Days fourteen, fifteen and sixteen: Cooking in Ireland with Darina Allen

Darina Allen is a force of nature. She is present doing a million different things at her cooking school. Helping, with her husband Tim, run a 100 acre farm. Writing cookbooks. Conducting classes. Overseeing the construction of a new amphitheater on the grounds. Overseeing the staff. Serving the food to the students. There isn’t a time during my visit that she wasn’t moving, discussing, helping, creating. In her late 60s (I think) and there for over 30 years. And still with the creative energy that she must have had at the beginning. How do you keep the passion alive? How do you keep the energy alive? Worth an interview someday.

Her husband Tim has shifted his life over those 30 years. The son of the owners of Ballymaloe, he grew up helping as his mom Myrtle started the school, and his father raised mushrooms and tomatoes. He taught at the school for 12 years, and then when he and Darina decided to grow what they cook, he took on the job of farming (now organically as well). It was a decision he says he has never regretted. From my conversation with him as he led a group of us on a tour of the property, it is a job full of experiments that often fail. Of constant attention, creativity and hard work. He too was ever present at the school, serving breakfast and overseeing every last detail. Little did I know at the time, but it was he who checked me into my room on Sunday night! No task is too little — or too big. The two of them have created a huge enterprise through no magic. Just hard work, fearlessness, and dedication. But how fortunate they both are. They found their passions right in their own “back yard”.

The school was amazing. Darina and her brother Rory O’Connell demonstrated SO many dishes. The days were just packed and then they would add even more dishes as they thought of new ideas. We ate everything they made and then on the last two mornings tried the cooking ourselves for one or two of the dishes each day. Just doing that was overwhelming and tiring! With everything pretty much measured and washed. We did do our own dishes, which I think is Darina’s style. Clean up your own mess!

Learned how to finally hold my knife properly (close to the blade, not in the middle of the handle) which made cutting much easier, will try an easy bread recipe at home for my son Danny who loves homemade bread (this only requires one rise and three ingredients!) and a few other dishes.

Met lovely people, including my cottage-mates. One night, Marie acted like I saw my family do in their kitchens. Put out a lovely tea with whatever was in the house — in this case fresh bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, tea and coffee. Others contributed cookies (“biscuits”) and it turned out to be a lovely spread. A real Irish talent….

What a wonderful experience!! Will never forget it..

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