I started opening the taxi door before it had even come to a full stop. Did the sign really say what I thought it said? Welcome to Ballymaloe Cookery School – Closed Mondays. It was Monday. I couldn’t believe my eyes – I had just spent an entire day traveling – beginning that morning on a plane in France. Landing in Ireland, I had hopped a train, grabbed a bus, and found this taxi, all to discover that this moment I’d dreamt about – the moment I’d visit the most inspiring culinary school I’d ever heard of – had a “closed” sign on it. I hurridley asked the cab driver to wait, and ran inside breathless. Near tears, I choked out something like I’m from California and I came all this way and it’s been my dream … the woman behind the desk just shrugged and said I was welcome to walk around the school and gardens, that she wouldn’t even charge me the entrance fee. “Oh,” I said, feeling sheepish about my dramatic display. “Thanks!”
A dear friend told me about Ballymaloe several years ago and during my travels in 2008, I had the tremendous opportunity to spend a day there. It’s situated on 100 organic acres in Country Cork and run by reknown chef, Darina Allen. Allen firmly believes that good cooking begins with good ingredients, which is unseparable from how those ingredients are grown or raised. Most of what the culinary (or “cookery”) students prepare comes from Ballymaloe’s 100 acres or from neighboring farms. Their 12-week intensive courses are suited for everyone from the home cook to the aspiring professional.
I just bought one of Allen’s latest “cookery books,” entitled Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honoured Ways Are the Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why. It includes chapters on disappearing arts such as yogurt making, meat curing, bee keeping, and foraging. I can’t wait to dive into it!