Duck or Die…

Choice 2
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

Choice 1
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 frère” 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 cliché ( 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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A Lemon Tart for Nikki

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Lemon Tart and Coffee

In 1982, we left the city for an idyllic life by the shores of the “Golfe”. Building a house was a big deal then, and I guess it always kind of is, especially the first home you are going to owe, move in as a family. The wonderful adventure lasted 8 years, all the ingredients for happiness were obvious, laid magically in front of us, vocations were born there, the start of a long life as a “Blown In”, a life of never really belonging anywhere and a talent for making new friends quite easily… Yes, a lot happened under that roof in 8 years; life changing moments? Absolutely! Life shattering? Definitely! By 1990, it was all over, my parents separated and my sister and I kindly refer to our childhood and teenage years’ abode as “The House of Hell”…

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North by North West

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Traffic Jam in Mayo

I haven’t been very well for the passed three weeks, a bit of a dose I often get in Spring, people say it is the change of season, I blame the “put the clock forward for a bit of light” malarkey; this messes me up big time! I mean, seriously? Who had the brain wave? A former French President claimed it was to save energy, I think there is something much more sinister behind it, a hidden agenda… I told you I was feeling feverish. Anyhoo, instead of taking a good rest, I went gallivanting in Killybegs with a healthy stock of paper handkerchiefs, and the week after my colleague “Murph” and I had planned to visit a few customers out west, and a cheese and wine tasting in Letterkenny. It was on the card for a couple of months, and the sensible thing would have been to stay at home; I really wanted to go, helping my colleague of course, but I also wanted to see what was happening out there. Sniffling and coughing I went, stubborn like a pig headed Breton, delusional like a teenager who keeps believing that “it’ll be alright”! Thinking about it, I must have been a charming traveling companion, trumpeting like John Coltrane one minute, sounding like a husky hoarse Barry White an other. Our first stop was in Oughterard, a lovely shop in the heart of the town, O’Sullivan’s…

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Killybegs, Diplomatic Ties

Killybegs Seafood Platter
Killybegs Seafood Platter

I love my job; I know it is cold in this old railway train engine maintenance stone building from the 19th century, pretty much winter for seven months of the year, yes, perishing actually! I have often joked about my age with customers, claiming that I was in fact 78 years old, preserved like a Dorian Gray Popsicle if you wish… Yes, I love my job, being surrounded by great food all day, food and farmhouse cheese, made by people with incredible stories that I like to pass on. But what really gets me going is the people; you never really know who is going to walk through the door, folks with lives and stories, big and small and I love that! I really like listening to them, the quirks and anecdotes, “queer as folk” the expression says, or like the local accent dictates, it is often pronounced “quare” in that unmistakable Irish twang.

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