Misty Autumn morning
I have made several attempts over this month to sit down and write some observations about the month of August and now it’s the very last day. Better late than never.
Lughnasa as this month of year was called in ancient times was one of the most important festivals of the year. A time of gathering together and celebrating the hard work of the summer and the start of the harvest season. Mountains were climbed in veneration of the god Lu who lends his name to the festival. Dancing merriment and feasting were also associated as well as stories and legends.
There is a stillness in August a rest after the peak growing time reached in July. It’s a quieter time, a time to observe the beginning of the autumn cycle. A crispness in the morning and a gradual change in the colour palate from green to yellow gold red and brown. Summer can stretch out and meander here but always with the promise of woollen jumpers and warm fires not far ahead. It’s a time to plan and think about preserving pickling and jam making. Jars and bottles collected over the past few months will soon be put to good use and shelves and presses will be filled with fortification for the darker months.
On the road from Easky to Enniscrone
What a comforting smell and sence of well being bread baking produces. Although far from a seasoned hand,two attempts so far, but still the smells emmenating from the oven give me confidence and encouragement for the future. I have always found the weighing and measuring aspect of baking offputting prefering to stick to meal making where I can measure by sight and smell. Baking to me looks like…
Cycling home from work last night I stopped for a moment while crossing the bridge at Heuston station. I nearly always stop here for to gaze in the water or to watch the swans. The river being tidal at this point there is almost always a faint,and somtimes not so faint, salty or even somtimes more sulphuric note in the air. When the tide is out mud banks form on either side of the river. These can be strewn with all sorts of the usual and unusual river offerings.
As I paused for a quick contemplation somthing just out of focus slid out of the water and onto one of the banks and disappeared into a wall of greenery . I held my breath and my pulse quickened as eyes darted to the scene and I scanned the mud for signs of movement. Two gulls circled and screeched overhead and clouds created a mysterious aura about the waxing crescent. Silvery darts and movement flashed from the vegetation and eventually a slick whiskered face a body and a beautiful tail emerged in the moonlight. An otter, here in the middle of the city. I resisted the urge to grab passing people and merrily point out my discovery. Instead I silently observed as the air was sniffed and quick decisions were made about which direction to take. A fearless dart into a dark hole in the side of the bridge and then steps retraced back to the river edge a little pause and a pushoff into the water. The head bobbs up and then the whole body streeks off underwater and off up the Liffy.
What a privelage and much food for thought. I reland apparently has the densest population of otters in western Europe a fact to indeed be very proud of.
Country air exhausts me. Well for the first couple of days anyway until my eyes,lungs,mind readjust to the different pace,air,energy. I have spent two days in the wilds of Sligo and am now slumped in a seat on the train back to Dublin.
Often when out of the loop of regular life activites time takes on a different quality and seems to stop, or expand in a different manner. Another reason for my slumpedness.
The reason for my trip was to help a friend with the opening night of her new cafe called Pudding Row in the quaint seaside village of Easky. A little dot of a place built on an exposed costal plane with sweeping views out to Benbulbin and beyond to Donegal. The night I arrived I took a stroll from the b and b to the sea and witnessed a most spectacular blood orange sunset bleeding into the the dark water.
But other than breathtaking views, surfworhy waves and super friendly locals what would make you uproot your family from the comfort and certainty of city life and take on a the spectacular challenge of opening a cafe in what is, I hate to say, otherwise a culinary wasteland? Independent thinking, passion, bravery, love,resilience all ingredients required and necessary to make a project like this happen and evolve. Ingredients that Dervila and Jonny Conlan seem to have in heaped tablespoonfuls. All this and a build it and they will come ethos will supply locals and visitors with the most beautifully homemade breakfasts and lunches and insure a rewarding future for this family.
I love this non conforming attitude and its non city centric feel. Invigorating refreshing and brave. Words I would also use to describe another venture in Sligo town. Sweet Beat is a little vegan cafe on Bridge street. Vegan and Sligo are not words you might generally see in the same sentence but again this little venture has very busy liveliness to it and has built up quite the fanclub in the last year.
Maybe seeds are being sown, seeds of a new vigour and determination for regrowth and development. This will catch on.
Last Sunday during a heavy downpour I retreated to the shelter of a musty murky old bookshop in Blackrock market. One eye on the books and one eye on the window so I could exit quickly as soon as it cleared.
Must not buy another book I thought and remembered the ever growing pile on my bed side table. But of course a purchase was never not going to happen and just as it started to look brighter my eyes were drawn to a little green book sitting precariously on a dusty pile beside the cash desk.
I was drawn in by the title “The Tailteann Cookery Book” and black and white images of Ras Tailteann passed through my mind as I started to flick through the pages. A treasure trove, a real find, recipes for bone broths and tapioca pudding, Eggs a la Metropole and Anchovies a la Rosamund. The bookseller said €5 and I said stick it in a bag.
But this was more than just a kitch or nostalgic purchace I realised as I gave it more attention over a coffee. It is the second addition of a book first printed in the early 30′s. It covers everything a housewife might need throughout the year from christmas cakes to dressed crab and a whole section on food for invalids.
The ingredients speak of a time when seasonal eating wasnt a hip catch all phrase on a restraunt blurb but a necessity and theres not an avecado or a quinoa dish I sight. All components (bar a bit of tinned fruit, anchovies and a few dried herbs) are bourn and bred of the soil of this country and beautiful arranged in simple recipies that reflect the style of the time. Its all about less choice and more make do with what you. Dishes may sound deceptivly posh with their a la this and that but really this is a simple book full of goodness.
But I am really struck with the use of so many things that are now discarded, how much more economical and uninfluinced by passing trends. There is strength, tradition and nutrition all present and represented in such an honest and innocent manner.