Galleries: Recent Projects
The Spirit of Munster Collection.
Designed especially for the exhibition The Expanded Field, curated by Askeaton Contemporary Arts at Lismore Castle Arts' Carthage Hall, July 15th-August 19th 2018.
Authenticity, terroir and craft have become buzzwords for the food and drinks industry in recent years. The Domestic Godless, in acknowledgement, have shamelessly jumped on the bandwagon to produce a range of spirits that in their own unique way reflect a contemporary portrait of the province of Munster in southwest Ireland.
Eschewing an established selection of ingredients that uphold the bucolic sense of tradition and place favoured by many independent drink producers, The Domestic Godless have veered towards investigating the geographical and social peripheries of the region. In doing so they have ‘opened a can of worms’ (metaphorically speaking – thankfully not yet literally), regarding foraging rights, social tastes, spurious rumour and even self-inflicted male impotence in their crafting of this collection of delicious aperatifs, digestifs and tonics.
Seán Mór – Sea Lettuce Vodka
A true taste of the wild Atlantic coast. We dedicate this spirit to John Wayne, whom it is rumoured spent many a day, following his time in Ireland filming “The Quiet Man”, vacationing in County Cork with his co-star and friend Maureen O’Hara. Here, Big John would bathe his weary and calloused feet in the waters and seaweeds of Glengarriff Harbour, before settling in for the evening to a roaring turf fire and a game of canasta.
Of all the seaweeds that line the shores of Munster’s coastline, it is Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) that produces the subtlest expression of this rugged landscape.
Collection of this seaweed, even though it is to be found on all stretches of tidal reach, is by no means an easy task, due to the various legalities encompassing the Foreshore Act of 1933. This impenetrable heap of verbiage is cluttered with prohibitive language amounting to prosecution and huge fines for removing any kind of beach material without prior authorisation. For this reason we only collect sea lettuce during violent storms, when the sea itself rips up the plant from its fastenings and throws it up onto the beach. Our job is to catch it ‘mid-flight’ as it were, before it lands on the ground. We dress in heavy sowesters with harnesses tied to heavy chains that are attached to our car, which is often parked up to 500 metres away, and limits the possibility of being dragged out to sea in such conditions. Now, armed with little more than hawk-like vision and butterfly nets, we catch the sea lettuce from the crests of breakers and fling each piece towards a large bucket positioned further inland. One bucket can take up to fifteen hours to fill and will produce twenty bottles of vodka.
Originally from the Peruvian Andes, mashua is a plant related to the nasturtium, producing nutritious tubers and flowers. Further to this it is famed for its supposed anaphrodisiac properties and the Incas would partake of the tuber to “forget about their wives” when preparing for war.
We discovered mashua on a field trip to a well-known castle and gardens in west Waterford, having opportunistically separated from the tour group for a little impromptu foraging. Subsequently, we planted some tubers in several discrete locations (as we had done with our collection of heritage varieties of Japanese knotweed) and found that they adapted to the temperate climate of West Cork incredibly well, standing up quite admirably to competition from native plants. In addition, we found that rabbits enjoy the tubers and the anaphrodisiac properties of the plant has reduced the rabbit population of the locality quite considerably – the males being quite happy to spend their lives fighting instead. In this respect The Domestic Godless have been interested in the possibility of producing intoxicating liquors that have the added benefit of greatly reducing the sexually predatory effects of alcohol in the human male. We have not yet however countered the potential effects of aggressive behaviour (at least legally) and our first preorder from the Vatican remains ‘on hold’.
We must admit that the initial tastings of our mashua distillation were pungent and challenging, but we have since added a unique blend of juniper, herbs and spices to produce a borovička-style drink of exceptional quality and flavour that works well both neat and with tonic.
Amhránaí Beag – Chanterelle and Rocoto Mouthwash
There is little to compare with finding, on a damp late-Summer stroll, a patch of brightly egg-yolk hued chanterelles nestling in a sunlit stretch of woodland. These are wonderful mushrooms, exuding aromas of apricot, pepper and mossy earth and are best eaten lightly sautéed in butter when fresh.
The Domestic Godless chanterelle and rocoto mouthwash, which was originally designed to remove the stickier residues of our meals from our diner’s mouths, captures these aromas and flavours in the bottle, to be enjoyed well into the following cold winter months.
