Well, what a crazy few weeks leading up to what was to be the most inspiring collection of food writers, chefs, filmmakers and food lovers! Besides all the amazing workshops, discussions and cooking demos, there was plenty to do at The Big Shed. Over the past few weeks I have researched, read and cooked from 10 of the guest speakers at this year's Litfest. As they walked through the Ballymaloe grounds, it was surreal having them go from computer screen / cookbook to right there in front of me. It was an incredible pleasure to watch these amazing people share their stories and passion about cooking food from scratch and from their hearts.
Diana Kennedy and Darina Allen
Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi working with the Ballymaloe Cookery School staff on their once-in-a-blue-moon pop-up dinner.
Donal Skehan and I after his talk on Food Blogging.
The 'U2' of Litfest: Sami and Yotom's incredibly, gorgeous, delicious and fresh cookery demonstration. I asked them whether it was worthwhile to make tahini from scratch. They said no, your kitchen will smell horrible and it's best to buy it Iranian-made.
Sandor Katz helping me say hi to a friend who absolutely adores him.
Thank you to everyone at Ballymaloe Cookery School for taking me under their wing and letting me help out on this amazing festival. Hope to see you all at the fest in 2015!
Susan Boyle's A Wine Goose Chase theatrical history of wine in Ireland.
Alys Fowler - fellow bee lover / author / forager
Food is fundamental
When I had made the decision to come to Ireland for the Ballymaloe 12 week course, I had some people raise their eyebrows at me. To be honest, I had not much of a response other than 'It's the only cooking school in the world on its own organic farm". Of course, people only thought I would be preparing shepherd's pie and loads of potato dishes.
I did learn about properly roasting, mashing and peeling potatoes.. about 28 recipes dedicated to this versatile vegetable. But, as you can see from the sushi photos, this place is a cultural hub for all things food. I'll let this quote by Darina Allen herself carry my sentiments of Ireland's food culture..
"In the last few years the food scene has seen an acceleration in its influence as a culture maker. It has ‘trendy’ elements to it, what with its focus on foraging, DIY culture, and the rise of food photography, but it’s become apparent that naysayers would be wrong to dismiss the country’s newfound interest and dedication to food as a fad. With its focus on green economy, self-sufficiency, a deeper understanding of the food production systems, and on education, food has become the main portal to politics for a generation generally accused of apathy."
Below is a beautiful video featuring Rachel Allen speaking about Irish food on the world scene.
Of course, this is happening all over the world but Ireland has the advantage of a temperate climate surrounded by the sea. Not only that but after the recession, Ireland focused its artisnal farming culture to become world-class. There are several food tours of the country, awards that are given out to promote great food. On top of that there is rich farmland and hardworking farmers to produce it all.
My first impression from the country was how generous and open they are. This peaceful nation has come out of hard times from the famine and recession but Ballymaloe is a lovely symbol of resilience and how a dedication to self-sustaining practices and good food can enrich ones life no matter how poor you may feel.
Now, it's time to study for the last week of exams!! Some people don't feel so happy about the work ahead..
Happy St. Patrick's Day! I was blessed with my mom visiting from Canada and so we rented a car and did a tour of the Western Cliffs.
Over the few weeks here I've really gotten a sense of how different the pubs can be. In North America, there are attempts at replicating the convivial, communal and homey nature of that the pubs here have but none are as natural as what generations have created as a meeting place in Ireland.
Beyond that there are so many different types of pubs. I went to Dingle, which is on the Ring of Kerry, and there I went on an epic pub crawls where I really experienced all the different pubs.
There's the Old Man Pub.. seemingly not as 'Irish' to a tourist but MAN after visiting the other pubs that I would presume to be an 'Irish pub' I really got a sense why a true Irish pub is a relaxing home away from home - no matter the decore.
The other types of pub I discovered were really old buildings that have basically been converted into discos.. the complete juxtaposition of ancient looking stone walls with blaring top 40 music and lazer beams is really something to be seen. This is a good 'last stop' on a pub crawl.. but only if you're up for dancing or are desperate for another drink.
Then there's the Plastic Paddy pub. This is a term here used for Irish stereotypes all put together for tourists to enjoy. From the outside, I am most drawn to these pubs but quickly learn why my friends from Ireland bring me to the least obvious choices for a pint.
I spent St. Patrick's day in Galway. It was grand.
How was your St. Patrick's Day? If you'd like to share, comment below. I'm curious because the whole drive back there were loads of commentary on how the Irish are baffled by how celebrated this day is around the world!
Coming to Ballymaloe, which I have now dubbed 'Appreciation of Food 101', I never knew that I would appreciate wine so much. The way each bite of food can be transformed after a sip of deliciously paired wine can be incredible and change the experience of what you eat.
When you think of eating locally, in terms of how it just tastes so much better when the food is fresh, it's incredible how true that is for a good wine. Wine, like good produce or meat, really depends on the quality of grape vine, the geology of the region (soil, weather, etc) and how it is matured.
The difference is that it also needs to be matured in carefully selected barrels for several months and is carefully blended by the head honcho of the winery. The best wines are the least amount adulterated after it is blended.
What fascinates me is that food pairing with wine is pretty easy when you know a little bit about the wine regions of the world.
For example, the Loire Valley in France makes excellent dry white wine that goes well with shellfish, especially oysters. Incredibly, the vines grow on limestone made up of millions of oyster fossils. WHAAA??
Beyond wines, if you aren't a wine drinker, fermented drinks don't need to be alcoholic! Kamboucha and Kefir is really easy to make! Check out MASTER FERMENTER Sandor Katz for more information on how to incorporate these healing foods in your diet!