For 10 years, during the 1990s, I lived in a whitewashed farmhouse with no electricity in the northern reaches of Ibiza—as far as you could go on the island from the party crowd— and my lifestyle was the opposite of raving. I kept goats and pigs and hens. The only repetitive beats I heard were the tap-tap-tap of the wooden poles used by my rustic neighbors to harvest almonds in September. At around the same time that people were stumbling out of Manumission, I was driving into the sleepy hamlet of San Juan to pick up my faxes.
For years afterward, I stayed away, afraid of how busy and built-up the island might have become in my absence. Then, recently, I crept back to Ibiza for a few days, and what I found quite surprised me. Of course, there were crazy prices and gridlocked traffic on the new motorways, but I was excited to discover that beyond the madness, the White Island’s rural spirit was not merely surviving but also showing signs of a new dynamism.
I hired a car and took to the backroads of the interior, past sprawling fig trees held up with sticks and the beautiful, snow-white Casas payesas, much like my old house in San Vicente. The lie of the land seemed more or less unchanged, but it was fun to spot the difference: the vegetable plots seemed more carefully tended, the orange trees a little more neatly pruned; I also saw freshly planted olive groves, the young trees laden with blossom, and fields of vines—both rare sights in my day. And no restaurant worth its Himalayan salt can now be without its own organic garden, it seems, preferably tended by a bearded gardener, or at the very least a supply chain from a nearby farm. The Buddha Bowl at Aubergine, on the road to San Miguel, is a kaleidoscopic salad of quinoa, pumpkin, avocado, broccoli, onion and more, much of it from the vegetable patch outback. Some of the island’s classic eating places, such as the wonderful Es Ventall in San Antonio, which has its own farm in the valley of Es Broll de Buscastell, has been making a big thing of island ingredients for years. But for the new crew in Ibiza, organic and local are indispensable. When the island’s hippest young chef says he would “rather make a carrot sexy” than work with any more imported lobster and foie gras, you know attitudes surely are shifting.
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October - November 2019