Tuesday, January 16, 2007

One Week Down and Eleven to Go

One week down and eleven to go. It has been a bit of a whirlwind, but all and all a very blessed stay. I am so happy to be in the “mother land” with my “peeps” as I call them. Before I arrived things were so hectic with the move and all. But since I have been here I feel very calm and settled. I left LA at 6:30 in the morning last Sat and slept all the way to NY and again from NY to Shannon. When I arrived in Shannon it was 7:15 Sunday morning. I took a bus from Shannon south to Cork City, which is about two and a half hours away. Then I took a taxi from Cork to Shannagary, which took about forty five minutes. The Ballymaloe Cookery School may not be easy to get to but it is worth the effort. There are acres and acres of beautiful lush Irish countryside. The school sits among an organic farm, which grows everything from herbs to veggies and fruit. There are free range chickens, cows, pigs, geese, dogs and cats too. It was raining of course, but that just makes the experience all the more authentic. The school is only a couple of miles from the seaside, and because it sits up on a hill, you can see Ballycotton Bay on a clear day. I am staying in one of several cottages here on the campus. I have four housemates, Clodagh, Mary, Margaret and Yoko. We all have our own bedrooms and bathrooms. All the cottages have names; ours is the Playroom. We are what you might say the "mature ladies" in the school, so the name of our particular lodging is quite funny. The cool thing is that this is the cottage where the original school started back in 1983. Anyway, one of the ladies is from Japan and the other three are from Ireland. For the most part, the school is made up of Irish women and a few men. There are also some folks from England and Wales and one girl from Australia. There are a few other people here from the States besides me; a brother and sister from San Diego and a girl who recently graduated from Cal Berkley. After everyone got situated in their cottages on Sunday night, we gathered for a group dinner. Although simple, this typical Irish meal of mushroom soup and brown bread was absolutely delicious. Monday was orientation, tour of the grounds and a demonstration. The demonstration was to teach us the menu we would be cooking on Tuesday. We learned how to make brown bread, carrot soup, homemade salad dressing (to go with the freshly picked salad), mushroom pasta, homemade lemonade, and apple crumble dessert. Of course at the end of every demo we get a taste of everything so we know what to expect when we are cooking it. One of the best things about this school besides tasting after the demos is that everyday we eat for lunch what we cooked all morning. I am definitely well fed! Although we are scheduled to be in school Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, we may be assigned other chores, or duties. If we are on garden duty we have to arrive at 8 am to go out with the farmers to pick the fresh crops. Or we might have to arrive early to help bake the fresh bread that is served everyday. We might have to stay late if we are on clean up duty. In the evenings we have mandatory homework. We must study our recipes and write up our “order of work” charts. Our teachers must approve them first thing in the morning. The student teacher ratio is great: One teacher for every six students. Some students have never cooked in their lives and others are professional chefs. It is quite humbling. Honestly, in a single week I have made such a diverse array of foods; from homemade jams, scones, tarts, quiches and fancy chicken dishes. We are also learning about wines and cheese from around the world. Really, this is the best experience one could have…that is if you love food! One of the funniest and at the same time squimish things has been the number of knife accidents. On the first day we all received a new set of knives with our initials engraved. They are extremely sharp and I can’t even count the number of people I have seen walking around wearing band-aids on their fingers. So far I have all my digits! This weekend was a nice break and a few of us went on an outing Saturday morning. We went to the farmer’s market in Middleton and got some organic veggies, fantastic Irish Farmhouse cheese, smoked mackeral and gourmet pate. Then we went to Cork City to do some shopping. I was in desperate need of an electrical plug converter. Now I can actually use my laptop because it is charged! We had a nice lunch in the café above the marketplace. On the way back to school we stopped in Ballycotton and watched the sunset over the bay. Now I know why they call this God’s country. When we got back we had a communal dinner inviting over a couple of older women from another cottage and we sampled all sorts of great food. Then two of my Irish housemates and I went to 7:30 pm Saturday Mass at the small Catholic church here in Shannagarry. It was a beautiful service in a lovely old church. Sunday was a day of rest and organization for the week ahead. We also did our laundry as this is the day our cottage has been assigned for the washroom usage. Later in the evening, the owners of the school, Darina and Tim Allen, invited me to hear their son-in-law play some traditional Irish music. I am hoping to get up to Tuam, County Galway one of these weekends to visit my cousin who lives on the farm where my grandfather Patrick Geraghty was born. It is because of him that I have my dual citizenship. I am so grateful to God for this experience and hope to use all I am learning to make the world a better place…one meal at a time! By the way, a girl on the course is also blogging and if you want to see her pics go to www.juliewalkinginireland.blogspot.com