Friday, April 26, 2013

Try This at Home

the view from our bedroom

            Today was the first of our weekly lecture days. Once a week we have no kitchen work, but come to school in our regular clothes and absorb 6+ hours of lecture. From now on, these lecture days will be on Wednesday. Believe me.. it’s a needed hiatus from the hectic schedule.  But it was an absolutely fascinating and engrossing day with several topics: Irish cheese, Wine, Fire and Food safety.

            Darina talks a mile a minute, each sentence is packed with information, and she is always enthusiastic. It hit me today that she follows in the best national and cultural tradition of story telling about all things culinary. She had us riveted telling us a possible scenario about “why” of the turkey stuffing scare.

            I marvel at this woman who came to Balleymaloe in the late 1960s as a Hotel Management graduate wanting to do something with food. She heard about Myrtle Allen who was putting together meals that were locally sourced (no one was doing that). Darina joined the Allen family, marrying Myrtle’s son Tim. Four children followed, and Darina wanted to make a go of living off the land. She began teaching cooking classes, and pursued more culinary education for herself in Italy. But most of all she believed in her dream and herself and hard work. Now the whole family works in one or another enterprise.

            So, as I sit in class, I look at this Irish icon and count myself lucky to e exposed to her knowledge, passion and expertise. She has led the charge in this country, taking it from obscure food to  world class and world leading in local sourcing local promoting of Ireland's finest and freshest. She has made important contacts and friends all over the world.  She is always positive, polite, yet firm about her boundaries. She has an easy laugh and often refers to herself as “an aging hippie!”

            She is a huge advocate of everything and anything natural, and a dedicated foe to anything processed, fake, or with additives. With the zeal of an evangelist, she lifts up the benefits of raw milk, and battles for her and her countryfolk’s right to choose more natural alternatives.

Today Darina:

  • made cheese biscuits (no, not like Red Lobster… crackers that go with cheese), and red current jelly in a matter of minutes in a “quick method.
  • taught us to make a proper cup of tea. Evidently tea bags use the lower grade tea. Use loose tea and a strainer. Also, pick herbs from the garden and pour hot water over the fresh bruised leaves (or use a combination of fresh and dry). And start with water from the tap; it’s cold and aerated, which will produce the best tea. Did you know that in Ireland, more tea is consumed per capita than anywhere in the world?
  • shared about Ireland being historically famous for it’s cheeses.  Between 1759 and 1870, the biggest cheese market in the world was in Ireland. Some 30 years ago a Veronica Steel from Dublin and her husband inherited a farm on the Dublin peninsula. She started experimenting with making her own cheese, beginning a new epoch in Irish farm cheeses.

  • talked about wines and wine service. Ireland has the highest excise tax in the European Union. The tax is not relative to the bottle’s price, but s standard for any wine. For still wine, the Irish tax is E1.97, the UK is L1.77, France is .o3, and Greece/Italy/Spain/Portugal have none.
  • brought in  a fire safety guy who let students put out fires on the stovetop with a CO2 extinguisher.

  • taught about all things sanitation, and how in our rush to mechanize we have de-skilled ourselves from the basics of living close to our food. Did you know that if cows are totally grass fed, there is little to no problem with e.coli 0157!

I finally had enough oomph to come home and cook. French onion quiche was on the menu. Only one problem: no beans to blind bake the crust. Brian checked two stores within a 5-mile radius. Nada. Hmmm.  I found a pan with a removable bottom… lined it with dough and parchment. Then I nested a stainless saucepan inside, and prayed. It worked!!  It was a far cry from the very French-looking tarts of our class … but dare I say it tasted better? Must have been the smoked Irish cheese I put in!

Tonight on the bay...

Tomorrow I’m off for a full day learning how to forage with Darina.

1 comment:

  1. I love keeping up with you and Brian. Thanks for writing so regularly.