I’m here at Ballymaloe, and it’s technically Day Zero, as the official first day is tomorrow. First impressions of this place have surpassed anything I could have imagined. Ballymaloe really is in the middle of the Irish countryside. The grounds are gorgeous, and I haven’t even really gotten a proper chance to see them yet. I arrived at half-past three in the afternoon on this beautiful sunny Sunday. I checked-in with Toby who showed me to my room, which is in a cottage called The Coach House. It’s quite lovely and spacious. There is a kitchen, dining room, and living room on the first floor, which is shared with 7 other housemates (2 Brits, 2 Irish, 1 Italian, and 2 Americans including me!). My room is on the second floor and is also huge (not what I was expecting at all) with an en suite bathroom. I have two beds in my room with a lovely balcony with a table and chairs (you’re welcome to come visit me…hint, hint!). After I got my stuff up to the room and feeling a bit like I had checked into the Big Brother or The Real World house, I went back downstairs to meet my housemates and had some tea and chat with them and some of the other students. We all discussed from where we come from, our individual backstories, how we heard about the Ballymaloe course, and our experiences in the kitchen. I was relieved to discover that mostly everyone was nervous about the course, and there were even a few students that admitted to being complete beginners in the kitchen. The students here are both diverse in age and national origin. There are gap year/college students, retirees, and every age in between. Ten different nationalities are represented on the course (So far, I’ve met students from England, Ireland, the U.S., Italy, South Africa, Japan, and Singapore.).
At 6 pm, we headed into the dining room for the first time and were greeted with a glass of wine (Personally, I always like to be greeted with a glass of wine.). Darina Allen then welcomed us all to Ballymaloe with a brief introduction and the nicest pizza I’ve had in ages. We had a choice of a margherita pizza, a sausage one with a gremolata topping (a chopped herb condiment made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley…see, I know something!), and one with Gubbeen cheese (an Irish surface-ripened, semi-soft cheese with a delicate pink and white rind with mushroom flavours and a nutty aftertaste…okay, I didn’t know that offhand..thanks, Google!). Of course, I tried a slice of all three types of pizzas (hello carbs, I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be getting to know you quite a bit over the next 12 weeks!). The pizzas were accompanied by a mixed green salad followed by a dessert of homemade vanilla or chocolate ice cream with pralines and chocolate sauce.
After dinner, some of the students headed up to the local pub for a traditional music session, but myself and one of my housemates instead opted to meet up with another group of students in their cottage for more wine. Overall, the afternoon and evening were a lot of fun. Everyone on the course seems incredibly nice. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings…
Herb Garden at Ballymaloe (yeah, it’s that fancy):