I can’t recall anything scarier than being twenty… Seriously, it has to be the most over rated age apart from the fact that you are pretty much completely free from any commitments, bills, jobs… You’re broke, but you’re free. You need to find a place to exercise this freedom, a place of paradox, where one can reflect on ideals, but yet requires the company of similar frightened comrades putting on a brave face, a safe house for your music gigs, a place to drink a few beers at the weekend, a waiting room to that big ugly world out there, and it’s you and your likes that will make a difference, that will change all of this, you know it… Just maybe not right now, perhaps after another coffee at the bar…
Ok, ok, I know it’s a bit of a mouthful as far as titles go, but I couldn’t figure out a better way to put it. It was last Sunday, I was tidying the house you see, cleaning the windows, defrosting the freezer, you know the kind of stuff men are known to never undertake… uh? Well not me, every so often, a miracle happens and for some reason, I go nuts. As I was almost finished, I stumbled upon a bunch of bananas that was over ripe for my morning enjoyment, yet, not black enough for a banana cake… Dilemma!
This year marks a milestone anniversary for me, I left Brittany twenty years ago, the land of Crêpes and apple ciders for the mythical “Island of Winters” and black beers. Born and bred in Armorica – The Land of the Sea – I could easily have become a fisherman or a lighthouse keeper; as contradictory as it may sound, they both are a form of a calling, a thirst for peace, freedom… Or escapism. Definitely a thirst though! In more ways than one.
My boss is sending me on a Special Mission; it happens once in a while, either dropped discreetly around a cup of coffee between a “well, how are you?” and “how would you feel about going on a road trip?”, or an email, extrapolated by my over active imagination which can clearly read: ” Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves extracting some of our newest staff from Dublin, bring them to West Cork to see some of the original producers and actors of the Irish cheese and food revival, bring them back with plenty of stories and dreams to share. This message will self-destruct in five seconds”. I swear, that is what I get, this is what I hear, this is what I read.
Ok, I know, this is not a food post but still! How often do you get such a rare phenomenon over the Isle of Ireland? I received a text in the early hours of this morning from my friend Morag who lives “Up the road”: ” Polar stratospheric clouds in the sky this morning! Look up!” it read as my upper left eye lid was still stuck to the bottom one and jumped out of bed, still in my pajamas, put my snow boots on ( they are easy to put on in case of an emergency… You can imagine the fashion disaster here…) and grabbed my camera which is always at reach… I wasn’t going to be disappointed!
I have been selling cheese for over 15 years… Yes, 15 years, pretty sure. As I have escalated and passed to the “Super Wise Man’s” gap of forty ( I am cool with that) and I am still getting to grips with what life is throwing at me. Bring it on, you old bitch, you have given me so many challenges before my worrisome nature turned into a “whatever” attitude… Saying that, the older I get, and apart from the ecological impact on our Blue Home, I am growing less and less attracted to meat and fish. I have always had a huge sense of philanthropy, I love people in general and see the best in them.
This has to be my little Masterpiece, I designed that recipe over 10 years ago, making it a bit more special every time. The idea behind was to make and marry cheese and dessert together; if you have ever been asked for the option in a French restaurant, you will understand. That way, you keep everyone happy… First, you need to get yourselves some pears, but since they are going to be cooked in wine, make sure they are not too soft!
I have always known that Ireland had a special bond with Christmas. I mean apart from the obvious religious heritage, both our “Celtic countries” have, a strong history of emigration that makes the end of year a bit more special, I get it. But you couple all this with an unhealthy relationship with money and you get the perfect storm. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed it very much in the early years; there was something very sweet about it actually, in North Dublin, a foreign guest in my “Blue eyed girl’s” family; simplicity and warmth. No big fuss makes good fond memories, the inevitable turkey and ham which I read about but never had before was very new to me. Taking a walk by Bull Island to the sound of the Brent Geese and a pint on Stephen’s Day in a Coolock village pub before heading back west, to Sligo or Galway…
I love apple compote. It reminds me of my grand parents’ house, where we used to make batches and batches with the apples of the garden. Where I am from, apple compote is mostly used at breakfast, on bread instead of jam, to flavour a natural yogurt or inside those wonderful “turnovers” my mother used to buy after school… Another thing that is synonymous with Brittany, is a love for salty caramels… Oh yeah. I got some beautiful cooking apples at the weekend and decided to put the two together; sure, what could go wrong with those flavours?
My mother passed away in 1997 this month, only three years after I had moved to Ireland, an untimely and very quick November harvest as she was only three weeks in her 50th birthday. In these short years, I visited a couple of times, in the summer of 96 and April 97. I would always ring a couple of days before sailing, to build up the excitement on both sides I guess and the question from the Gallic side of the channel, and like a good French mother, was always the same: “ What would you like to eat?”… The answer came out bizarrely honest that it even surprised me: “Paupiettes please!” a dish made of sausage meat wrapped in a thin layer of veal or chicken escalope. It is stewed in a mushrooms, white wine and tomato sauce and served with rice. A comforting classic in our house; it wasn’t “cupboard love”, I was never that kind of a young lad, too proud maybe? But my friends, when your Ma asks you what do you want to eat, you better think fast and tell her nice, as I think in the 25 years we’ve known each other, she only popped the question twice…