Food

A month of mourning and cake

Tuesday, 6 October, 2015 1 Comment

How does one measure the extent, the expanse of human loss? And when it involves the loss of a beloved mother, how does one explain the feeling of anguish left by the absence of so constant and cherished a presence? Words fail. Although a month has elapsed since her death, the pain remains acute.

One source of comfort in these sad days is the support offered by her friends and neighbours. Their loyalty and support is heroic and the beautiful memorial cake baked by the saintly Milly Hanley expresses love better than any phrase or sentence. The act of taking the time to create something nourishing in the style favoured by my mother is the ultimate tribute to her legacy.

Milly's memorial cake


Crubeens

Monday, 17 August, 2015 0 Comments

Crubeens (from the Irish crúibín) are pig’s feet. They are regarded as a delicacy in Cork, where they are traditionally battered and fried and eaten by hand. An alternative is to boil them with onions, carrots, cabbage and serve them with mustard and a glass of Murphy’s or Guinness. The term “corned”, by the way, comes from the treatment of the meat with large grains of rock salt, called “corns” of salt.

Crubeens


Food for poetry

Sunday, 16 August, 2015 0 Comments

In Irish, the word “Ballymaloe” means “the townland of sweet honey”, from baile (town), lua (sweet) and meal (honey). Ballymaloe is located in Shanagarry, which means “old garden”, and Ballymaloe Cookery School is set in 10 acres of organic gardens, which are surrounded by 100 acres of East Cork farmland. The school is the generous sponsor of the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, in association with The Moth magazine, and there’s a total of €13,000 in the pot.

The American poet Elizabeth Bishop was an accomplished cook and here she creates food for thought with the repetition of the words crumb and coffee. The coffee turns from a drop to a cup into gallons, while the crumb evolves into a roll, a buttered loaf and finally “my mansion, made for me by a miracle.” It should be noted that she wrote the poem during the Great Depression when she saw the jobless lining up for coffee and bread. They were dependent on the charity and goodwill of the “man on the balcony”, who represents the elites and the bureaucrats, who never hunger or thirst. The miracle Elizabeth Bishop’s masses hope for alludes to the Biblical story in which Jesus fed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish.

A Miracle For Breakfast

At six o’clock we were waiting for coffee,
waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb
that was going to be served from a certain balcony
— like kings of old, or like a miracle.
It was still dark. One foot of the sun
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.

The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.
It was so cold we hoped that the coffee
would be very hot, seeing that the sun
was not going to warm us; and that the crumb
would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.
At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.

He stood for a minute alone on the balcony
looking over our heads toward the river.
A servant handed him the makings of a miracle,
consisting of one lone cup of coffee
and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb,
his head, so to speak, in the clouds — along with the sun.

Was the man crazy? What under the sun
was he trying to do, up there on his balcony!
Each man received one rather hard crumb,
which some flicked scornfully into the river,
and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee.
Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle.

I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle.
A beautiful villa stood in the sun
and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee.
In front, a baroque white plaster balcony
added by birds, who nest along the river,
— I saw it with one eye close to the crumb–

and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb
my mansion, made for me by a miracle,
through ages, by insects, birds, and the river
working the stone. Every day, in the sun,
at breakfast time I sit on my balcony
with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee.

We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee.
A window across the river caught the sun
as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.

Elizabeth Bishop


Big porridge

Wednesday, 6 May, 2015 1 Comment

The Irish milling company Flahavan’s has been run by the Flahavan family since 1785 in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford. Oatmeal became popular in the 18th century when it was mixed with whiskey as a cure for the common cold and it was around this time that oatmeal porridge became a regular breakfast dish. Note: Oats are a source of vitamin B1 (thiamin), which is crucial for the nervous system.

How to make porridge: Put 50g of oatmeal in a saucepan, pour in milk or water and add a sprinkle of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Serve in a bowl and add your preferred topping.

Oats


Breakfast of Champions (calf version)

Monday, 4 May, 2015 0 Comments

While hiking in the Swiss Alps during the latter part of the 19th century, Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner stayed with a family who ate a simple breakfast food called “d’Spys” (Swiss German for “the dish”, in German die Speise). Inspired by the meal, he developed his own variant based on oats, dried fruits, seeds and nuts, mixed with milk or yogurt. Thus was born muesli and it became an essential part of the morning routine for patients in the Bircher-Benner clinic in Zürich, where a diet rich in fruit and vegetables was a core part of the good doctor’s nutritional therapy.

