The kids and I did some blackberry picking at the weekend. It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of year again. And where there are blackberries there are new school bags, packed to gills with new books and virgin stationery waiting to fulfil their very purpose. In nature the schoolbag would be seen as one great big bag of potential seed. If the student uses the contents wisely and on purpose the results can be explosive or perhaps the contents will be wasted, rushed through, thrown aside at every opportunity – the potential within never fully realised. There’s something about blackberry time that, for me anyway, always heralds positive new beginnings. It’s like the start of a new year all over again, which it is in a way. It’s a chance to lay down new rules and have another fresh start.
I’ve just finished reading about a new study coming out of America that has just shown how lethargy, and its close cousin obesity, can come from consistently eating processed foods and not just processed foods in huge amounts.
With the chocolate eggs of Easter already a memory, the longer evenings and brighter mornings are just bursting with potential. I feel summer is only around the corner and with it comes an urge to think carefully about what I’m eating. Maybe it’s the fact that we can go outdoors again without three layers of fleece lined clothing that makes me feel healthier and more conscious of what I’m doing to and for my own body. Eating well and feeling well are as we know, intrinsically linked. This is by no means a new revelation; as Hippocrates famously said, “Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food.”
Who remembers the ‘mixed grill’? There wasn’t a fashionable restaurant in the land that didn’t carry a mixed grill on its menu back in the 1970s. It was usually a combination of pork; be it chops, rashers or sausages but, somehow it managed to be evening food rather than breakfast as we’ve come to expect it today. Sausages, rashers, chops and fried vegetables shouldn’t be confined to the morning. These are great versatile and quick items that should always be in the fridge to cover any meal emergency.
Like everyone, I go through extremely busy patches where time flies by and there never seems to be enough of it. I try and enjoy those seasons as I know they will come to an end, there will be some downtime and then it will all ramp up again. It’s simply called life. I’m in one of those hectic periods right now. I’m busy and so I’m not cooking as much as I’d like to and when I do cook I’m looking for the fast and easy rather than anything too involved. Being out and about also means I find myself needing to eat away from home a little bit more. I look at it as research and it never fails to inform my own ability and interest in food. I particularly love it when I make a good discovery.
Why is it that we place a higher value on food cooked in a restaurant than the food we cook at home? If you think about it, many of us can cook dishes every bit as good as the average restaurant. I’m not suggesting you don’t go to restaurants at all, but these days we can’t all afford to dine out as regularly as we would like. Also when you have small children, outside of the cost, restaurants are not ideal venues no matter how child friendly they are. Children seem to have an inbuilt time clock when out in public. Step across the threshold of a nice restaurant and the hour glass instantly turns on its head and the sands trickle steadily. When my kids were very small we found that the ‘clock of good behaviour’ often ran out somewhere mid dessert (sometimes even earlier) and then it was a rush to finish, pay and leave the premises before we were forever banned from entering again with our demon possessed child.
Is it over? Is it really over? Is the entire month of January now in the past? Thank God for that as I’m not sure I could have taken much more of those on the New Year abstinence kick. Somehow there seemed to be more of them this year than ever before. Everyone I met was either on a diet (abstaining from food), having a drink free January (abstaining from alcohol) or saving money (abstaining from spending), one or two were practically abstaining from life! Naturally in the wake of an over indulgent December it’s probably right to rein it all in come January and try and get a little balance back. January deprivation isn’t the problem, it’s a good thing to be as healthy as possible in all areas of our lives but doing it so joylessly is what makes me want to run and hide. The evangelising is a thin disguise for their utter misery. By the start of February though, most of them have fallen off the wagon, the gloss of the New Year has well and truly waned and we can return to a little normal living. Go on, it’s February, you can buy the full fat cream cheese rather than the tasteless and therefore pointless fat free version.
This morning I had the pleasure of talking with Keelin Shanley who was filling in for Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1. We discussed what “Spiced Beef” is made from and how the recipe originated in Cork during the 16th and 17th centuries. At that time Cork was one of the largest exporters of beef in the world and was also a very important shipping port for spice traders. At James Whelan Butchers, we’ve been using the same recipe for making Spiced Beef since 1960 and you can find this recipe in my latest book, co-written with Katy McGuinness – The Irish Beef Book.
|Thursday 19th Dec||8am – 7pm|
|Friday 20th Dec||8am – 7pm|
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‘There has long been a shyness, almost a taboo, about butchery. To me it is an art, a craft, something to be celebrated and I want to tell people about it. I find myself marvelling at the animals I rear and the link they provide between us and the land. These gracious, primal animals provide us with food that keeps us healthy and strong. I am responsible for making sure that every part of that animal that is a source of nourishment can be used as such. It is a calling, a purpose, and so much more than just a job.’ Pat Whelan
Immersed in the world of meat since he was a child Pat Whelan, a fifth generation butcher, has learned the skills of the farmer, the stockman, the slaughterman, the butcher, the shopkeeper and the business man. Fundamental to all of those skills is his goal to ensure the successful journey of high-quality meat from farm to fork.