Collecting chanterelles in Ireland has its challenges, as patches found on public land are often closely guarded by a secretive cognoscenti. This has meant regularly trespassing on private woodland estates throughout the Munster region in camouflage. Once a decent basket of mushrooms has been collected, each one is individually brushed with a Sennelier no.8 filligree sable watercolour brush to clean it of grit, moss and dirt. The removal of bugs and insects however, we entrust to a carefully trained pair of pied wagtails who are able to clean each chanterelle with barely visible amounts of damage. They are then dried and added to a base spirit for a minimum of 36 hours to impart their flavour. The second flavouring comes from the rocoto or Bolivian Hairy Chilli (Capsicum pubescens), which, unlike most varieties of chilli pepper, thrive in Munster’s cooler temperate climate and still pack a massive punch of piquancy.
This drink is best enjoyed straight from the freezer.
Lion’s Mane – Antidote Liqueur
Historically, many confused and disorientated botanists have spread mycophobia throughout the new world as they encountered an alarming variety of unfathomable life-forms emerging out of dead and rotting matter. Mycophobists surrendered to their fear and abandoned the mushroom to the dark room.
The Domestic Godless have braved the darkness and stumbled through the lost forests of Munster to locate an odd looking thing called Hericium Erinaceus (also lion’s mane mushroom, monkey head, bearded tooth mushroom, satyr’s beard, bearded hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom, or bearded tooth fungus) which is an edible and medicinal mushroom belonging to the tooth fungus group. It grows on hardwood trees in a single clump of dangling spines and is said to have uncanny powers which enhance cognitive abilities through nerve cell stimulation and growth. We collect our mushrooms in the half-light of the early Autumn and the fruiting bodies are then steeped in a powerful alcohol and temperature-cradled until Spring.
Bee blaa (particular to Waterford, but known as bee bread everywhere else) is produced in the hive by the bees who compact pollen, wax and honey with saliva which, under the influence of enzymes, natural bacteria and fungi, generates lactic acid as it ferments. It is an excellent biostimulator in the fight against premature aging and restores vitality.
The new season’s bee blaa is added to the lion’s mane infusion for its sweetness and complimentary medicinal properties.By infusing the lion’s mane fungus with bee bread we have created the ‘golden syrup’ of the neural world; a radical cognitive-function-adjuster to open the mind and promote liberation from mycophobia. Feel the fear and drink it anyway.
Uisce Brón – Sad Water
For everything that there is to celebrate about the province of Munster, the Domestic Godless also acknowledge the darker side of life and a deeply embedded melancholy that permeates the land, sea and urban tracts of its counties. We have addressed this with uncharacteristic empathy and mind-numbing alcohol – Uisce Brón - produced from the collected tears of lost children in busy shopping centres over several years, from Tesco’s of Roxboro to Mahon Point Cork, and Mile Heights in Tralee to uptown Dungarvan.
Armed with laboratory grade sterile blotting tissue, our compassionate dabbing of children’s lachrymal secretions are then steeped in spirit, infused with caraway and roasted apricot kernels to generate the soothing aromas of the gripe waters of yore (Note: while apricots are not native to Munster, they are available in supermarkets sporadically throughout the year and are often sub-standard and sour compared with the wonderful fruit to be found fresh in warmer climates. To our benefit, offering unripe bruised fruit in preference to sweets, accelerates the crying and we can now upgrade the classification of this activity to sustainable tear farming.).
Uisce Brón promotes an immediate melancholy and wistful contemplation and is best sipped from a cold silver teaspoon.
Traditionally consisting of prime cuts of beef with lobster or fillet steak stuffed with oysters, “Surf’n’Turf “ became hugely popular in 1980s and an omnipresent addition to the menus of more creative, aspiring restaurants. Given that Munster is blessed with kilometers of coast and rich pasture for cattle, it remains unquestionable that The Domestic Godless have come up with their own take on this classic.
The indelible memory of two powerful images on a kitchen wall in baffling proximity – the Sacred Heart of Jesus with an anatomical drawing of an octopus – has inspired roasted ox-heart, stuffed with black rice in chicken stock, white wine and star anise, and then topped with a crown of flame- grilled tentacles.
Our Spirit of Munster Surf’n’Turf is the perfect accompaniment to this hearty dish. With a hint of smoky turf and a salty splash of the Atlantic Ocean it opens the palate and numbs the senses long enough to enable you to swallow this creation.