Language note: The word Müesli is an Alemannic form of Mues which means “mash-up.”

Agrarian note: Now that calves are very valuable, they need pampering and their very own calf muesli contains barley, maize, soya, peas, beans and molasses.

Calf muesli


The cakes of love

Tuesday, 21 April, 2015 0 Comments

“Destiny cuts
the cake of love,
Three slices to some,
To others, a crumb.”

Stefano Benni, Margherita Dolce Vita

Cakes of Cork


Edible bodice

Sunday, 19 April, 2015 0 Comments

In Cork city, spare ribs are referred to as bodice. The etymology is unknown, but the similarity of the cut to the shape of the whalebone stays in the female garment referred to as a bodice may have may have influenced the port’s butchers. Boiled and eaten with potatoes and turnips, bodice is simply delicious, say Corkonians.

Bodice in Cork


Robotic hamburgers

Wednesday, 11 February, 2015 0 Comments

McDonald’s posted a worse-than-projected drop in global sales for January, reports Bloomberg. The fast food chain has just replaced its CEO in an attempt to grow sales, but what if that fails? Perhaps it will consider replacing workers with robots.

“Excited about disrupting a $60 billion a year industry with robotic automation,” says Avidan Ross, founder of Lion Wells Capital and an advisor to Momentum Machines, a Bay Area start-up that designs and develops hamburger-making robots for restaurants, shops and food trucks. On its website, the company is somewhat coy about its disruptive potential: “Founded in 2010, we are a stereotypical group of San Francisco foodies and engineers with decades of robotics experience… Our various technologies can produce an ever-growing list of common choices like salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, and many other multi-ingredient foods with a gourmet focus.”

In fact, its robots can grill a piece of beef; layer it with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions; place it in a bun and and wrap it up to go. Momentum Machines says its robot “does everything employees can do, except better.” Might that be the solution to the headache that Steve Easterbrook has inherited? It could be, but if those entry-level jobs flipping burgers are taken by robots, we’ll have a bigger problem on our hands.

Hamburger


The end of the sardines

Sunday, 28 September, 2014 1 Comment

Sardines


The deep-fried comfort of Donkey Ford’s

Sunday, 2 February, 2014 0 Comments

It has been said that people in Limerick have intentionally injured themselves just so they could visit Donkey Ford’s fish & chip shop after having been discharged from the nearby St. John’s Hospital. Located on John’s Street in one of the city’s many rugged quarters, Ford’s offers greasy comfort at very affordable prices. For example, […]

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Technouvelle cuisine: Turkish bruschetta, madam?

Wednesday, 29 January, 2014 0 Comments

Turkish delight IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat Gary Kasparov at chess in 1997 and its Watson computer defeated Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on the US quiz show Jeopardy! in 2011. Thanks to the evolving ability of its machines to interpret large datasets, IBM continues to develop within the industry it has helped to define. Using big-data analytics techniques, the company’s Thomas J Watson Research Center has created extraordinary food recipes mined from resources such as Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, which are then tweaked by an algorithm designed to add novelty to the mix. As a result, we get concoctions like Swiss-Thai Asparagus quiche and Turkish bruschetta. Next up? Cantonese broccoli kebab and Irish brown trout bouillabaisse perhaps.

Along with exploring the potential of technouvelle cuisine, IBM is researching the market for “cognitive services” — computers that think, or appear to. The returns could be huge if it can develop artificially intelligent systems capable of answering questions posed in natural language, such as carrying out intelligent phone calls with customers. That’s why Big Blue is pouring $1 billion into Watson. According to Antonio Regalado writing in the MIT Technology Review, “the number of IBM employees working on Watson technologies, including engineers, salespeople, and consultants, will increase fourfold or fivefold to 2,000. The Watson Group will also be elevated inside IBM and report directly to the chairman and CEO, Virginia Rometty.”

But as Regalado points out, crunching cancer is going to be far more challenging for Watson than playing Jeopardy! or thinking up Creole Shrimp Dumpling.