‘Start as you mean to go on’ is an invaluable phrase by which to live and my journey at Ballymaloe Cookery School began just so on Monday last. It was a day of new beginnings and as a hobbit might say ‘every good day starts with a good breakfast’; at the school we were greeted by a feast –bircher museli, granola, yoghurt, labneh with saffron, steaming porridge, bananas in lime juice, a selection of breads & farmhouse cheeses…too much to name. With a belly full of butterflies and home made goodness, we sat wide eyed, taking in the abundance of unfamiliar faces. With a broad smile Darina welcomed us and talked us through the provenance of the smorgasbord at our fingertips –her speech peppered with ‘from the farm here’ and ‘a lady up the road’ and ‘a family in Co.Tipperary’ -and that is the very essence of the approach at Ballymaloe.
'The cornerstone of good cooking is to source the finest produce' -Neil Perry
Shepherded through the schools farm and gardens, shiny wellies were baptised with dirt as Darina extolled the virtues of humus. The school is located in a place called Shanagarry which means ‘old garden’ in Irish, so, what’s happening here in a sense, has been happening here for generations –people planting, harvesting, cooking, sharing food, sharing knowledge, nourishing the soil, saving the seed and planting again. Despite the idyllic overtones the course is certainly not a walk in the park, life in a working kitchen is very demanding and this feels somewhat like a 12 week induction programme.
And so it begins –many are here planting the seed of a new career path, or hoping to branch out in a new direction with food and others to simply learn and add strings to their bow. I don’t know exactly where this will take me, but I already feel myself changing, pruning back for the new growth, filled with excitement and fear –but grounded by the knowledge that this is the beginning of a great adventure.
‘The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper’ -W.B.Yeats