Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Not Goodbye Ballymaloe But Only Cheerio, Until Next Time...

Sitting down to write this Ballymaloe goodbye feels like that means it's all over. No more Buttermaloe, Doiliemaloe, or any other spoof on the cookery school on a mission to save the world from having the lights turned on when no one is around. Or does it? Maybe, it means I've only just started the journey chasing my true passion to cook, create, and inspire people in the kitchen? Surely, it means I'll embark on my own mission to save the world from the next horrible food fad, one forgotten culinary skill at a time! Yes, of course it does. Now, before I allow myself to accept Life After Ballymaloe, I'd like to draw out the honeymoon phase with a couple more reminders of my time in Ireland. 
The moment at the end of demo when Darina says: Emer, have we got everything?
The moment in demo when Darina asks Emer: Now, is that everything?

Pat Browne & Rachel Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School
Pat Browne and Rachel Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School.
When I enrolled in the cookery course packing not only myself, but my husband and two small boys into 4 suitcases bound for Ireland enrolling myself into a 12 week culinary boot camp, people continuously asked: Ireland?! Why would you go to Ireland for culinary school? Hidden in their bewildered question is the assumption Ireland has nothing to offer the culinary scene, but that is so. un. true.

First off, the grass! Ireland can grow the most luscious grass, which, in turn, nourishes the cows, lambs, pigs, and chickens. Which then produces the richest tasting meats, eggs, cream, butter, and milk! The milk. You guys, the milk! I'm not here to be a Kerrygold spokeswoman, but Cork city doesn't have a butter museum for nothing!

Being around the finest ingredients, sourced from the best locations in the world, with local produce grown organically in a microclimate close to the sea offering year-round growing conditions, has left me completely spoiled to truly one of a kind cheffy ingredients. Olive oil from the first pressing of the season in Tuscany! Valrhona Chocolate! Spices directly from India! Quail eggs! Lobster caught that morning! Wines from Bordeaux, South Africa, and Australia! Sherry from Jerez! Port from Douro Valley! All the produce of the Wild Atlantic Way! 
Ballycotton Lighthouse
The lighthouse of Ballycotton Bay, Cork County, Ireland.

Shanagarry Strand
The sun rises over Shanagarry Strand.

School was tough. And at one point the pace became grueling. Learning all day, every day turned my head into mush, which some nights would lead my mind into a tailspin until three in the morning processing all the information learned that day. Stollen Cake! Monkfish Filleting! Pain au Chocolat! What is an oxtail?! Producer of the Week! Biscuit of the Week! Gluten Free Flours! Learn how to make a proper cup of tea! How is a caper grown?! Where is the gullet?!

Among some of my favorite things to learn at school were dealing with all the interesting alternative meats, steeling by backbone against offal, the briny, fresh seafood which had usually come fresh off the boat into school that same morning, the millions of sweet pastry treats, butchery basics, fancy French cuisine and on and on!! Again, the cheese, milk, cream, and butter were INSANELY delicious. The day I made butter may forever be imprinted into my mind.

Doing things slow is good. Slow Food. It's (obviously, or not so obviously) a thing.

As my arrogance got the best of me, never fully realizing the people I met while at Ballymaloe would affect my own being, I was walking around, my head in a cloud selfishly thinking I was the influencer. Not the influence-ee. Oh, how wrong I was! The first day standing behind my kitchen counter top while back at home after the life changing experience of Ballymaloe, whipping up some Christmas treats, all I could think of was all the beautiful people I had been surrounded by in the last twelve weeks. And everything was GRAND! Like they say in Ireland, It's GRAND!!!
About to filet a whole cod. Looking very chipper, too!! 🎣
Paul who on about day three shook me to my core by telling me it was very "American" of me to pigeon-hole him by asking if he was right brained after his comment on the design of the Ballymaloe dining room. Stanley Love (I know, great name) who coined me his Ballymaloe Mom. Every week as our assigned cooking space changed there was Stanley, somehow the grid had assigned him to follow my path, asking, Becki! Do you know what a rolling boil is?! Oh, dear Stan. Mike, who was the ultimate in Irish ditty songs. Courtenay! Who saved my a@@ in so many ways. You always knew where I needed to be with what knife. Can't WAIT to stay at your inn. Leigh, Fergal, Matthew, Lou, you all loved on my kids and that was so meaningful. Anouk, please, I need you again to help me with my French pronunciation! And so many others….
Another week completed at #ballymaloecookeryschool // next week is week 6 or our halfway point or, another way to look at it, our midterm exams. We are expected to be able to identify and name a majority of the herbs in this garden. I got this. 🌿:ear
The herb potager garden at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
#latergram of the class tour of #jamesondistillery. We sat down to a unique four course pairing of whiskey and canapés. So many nummy nibbles. We all walked a way with a gratis bottle of their newest creation Jameson Caskmates which is whiskey aged in Mur
A Whiskey & Food Pairing at Jameson Distillery.

In Tim and Darina Allen's Kitchen
Tim and Darina Allen with myself in their Shanagarry home. 

Upon arriving back into America I've fully realized everything we're so fortunate and blessed to possess. I have a house with so much space! Two cars in a garage full of my husband's man toys. Closets FULL of clothes, shoes, and jackets of all sorts. My kitchen. MY KITCHEN! My kitchen with a dishwasher, a big sink, blender, stove, gadgets of ALL KINDS, food. My kids have neighborhood friends and a school for learning. We belong to a brilliant church community. The farmer's market in my community is vibrant and thriving. 

BUT America is wasteful. And so am I. But I can be different.

I can live with less. Target doesn't own me. Ireland doesn't even HAVE Target. In Ireland I had a handful of outfits to wear, and sure, I felt gross a lot of the time, but that was probably because of the fact I smelled of deep fat fryer most of the time and hey, I got by! Society doesn't need to tell me how to live. 

Being around expats, international travelers, and people from around the world is energizeing, challenging, confusing, fun and silly. Our lodging in Ireland was challenging to live in, which taught me to view things differently, and for that, I'm thankful. Darina and everyone at the school inspired me to believe I can do anything. My world became bigger by traveling to the quiet countryside of Shanagarry. 

At Ballymaloe we never say goodbye we only say cheerio, until we see you again next time.

The gate at Ballymaloe Cookery School


  1. I was horribly depressed when I returned from my journey to Ireland, Scotland and England. I wanted to turn around and go back, even though most of my time had been somewhat 'challenging.' Then I read an article online called Reflections on Pilgrimage to Ireland. Highly suggest it. Can't wait to see where your journey leads you.

  2. OMG Becki...incredible read! thank you for sharing xxxxx

  3. Welcome home. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I look forward to hearing about what you will do with all of this new knowledge and experience.

  4. Well Said. And still your experiences and your writing fulfill us.

    Glad you are home
    Love you

  5. Would you consider creating a dinner night? Dinner for a group of people who are interested in your culinary skills? I don't know where you would have it but it would be amazing if you could bring people together to appreciate your cooking and your adventure.

  6. Yes, Janet — I NEED to start a dinner club, but, oh, where do I get the time for all my ambitions?!!


I'd love to hear all about your kitchen adventures! Xo, Becki