On this remote off-grid wilderness island I miss supermarkets as much as I do traffic wardens yet, whilst on my hands and knees pulling single threads of wild thyme from the closely-grazed banks of a south-facing sun-warmed dune, I can’t help but think of easier ways to collect food.
But easy is not often best and the less than super markets far from set the agenda here. With the sun gently warming my bending back, I am kneeling at my favourite spot for finding thyme – it is here the deer and wild goats enjoy its aroma and graze the grasses low exposing the delicious hardy herb to the sunlight in which it flourishes in the well-drained and warm sandy dunes.
It is during these contemplative moments, observing the individual needs of the many different foods and plants this tiny, remote and off-grid island harbours, that my mind wanders to standardised high streets and the many marvels of consumerism.
It is perhaps the burger that is the pinnacle and finest example of homogenisation — a meal from a mould where modular and standardised food parts stack in a towering monument to American food adventurism all served with a red sauce-slop from the push-tap of a plastic dispenser. Yellow is also offered, it is after all the land of choice.
Each to his own I remind myself. Wild thyme is my immediate focus here and, after an hour of concentration combing the short grasses, I have a tightly clenched fist full of the wonderful smelling sprigs.
Thyme has held an important significance through history. The Egyptians used its oil to embalm the Pharaohs, Greek soldiers would place a sprig under their helmets (the name originates from the Greek for valour) and Roman soldiers, in keeping with warring traditions, would bathe in steaming water infused with thyme before going into battle.
All the while, in a brilliant show of understatement, English Ladies embroidered thyme emblems on their battling knights’ little handkerchiefs.
However, although Hebridean seas can be a challenge, I’ve not heard of west coast fishermen bathing in thyme before setting off to catch scampi.
I glance over my shoulder to the sandy beach below and to the rocks and flopping kelp beyond and wonder if I will find a lobster tonight. Perhaps this thyme might bolster my courage for the dive.
Octane offers gastro wilderness expeditions and, employing Octane’s Eight* methods of sourcing wild food for the pot, we eat the world’s best food, ocean fresh**.
*Octane’s Eight is our philosophy. We believe our travelling guests, being closest to the world’s wildest fresh foods, might quite like to eat the world’s wildest fresh foods.
1. we line fish, 2. we lobster pot, 3. we spear fish, 4. we sea forage, 5. we land forage, 6. we stalk, 7. we seed the sea, 8. we seed the land
**The term fresh fish is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean fresh. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.
See ocean fresh in practice with the post ‘Drive-by calamari’ – ocean fresh calamari caught, cooked and served in under an hour