I met Sally for the first time 16 years ago; somewhere in 2000. It was quite a day really, the launch of the “Slow Food” movement in Ireland. Three Italians had just landed in Dublin to promote the franchise and a press conference was being held in a newly opened and brave wine bar, just off Stephen’s Green. “Ely”, on Ely’s place and still running and going strong. A fresh idea always passes the test of time in my book, as long as you stay faithful to your idea. My cheese bosses sent me over to make a display of the best Irish produces the island had to offer. Giana Ferguson from Gubbeen cheese and Sally Barnes from Woodcock Smokery were there to help and represent their products. The food critics were gathering downstairs, sharpening pens and licking fingers for an adequate and professional flick on the yet blank notebook leaves. I liked Sally straight away, cracking jokes with her other West Cork friend, their candour unintimidated by the approaching journalists, ready to feast on a still under confident Ireland. One of Sally’s friends from South Korea spent a great deal of time making beautiful smoked mackerel sushi, just to be nice, just to be different and also to show how cool and open Ireland had become. A sweet over middle aged lady ( or at least that’s what I thought), with a sober Mac and a black leather handbag hung inside her elbow, approached the table and ate one of the Sushi; she looked at me with squinting eyes, while our young Korean friend bowed to her in a thankful and deferential respect. Then “The Lady” opened her gob:
Before being catapulted into adult life, we were taught a couple of life saving skills. After lunch, wait at least two hours before you go swimming in the sea, never EVER drink white after red, it takes ten minutes to get a hardboiled egg from the boiling point, spaghettis are cooked when they stick to the wall, how to make a vinaigrette, and, what was going to separate the men from the boys, the sheep from the goats; how to make your own mayonnaise. In a region almost surrounded by water, it was only going to be a matter of time before a friend or a family member would ask nonchalantly while preparing the crab claws and meat: “You do the mayonnaise, yeah?” You knew then that the last task of your right of passage had come before you.