Anyone that knows me can attest to my love for eating quality food. Bring on the organic and non-gmo. Artisan chickens that have been named and stroked, animals that have lived their lives wandering from pasture to pasture or dashing through the wilderness, and if it is dairy, bring it on naturally with all its intended fats, thank you very much. We try hard to find balance in our diet and what we consume. By no means are we perfect. We do eat more than I’d like to admit that I do not know the practices behind its production. That being said, we do try as hard as possible to be aware and make ethical choices regarding what we eat, how it was produced, and how it all impacts the world around us. We are always striving to be better consumers and humans.
Now, here we are in Ireland surrounded by cows that are continuously munching away on some of the greenest pastures I have witnessed. They never seem to stop eating and are munching away even while laying down. They do not miss a green munch even with a calf at their teet. There is no exaggeration in the slogans that say the ‘Emerald Hills of Ireland ‘and I believe that in order to describe the grass here is the reason why variations of the word green were invented. A normal everyday breakfast for me consists of steamed green beans, or an egg on a bed of arugula, or mixed leaf salad with nuts and fruit. As someone that craves food of many shades of green, I can relate to the pleasure the cows must be in.
The past week I have pushed the green stuff away in the morning and have been in a love affair with bread and scones. This, of course, is mostly for the butter. I spread it on in a layer as thick as if making a pbj. “Bread is really just a vehicle for butter…” a very wise friend told me this once. Though I have enjoyed some truly fantastic bread in my life thus far, I tend to have difficulty digesting it and as a result I have to say I mostly enjoy what I am slathering on it or sopping it up with more. Sauces, tapinades, hummus, spreads, oils of all types, and yes, who can forget beautiful, silky, golden butter.
Growing up, only margarine and vegetable oil could be found in my family’s kitchen. I remember as a teen going to the bagel store and ordering a salt bagel with margarine. M-A-R-G-A-R-I-N-E! GASP! I had no idea what I was missing nor what I was ingesting. You will be happy to know the younger generation in my family now enjoy and consume butter – my sister is raising her children to appreciate good food. When my nephew was little I would mind him a few times a week and the snacks he raided my fridge for were “gapes,” green “bens,” and “aweples.” Never junk by choice.
In my sister’s fridge you will usually find a stick of butter with 3 year old teeth nibbles hiding under the wrapper. My niece Abi sneaks away and quietly opens the fridge door. “But which one do I want” she ponders but only for a second – time is not on her side. She picks one up quietly and gently peels back the waxy paper. She clumsily moves her hair out of her face with now greasy teeny-tiny fingers. One nibble, two nibble, three… then hears her name called, quickly wraps it back up and closes the fridge door. No one is the wiser until dinner time. I did not really discover and enjoy butter and olive oil until my first trip outside of the country in 2002. I even remember the first bite of stale crusty bread with a slabber of butter all over it that forever changed my tastebuds. I wonder if Abi will remember any of her sneaky nibbles?
Back to Ireland and the right place to be to enjoy butter. We found our way to the Butter Museum in Cork because after all why would one not pay to look at old timey photos of farmers and antiquities of the butter producing type? Well, it was really quite fascinating. We paid our entrance fee to a man that was very excited the sun was shining and was sure to point out how lucky we were to enjoy the sun here in Ireland. Everywhere we went the small talk consisted of how beautiful the weather is. It would go like this, as if it was script that all folks learned for small talk with tourists – “Oh, well, hello there! Are you enjoying your holiday here? Isn’t the weather simply beautiful? You are very lucky, it is really beautiful… oh I do hope it stays this way for you to enjoy the rest of your holiday. We may get some weather in a day or so but I do hope it holds out for you…” then we would finish whatever we were doing, such as paying our entry in this case, and agree “Oh, yes it is quite lovely.”
Butter aside, the food here (with the exception of Dublin) has been quite good. We have had more outstanding meals than not, and at a variety of places from hole in the wall cafes, to pubs, to restaurants. On the recommendation of two separate friends we found our way to Ballymaloe and rather than just sit for a meal we decided to join in on a cookery demonstration in which were able to watch as they prepared and instructed students of their cookery school. Following the 4 hour presentation and preparation of approximately 30 pub dishes and desserts we were able to sample them all. Outstanding. If we had more time in the area we certainly would have been back for their multi-course dinner. Have I mentioned we are convinced food will be our financial funeral?