Ballymaloe Day 12 – Souper Tea

I think I might be on a roll…my cooking went off without a hitch again today. I made a lovely white turnip and marjoram soup. At first, I wasn’t too excited about the ingredients (turnip and marjoram…the last time I cooked with these two ingredients was…umm, never), but it turned out incredibly tasty (since I have always been pretty much obsessed with soup and am now in cooking school, I can speak with some completely self-deemed authority as to whether a soup is good or not). I also made a chocolate fudge pudding, and even though I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, it was light and fluffy with a chocolate molten-like bottom. Oh yes, it was. I also got to joint a chicken today, and I did a pretty swish job of it if I do say so myself. At the moment, I am currently in Kitchen 3 for the second week this week, and I am having more fun than I can remember having in a long, long, long, LONG (all caps for emphasis) time. There is such good banter between everyone, and we are all here because of one common interest: food. I have to say that it is pretty fantastic when you’re surrounded by people that can tell a raunchy joke regarding the difference between jam and marmalade (yes, if you know this joke, it’s very raunchy indeed) or say things like, “What I want to buy one of these days is a really good saucepan.”

After another great demo with the amazing Rory O’Connell (lots of salmon and chicken dishes!), I had an appointment with Darina to talk about job opportunities. Darina really seems to take a genuine interest in all of her students (she calls us “her babies”), and since she pretty much knows everyone in the food industry on an international level, she does her best to connect you with those individuals to set up work experiences, stages, and internships. When meeting with Darina, the only thing she expects is for you to make her a pot of tea and bring along some biscuits/cookies if you have some. I got a little panicky when I found out about having to make a pot of tea because for starters, I hardly ever drink tea (although my tea consumption since moving to Ireland has increased by at least a hundredfold), and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but the odd time that I ever do make tea, I use teabags (shock and horror, I know!). In Ireland, making tea using teabags and not loose-leaf tea is basically akin to robbing money from your granny. As a result, I don’t ever have tea unless someone has already made a pot of it…and I have gotten along just fine harboring this dirty little secret for a good while now. And suddenly here I was in the main dining room of Ballymaloe Cookery School making my very first official bona fide pot of tea for chef/food writer/TV personality/culinary school founder Darina Allen! Again, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but my hands were a little shaky, and I may have broken out in a small sweat. Fortunately, the tea gods were looking out for me, and I managed to make a somewhat decent pot of tea (I poured a bit into a mug to check the color and have a quick taste of it…tasted like tea, success!), as well as find two tea cups and matching saucers, a tea leaf strainer, the sugar bowl, a pitcher of milk, and a tea cozy all nicely arranged in a decorative tray. So I sat down with Darina and poured her a cuppa (she takes milk, no sugar), and she gave me a piece of lemon custard tart from a recipe that she was testing for her new cookbook (it was delicious). Then we had a nice chat about who I was, where I came from, what I planned on getting out of the course, and what I wanted to do with my life – basically, all the things my high school guidance counselor never did with me (thanks for nothing, Mrs. Palazzini). I told Darina that I was moving to San Francisco after the course and that I wanted to get into the wine industry. She had so many ideas for me (shadow the sommelier at Ballymaloe House, work with the sommelier at The Cliff House Hotel, present a wine tasting during one of the school’s wine lectures, do a weekly wine pairing for the menus we create at the school, etc.).  As I mentioned earlier, she also knows pretty much everyone in the industry. At one point, she turned to me and said, “Listen, why don’t I give Kermit Lynch a call and see if we can get something arranged with him when you get to San Francisco?” Kermit Lynch is a bit of a legend in the wine world…as evidenced by having his own Wikipedia page…and not to mention the fact that the French government awarded him the Legion of Honor for his contribution and service to the wine industry. No big deal.

Kermit Lynch Wikipedia

Anyway, Darina and I ended up having a nice chat, and the fact that she takes the time to do this for each of her students just speaks to her serious dedication and boundless energy and enthusiasm. When I left her office, my mind began to race with all of the possibilities and directions that my life can take. It made me happy but anxious and a little stressed because everything for me seems to be a big question mark at the moment. I know it’ll all work itself out, but I was never good at figuring out what I was meant to do for the rest of my life, and that, in itself, freaks me out on a constant basis.

Fortunately, I didn’t have time to continuously worry and fret because as soon as I got back to my cottage, everyone was making plans for the evening. As tomorrow (and every Wednesday) is an all-day theory class, we don’t have to set up our orders of work or do any cooking. It basically gives us a little break in the week, which is really nice. So a bunch of us ended up doing two of my most favorite things simulataneously: drinking copious amounts of wine and having a good time. Perhaps we stayed up a little too late, but that’s what you do when you’re at the equivalent of Food Camp for Adults.

Here are some pics:

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