For the second day in a row, we have not been in the kitchens cooking. Wednesdays are always theory day but today was a special Thursday in that we had a field trip day and we sure covered some territory! We were divided up into two groups, A and B and set off for different adventures. I have to say, I’m glad I was in group A because, at this writing, 7:45 pm, group B still isn’t back. I Hope their bus didn't break down.
We set out at 8:30 this morning and cut a wide swath in this general area. Our first stop was in Midleton, at Frank Murphy’s abattoir. If you’re like me, you’ve never heard this word before. An abattoir is a slaughterhouse, or a place where animals are killed. Frank is a 3rd generation butcher and when his father took over the business, it had been run by 3 other generations of different Murphys.
Sadly, regulation has become really tough in Ireland so there are very few family-run or independently owned abattoirs left. Frank said in the 70’s, the government did their best to get rid of them all. I don’t know how Frank won his battle against Goliath but it’s a good thing. Men like Frank care very much for the way the animals are treated. He ensures they experience minimal stress and are quickly and humanely killed. So when you think of abattoir, think of the idea of an animals’ life “abating” until it’s gone.
It was quite sobering to walk through his currently, thankfully, empty shop and see the hooks and despite it being spotless, the lingering smell of blood and death got to me. But I was very moved by him and his tenderness and compassion for the animals that come through there. This is a huge issue and one that means more to me, the more I learn. You can rest assured the factory slaughterhouses couldn’t care less about any of this.
Our next stop was a farmer’s market, in Mahon Point, run by Darina’s son-in-law, Rupert. At every turn, we’re meeting another member of the Allen family who has some integral role in the Irish food world. It was a fabulous market with lots of different types of ready-made food as well as the usual wares of a farmers’ market. Interestingly, it was on the same property as a mall! And, we've been on a farm for four weeks! We all made a dash inside to use the facilities and couldn’t resist popping into Zara for a quick look-see. We got an instant hit of dopamine just stepping inside. Arden said, “Mommy, let’s pretend we’re in Northpark!” We were like two country mice who suddenly found themselves in the “big” city of Mahon Point.
Next on our itinerary was The Apple Farm, located in county Tipperary, in the south of Ireland. Apples have been grown in this area for hundreds of years. This farm also grows pears, plums, sweet cherries, strawberries and raspberries. We had a wonderful tour of the orchards and I was so inspired to paint several of the views! I felt like Van Gogh, traipsing around, among 100-year-old fruit trees, looking for the best vantage point. I so wished I could stay and set up an easel and just paint the day away. It was a gorgeous morning which made me want that all the more. I had to settle for plucking a perfectly ripe apple from the tree and eating it. Another decadent first.
A limerick on making cider: There was a young woman from Hyde, who ate a green apple and died. Though her boyfriend lamented, the apple fermented and made cider inside her inside. 🍎🍻
After eating apples off the tree in the sunshine, it was off to Dungarvan to two former students, Yvonne and Brian Dillon, of Ballymaloe who own a company called Nutrilicious. They live their dream as self-employed caterers and cooks whose products are being picked up by more and more merchants. Naturally, everything they make is from scratch, using fresh ingredients. Their energy and passion was infectious and we enjoyed listening to Yvonne tell their story, a part of which she can't tell without crying. She was tremendous and I loved her. Several in our group picked their brain, including Arden, who’s got some interest in catering. Your mind can’t help but buzz when you’re exposed to so many creative people and their success stories. I know their success has come from dedication and hard work but they’re their own boss and make their own decisions and spend their lives making things, which is all I ever want to do too.
The last stop of the day was a micro brewery, down the road, called Dungarven Brewery. Run by a brother, his sister and her husband. When they decided to open their business 7 years ago, there were only a handful of others like them in town. Today, there are nearly 100 microbreweries! They’re a small business but growing at a steady pace and it was another story of creative people taking a chance on a passion and making it happen. We all were given samples of three of their beers to taste and were told the stories behind each one. I'm not a beer drinker but everyone else enjoyed wetting their whistles. It was all so interesting and fun but it had gotten to be late in the day and we were all dragging. As it often does here, the weather had turned and it was completely gray outside with rain blowing sideways in the strong wind.
We were so happy to get in our bus and settle in for the short journey back to the school. And now we're all tucked in and ready for bed. It’s been a grand day but as Shakespere said, "Finish, good lady; the bright day is done and we are for the dark.”
And, tomorrow this time, Sweet Daddy will be here. 💝