Planned Obsolescence

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Cashel Blue roasted chestnuts buckwheat crepe and celeriac soup

It has been a bit of a strange week, with mixed feelings. It started last Sunday December 3rd; I was on my way to Dublin for a very special evening, my last day out, a night to remember or rather help me forget how busy the next 21 days are going to be. I was listening to P.J Harvey, “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”, already looking forward to a rare evening with my friend Domi, and a much older friend that I didn’t see in 20 years, Mr Robert Plant himself, former frontman of the legendary band Led Zeppelin; well, he’s not really my friend, but he is the same age as my Dad and was part of our musical family since I was a very little boy… My rambling mind, smiling face and tapping index finger on the stirring wheel got suddenly interrupted by a rattling noise coming from the engine. I remember saying something like “Fuck!”, four letters that basically resumed what was about to come… No car? No concert?No Domi?No Robert? All was normal, temperature was steady, there was oil in the car as I always make sure all is good before I do a decent journey. Then all hell broke loose, red lights and alarm blaring, I thought “this is my Sully moment” as I made a crash landing to my own Hudson River, aka the hard shoulder between Dunshaughlin and Dunboyne. So close… Yet ( all in unison) so far… I breathed out another “Fuck!”, this time, it was acceptance. On the bright side, and since I was a young boy, I have always wondered what those orange S.O.S phones looked like and since I managed to safely taxi my vehicle close to one, I was about to find out! Well, it’s just a green button and a giant speaker. The chap was very helpful, letting them know I was there; I had insurance to get picked up, but that would mean no concert. Tried the car again, gone, full engine failure. My last resort was “my guy”, the owner of a garage/ shop a mile or so from the house, 80 kms away… Sunday at 4:10 pm. I rang Mr “M” and he just said: ” hey buddy, where are you? Ok, I’ll be there in 40 minutes ( yeah right, but I wasn’t in a negotiating position here), you said you are on the Dublin side? Ok, I’d better bring you a car as well so…”. One hour and 15 minutes later, there he was, bright orange flashing lights, a car on top of the rescue truck, out it went, mine went on, here are the keys and “I’ll see you tomorrow”. I would be able to meet my friend in good time, and see my auld pal “Robert”. As I sat in the “new” car, trying to figure out where the wipers and lights commands were, I just whispered a very respectful “fuck”, this one was more admiration and relief…

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Robert Plant
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Franckie and Domi
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Robert Plant and some of the “Space Shifters”

Back to the garage on Monday, after a wonderful night, reality came back with a bang. “You need a new engine, that is the best thing to do now” said Mr “M”; his son confirmed that some cars, more often than none, might see their engine “self-destruct” after a certain period of time or mileage. A now common practice called “planned obsolescence”… What a beautiful term to force the milking cows that we are to flush out more cash into the greedy and merciless capitalism machine; the big corpos needed to find a way and they did. Where I am really pissed off is the fact that it could have had some serious consequences, forcing me to be stranded on a motorway at night for an hour and a half, when you know that your life expectancy in such an environment is only about 15 minutes… I guess I did ok. It has to be one of the loneliest place to be, and quite an unpleasant experience, bringing back some dark memories of a marooned teenager-hitchhiker, miles, miles miles, miles away from home. We started to be very busy at work and the weather was to turn for a more festive look, making driving conditions quite interesting!

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Winter drive to work – Loughcrew, Oldcastle
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The Hills of Loughcrew

Apart from running a food and cheese shop, we also offer an online service which gets pretty intense this time of year. We also have to organise a Christmas Fair; I am not a big fan of the festive season, but I decided to be more positive. You kind of have to. Not only the place is incredibly cold, but for me it is crucial to allocate enough time for a quick lunch, like that veggie organic fry I did on Wednesday, with roasted mushrooms, tomatoes and my “egg in the oven”, with olive oil for the perfect yolk… ( keep an eye on it, this happens quickly!)…

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Veggie fry with Milleens cheese

And on Friday, up to our noses, I used some leftovers pieces of cheese, white wine and spices for a quick “fondue” style with some sourdough bread… Sorry Switzerland, I didn’t have time to go traditional…

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Quick fondue
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A bit of white wine
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Dip-dip

But what’s most important for me, either if it is before going on a road trip or facing a busy day, is breakfast. You never know what might happen! I know I often make my traditional buckwheat crepes and I must say that it always sees me safe if I have to skip lunch, or face a crisis… My car won’t be ready for another few days, the “new” engine takes a bit of time to install I guess. There goes my Christmas present, after working so hard to contribute to the happiness of others. I am cool with that, I just won’t take part in the manic dance this year, that machine is greedy enough, a tear drop in the ocean, but it makes me feel better. Recipe for the crepe and celeriac soup coming soon, until then, have all a lovely Christmas if I don’t see you before! 😉

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Festive Baubles
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Ballinacree
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Recipe coming soon

Keep Well and Eat Happy!

