Thanks a Brunch!

Veggie Brunch

It has been a year now since I have renounced eating meat. It has been in my mind for the past six years, I may well have spoken about it before, well maybe not as directly but yes, it has been one year. Apart from that time in October 1st where I was invited by Chef Richard Corrigan at his own table, in his own restaurant and a beef Wellington might have been produced; it was Sunday brunch, my last real Sunday brunch, nearly a year ago. As I am typing this few short lines of my introduction, I can feel a frisson down my spine, and I swear, I clearly heard Anthony Bourdain whisper in my ear: ” you did good man, you did good…”. Is it cold here? Did you feel that?

Not missing the point…( Friends Richard Corrigan and Sea Vaughan)

It is hard to explain really, or just very simple? I do not judge or want to be judged, it just happened that way. The process started six years ago, a midlife crisis? Maybe, I guess it beats getting that red sports car or smoke pot again, even though I never really indulged in that form of entertainment; maybe a couple of times in secondary school without real convictions, wondering then what the fuss was all about, when the “Dutchie was passed on the left hand side”, man I miss that band!  “Don’t mix the grape and the grain” they say, definitely don’t mix the grain and the weed, trust me, I have been there before… Maybe I am a sensible soul, or rather a sensitive one in more ways than one. Convictions for future generations was the trigger, it didn’t make sense to me anymore and as “Tempus Fugit”, my sense of empathy for living beings – already quite high- was just getting stronger and unmanageable. That is the road I took, and I guess I feel better in that respect…

Cows and donkey in a Galway bog

But I had another road to take this weekend, another hurdle to pass. 135 kilometres separate me from my friends Paddy and his wife Caitlin, my friend Paddy and his Fleá na bPrataí, the potato based reunion, in a Galway bog. I know that I will be among friends for their annual gathering, and like every year and for some reason, I dread the anticipation of driving up; I know that my travelling companion is going to give me a hard time a few hours before hitting the M6 to Galway, my geographical back monkey. It will be half the journey before she tires itself out… She? Why this inappropriate, politically incorrect gender discrimination? What’s wrong with you “Hungry”? I guess it is because anxiety in French is feminine, ” L’anxiété” as well as her close cousin “La dépression” , de-pressure, same as the weather system which often triggers the latter. Of course, I do get “Le Blues” ( Masculine slang for “The Blues”, which I love in its art form by the way), but anxiety is my gig, my “Geographical Anxiety” I call it, triggered by a physical journey out of my comfort zones. Most of the time, I really enjoy the journey, especially if I am driving, my car being – as I see it- the extension of the house, and getting there, no matter where on the Island, ends up being a good experience. My friend Paddy knows that; I didn’t really have to tell him, but he is that kind of guy, no wonder why they call him ” An Druid Rua”, the red Druid… As soon as I park the car in the driveway, it goes away, I guess he has a sense to scare it away…

Paddy and Caitlin (photo bombed by Johnny), and the potato tatties…

Paddy has played a big role in my life in Ireland, someone I look up to, a guy who without knowing it inspired me in so many ways and since I am going with this theme, in my vegetarian journey, it will all makes sense soon. He doesn’t judge ( unless you are a complete arsehole, good luck fighting that argument, hang on, let me get some peanuts and a glass of wine), he invites you in the debate or in one of his amazing stories. Nearly two years ago, he introduced me to roasted kale, he didn’t invent the concept nor pretended that he did, I had heard about it and whoever came up with the idea, I would like to salute you as I am now addicted! A bit of olive oil and fleur de sel from Brittany and it makes a wonderful side to any veggie brunch…

Veggie brunch with roasted kale, baby toms, baby courgette, goat’s cheese and an oven baked happy egg…

Paddy is also famous for his “Tatties”, mini potato cakes/ pancakes that are going great with the loot of Irish cheeses I often bring… Have to bring. An unspoken rule. “Tatties” are also found in Italy not only a specialty from the North of Ireland and Scotland, I realised that I do make them sometimes, under the name of “Polpette”. Probably related to the paupiettes in French, made of sausage meat, they can also be vegetarian. I mix mine with courgette and cheese…

Choice 1
Polpette with courgette and cheese aka “Tatties”

