Monday, October 21, 2013

It's a dirty old night here in Dublin. It started raining at around 7am and it feels like it never stopped. However, I'm on a mission to lose a few pounds in time for the party season, so I ignored the weather and cycled to work, getting utterly drenched in the process.
Man, was I feeling sorry for myself by the time lunch rolled around - which I hope explains why I found myself in the Starbucks near my office. This was a bit of An Event for me. I've never had a satisfactory experience in an Irish Starbucks. In fairness, I'm not their target customer: I'm too old, I drink tea, I have a cheap Samsung laptop. But, look, I can change my ways, I drink cappuccino every now and again, and I used to own an iPod...
*smiles wanly*
For my part, I've never been convinced. They are always chilly affairs with little atmosphere, the menu is consistently baffling, and they always seem to be staffed at about 150% optimum standards, with peppy young people in aprons jostling behind the till to take your order.
So today, I denied myself the pleasure of ordering a pumpkin spice latte (I'm not much of a coffee fan, much less the sickly syrups baristas have begun chucking in) and grabbed a smoked salmon bagel.
I fully expected a heavy, indigestible affair - doughy, undercooked bread with miserly scaps of salmon - so I was pleasantly surprised to find large slices of (Irish) smoked salmon on a delicious bagel that had a light, enjoyably chewy texture.
Was it a thrifty choice? Hm. To tell the truth, it was a fairly unusual lunch option for me: I usually go to work on Mondays, armed with a couple of kidney bean burritos, fresh from the slow cooker. But I knew that supper was sorted (I cooked a double helping of amatriciana last night), and I needed a break from the office. I decided to forgo the coffee, so lunch cost me *just* the price of the bagel. Which was €4.95.
So, no it wasn't an altogether thrifty choice. I can't even say it helped me clear my head, because I spent the break looking at my smartphone, ignoring the filthies I was getting from the iPhone users nearby.
But I could almost imagine myself ordering there again - yaknow, if I could come to terms with the poor broadband, confounding coffee menu, the perky youngsters fighting to write my name on a mug... 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Well. It's been quite a while since I was here. I wish I could say that I've been busy putting my life in order, writing a screenplay, learning French, travelling the world... You know, I'd *love* to be able to say that. Unfortunately, it would be a big fat lie. I'm still in Dublin, still dragging the divil by the tail.
Today, however, I managed to take advantage of one of the  perks of my job: I'd been invited to a book launch of Catherine Fulvio's latest book at Ballyknocken House in Co. Wicklow.
Catherine Fulvio is a very beautiful celebrity chef who seems to have stolen my dream life: she is a gifted food writer who has gone from founding and operating a cookery school at her family farmhouse to a fast accelerating career as a domestic goddess. I mean, that could be me, right? Right??
In any case, Ballyknocken House was a hive of activity today: archery, clay pigeon shooting, tours of the guesthouse, classes in the cookery school's show kitchen... Oh, and lunch in the big barn. I'm a bit of a tart for lamb curry, so the rogan josh with coconut raita went down particularly well. Not that it stopped me scarfing down 2 hotdogs also - or the 2 orange and almond polenta squares or (truly divine, this) a slice of parsnip and hazelnut tealoaf.
Having inspected the recipe for rogan josh, I've decided that I'm going to try making it myself. The list of ingredients for the curry paste is, as you might expect, quite long - but it's an excuse to raid the collection I've amassed over the years. The tealoaf will definitely get a run-out too - if only to give me the satisfaction of seeing the look on people's faces when they find out what the special ingredient is...
And, yes, before you ask, The Weekend Chef is a gorgeous read. At the launch, Ms Fulvio explained that she wrote the book because she'd noticed how many people regard cooking as a leisure activity, something they can devote themselves to at the weekend, as they create something delicious for loved ones.
It was a nice reminder that food isn't just fuel, and that cooking isn't just about throwing ingredients into a pot. She sees it as a way of getting the family together, and bringing friends together.
But I'd also argue that in a world where the production of almost everything we consume personally has been outsourced to industry (clothing, food production), the final preparation of food is something we still have the power to reclaim. And isn't there something comforting in that?