Franck

 

 

Donegal and the Dining Gal

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Misty Killybegs Harbour

Last week, like I sometimes do, I ran away again… I know what’s coming you see, the Capitalistic-apocalyptic tsunami that is December, I have stopped counting the number of times I heard or saw myself mentioning the “C” word since the last week of August. This is the life I chose I guess, no point arguing about it! I heard some shops in Dublin already have their windows decorated, enough already! The swallows are still here for Christ sake ( sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist), or at least that is when I last saw them, outside of Mullaghmeen forest, gathered on telephone lines, waiting for the conductor to signal a final “all aboard!”. I was heading for Co. Sligo first, eager to visit the People’s market in Strandhill, literally in the airport…

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Mackerel and Mustard Sauce

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A house by the Golfe – ( Original pic by Jacques Ducoin).

We left the City of Vannes for a more bucolic life by the shores of the Golfe of Morbihan, “The little sea”… SĂ©nĂ© wasn’t quite a town, even if on Irish standards, it would definitely be one. It was not a village either, as it had a town hall, an elected Mayor with an office in his Mairie, a hotel, a few bars and a couple of restaurants. SĂ©nĂ© was what we called a Borough, and its district was quite vast; known as a “commune”, it was made of a myriad of small villages and hamlets; Port Anna, Mousterian, Montsarrac, Cressignan, FalguĂ©rec, Brouhel… We built our house in the village of Kerarden, nearly in front of the chapel of the same name, celebrating mass every other week. A quiet life, with a beautiful view from my bedroom window!

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Duck or Die…

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Gun of freedom…

When I opened the big gate of adolescence, a frightening squeak from a giant cast iron secondary school entrance welcomed and absorbed me in a solemn vacuum. Of course, and like today, there were kids who just wanted to blend in, ride those teenage years under the radar with minimum collateral damage, wanting to be acknowledged and noticed, yet having the skills to keep your cards close to your chest; not showing too much, dodging rain drops and other potential scraps or punches because you looked at, or aggravated with smart words a tougher kid with social or rather deeper personal issues than yours. Some built themselves with a strong and bold shell: Punks, Goths, Skinheads and Red Skins (the left wing ones; their Doc Martens were burgundy rather than black), right down to a couple of old fashioned black leather jacket bullies with learning difficulties, easy enough to manipulate if you knew how to; keeping them sweet by sharing candies, giving a few test wagers that would up some grades, preventing them from repeating the class… Again. I was a “bullet dodger”, or at least that is what I have been called once by that big fucker – who was actually pretty smart- as he tried to pound my face into the granite wall of the refectory. I used words, and it seemed to work.

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Bretonised Aubergines, Roasted Butternut and Red Lentils Stack

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Buckwheat and aubergine stack, with roasted butternut squash and red lentils…

I am not very fond of summer in Ireland, not very fond of summer in general, that is just the way I am, don’t judge me or call me a miserable bastard. Since I have been leaving here, we’ve had two great summers; 1995 and 2006. The legend says that as the heat waves hugged and cuddled the land of Hibernia, someone, somewhere, on the Island said:” no, the summer is great, but it’s almost too hot”. A divine intervention then punished that poor soul by ruining  it for everybody else… How dare he or she said that?!? For the record your honor, it wasn’t me; I know too well how not to aggravate the natives, refraining from expressing my dislike for July and August. Last week, I decided to be more positive, tackling my cabin fever with long walks, five, nine kilometers, enjoying the wonderful nature of the midlands, butterfly hunting with my camera and rediscovering long lost smells from childhood summers. No saline breeze, no redshanks piping, just a dead dry heat with clear blue skies, thousands of flies and a few remaining chiffchaffs and swallows already thinking of heading back to the African continent…

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Tabouleh Blues Tale

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Tabouleh and Hummus toasts

When I was a kid, my Dad wasn’t the cook in the house; my mother – and through silly cultural reasons- naturally adopted the role. That said, it didn’t mean that my father, like other men in Brittany couldn’t or wouldn’t cook; “au contraire mon frĂšre” like we say in some parts of Dublin 4. I remember how, a long time ago, an Irish guy explained to me that a man who cooks is considered as, well, a bit of a sissy… To which I replied a bit surprised and annoyed at that silly clichĂ© ( now long gone), that if cooking was making a man more effeminate, having a shower with 14 other lads after the Sunday Game must just be a bit of male bonding so… I know it was a cheap shot, but it just came out like that. I’ll stick to cooking thank you.

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Smoked Tuna Salad

Smoked Tuna salad
Smoked Tuna Salad

Last Thursday, I went to give a talk and a tasting with the staff of a famous restaurant in BlackLion, Co. Cavan… ( ok, if you must know, it was MacNean House), lovely people, beautiful place, amazing Cavan countryside on the way to Leitrim and Sligo, literately a stone throw with the Fermanagh border, Belcoo, or what the locals euphemistically call “The North”… You’ve got to love it! I enjoy doing these cheesy talks, but somehow I feel a certain anxiety and apprehension, I hide it well, I face it well but this leaves me in a paradoxical discomfort. To remedy this – at least for a while – I like to abandon myself, switch off and return to my first love, wildlife, nature, ornithology. The day before, superb sunshine out, I headed for Westmeath, Lough Derravaragh to be precise….

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