But after a heavy night of talking and singing, maybe a little drinking, Paddy made a mighty fry for all his guests. In his typical self style, I didn’t have to remind him that I wasn’t eating meat anymore, you just need to tell that lad once, and he was too happy to share a veggie brunch with me, he also knew that my awkward “companion” was slowly waking up as I was soon to be heading home, that annoying and unwanted passenger that I try to ignore, feeding off my empty belly, the cradle of emotions… Some call it “The Fear” in Ireland, I call it my ball and chain where only a very few friends have a master key to release me from them shackles; Paddy is one of them… This time, salvation was going to be an omelette, with garlic potatoes, scallions, all from the garden and a bit of Coolea cheese that I brought, a Gouda style from Cork… ” I made a wee omelette” he said…

IMG_1452 (2)
Omelette in the making…
Omelette in the serving with Coolea cheese

But nothing comes for free in this world, and as wonderful it is to receive once in a while, a rare treat for me, you have to be able to give. The Sine Qua Non conditions of visiting the Fleá na bPprátaí is that you have to sing a song, tell a good story and sign “The Book”… Since 1996, a lot of pages have been written by so many friends, neighbours and visitors, well wishers to a friendly nonexclusive event in the back garden on a bog in East Galway. After a two hour walk in the “tourbière” outside the house, where Peacocks and Painted Ladies butterflies were dancing among the Woundwort, I could feel the “black dog” munching at my sleeve, telling me it was time to go. I guess that hound knows how to look after me, funny that…

Paddy and Johnny in the bog
Ali and Finton, writing the rules…
Painted Lady ( Latin: Vanessa Cardui) East Galway

I had been a good guest, or so I thought, bringing fantastic beers from people I know, amazing cheeses from people I work with and for, told a couple of stories, sang a few songs with my new friend Johnny, listened to others’ yarns and tales … But I forgot to sign “The Book”… I just ran away like I often do!

Iwerzhon? Or “If it keeps on raining”? Both maybe?

So, as a mark of respect for my friend, I decided to make amend and this little piece of post writing, with my “Breton Captain”, the first thing I bought with my first ever paycheck, the little figurine and a word of apologies for running away from my anxieties, on the spare pages a notebook I bought and kept since our summer of 1995, full of funny stories, shopping lists and memories…

Post Scriptum

Go raibh míle maith agaibh my friends, for the brunch, the Fleá, the friendship and the healing…

Potato Festival… Aka Fleá na bPrátai
Paddy and Caitlin (photo bombed by Johnny), and the potato tatties…

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall










8 thoughts on “Thanks a Brunch!

  1. Anxiety is such a tiresome mistress and, speaking as a woman, I am allowed to call her female. Because I think she is. And Depression too. And I’m not even French so, I don’t have the excuse of association with gender in the language although I guess it might have filtered into my dense skull along the way by now. It starts with over-thinking and it just mushrooms. So you are excused for your quicker than quick exit and your note to your friends must surely be well received as would an invitation to this grand festival of the spud …. in the meantime, your account has to suffice and I must ask forgiveness for drooling in a quite uncouth manner at that fry up, that omelette and those tatties. And a happy veggieversary to you too!

    1. Haha, yes, thank you! A pity not more people understand, that weight. I’ve had three “anxiety attacks” in the last 20 years. Three too many, not that brown paper bag stuff and then on you trot, I mean a complete implosion, shut down, a silent storm the body takes days to eliminate, so terrifying in fact that its memory alone is a potential trigger. Thankfully I haven’t had one in a long time, I manage to keep it at bay but its shadow is never too far! 😉 Merci l’amie!

      1. Those are mighty episodes and it is vital that you remain conscious that you have that tendency and equally vital that you don’t over-react to the lurking possibility which in turn can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is the balance that I have tried and mostly succeeded in achieving in my life but I have to remain alert. That niggling seed is in me and I have learned to accept it. I do wish more people understood. I do wish more people understood the absolute bleakness of the cavern of despair that is depressive illness. There is a great newish blogger called Katie at ‘How I Killed Betty’ who you might enjoy. She’s very funny but her story is serious.

  2. Beir Bua agus Beannacht a Bhriotanach Ocrach.
    Creidtear gur glacadh le do leithscéal ag Fleá na bPrátaí.

    No doubt the Flea na bPrátaí committee accepted such a graceful apology and after you contributed so much to the festival with you fine cheeses, craft beers, wonderful music, songs and stories.

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