“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”
When the Irish Food Bloggers Association held their launch dinner in my local last November, I attended as a gatecrasher, a frequent food-tweeter who had thought a zillion times about starting a food blog but had never quite gotten there. Three hours and several Harringtons Classy Reds later, I was sold, bowled over by the enthusiasm and collective excitement of the group.
Fast forward four months and I’m photographing my food before I eat it and tweeting about meal plans, and have found a fantastic welcome in the IFBA community. And, after this past weekend in Donegal, I’m even more determined to keep learning about food from the community of bloggers, from the litany of incredible producers we met over the weekend, and from my family, for whose history of food production, cooking and baking I have found a new appreciation.
Some excellent recaps of the weekend have been posted already, and I could write all day and night about every demo, every sample, and especially about the incredible feast we ate on Saturday night. So, in an attempt to contain my waffle, here are some photo highlights, and some lessons from the weekend which will stay with me.
1. Amazing pizza at Darren’s, 2. Juan from Coffee Angel, 3. Dexter beef, 4. The Butchers, 5. Donal introduces Imen, 6. Dexter beef for lunch, 7. David Tiernan of Glebe Brethan, 8. Assorted butters, 9. Beautiful walled garden, 10. Mixed pates & brioche, 11. Fish course, 12. Caroline, Kristin and Donal
Lesson one: Every county in Ireland could do this
David Tiernan of Glebe Brethan gave a talk on Saturday afternoon which made me a very proud Louthwoman. Highlighting some examples of the excellent food produced in the Wee County, he brimmed with pride as he spoke about supporting Irish producers. “Irish is local”, he said, and he’s right. I’d love to see Inishfood being replicated in other counties, and more restaurants committing to supporting local producers as fiercely as Donal Doherty, Raymond Moran and the team at Harrys have. For my part, I’m going to buy Irish (and local) wherever I can, and have already signed up for a Home Organics delivery box, inspired by Aoife of ICanHasCook.
Lesson two: Taking the pledge
I can’t wait to see how the Harrys walled garden looks on my next visit to Donegal. It’s a beautiful space, brimful with promise, and, through the horticultural programmes being organised by Gareth Austin, provides important skills and training to the Inishowen community. So far, I seem not to have inherited my family’s extremely green-fingered genes, nor do I have much space to work with on my tiny apartment balcony. But I am determined now, having taken the GIY Pledge, to have another go at growing herbs, salad greens and maybe even a few spuds with the means I have available, and to be more aware of seasonality when cooking.
Lesson three: Food is the ultimate conversation topic
Aside from the few hours where most of us were asleep, I don’t think there was a single moment of silence all weekend. I remember sitting back at one point during dinner on Saturday and marvelling at the cacophony of conversation in the restaurant – recipes being swapped, restaurant experiences shared, photography recommendations exchanged. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much passion and interest on display in one room.
As I write, my belly is full of Goatsbridge smoked trout, my fridge is full of curing pork and Glebe Brethan cheese, and my dad is googling stone pizza oven plans. I suspect the Inishfood Effect will continue rippling along for some time yet. Sincere thanks to Alan and Bridgeen at Linsfort Castle, Caroline and Kristin from the IFBA, the mighty Donal Doherty from Harrys, and all the food producers and demo-ers for a magical, inspirational weekend.