom gleaned in the weeks to come. This trip with Prannie to Ireland is what Roots is all about for us, signifying the critical importance of continuing the conversations, and sometimes traveling thousands of miles, to strengthen the narrative that starts at Roots but has the power to continue for months to come in all corners of the globe.
Roots is meaningful in its ability to forge connections in a nurturing environment that alter us, transform us, and ignite friendships and collaborations that remind us that we are all in this together, that we are mighty when we work together in tandem to become stewards of our food system, guardians of our culinary and agricultural traditions, and caretakers of each other, whether it be on a family farm in Ohio or on a distant beach in Ireland where the crashing waves and saline flavor of seaweed restored us and reminded us of what Roots is all about.
Learn more about what we have planned for Roots 2016.
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