You had me at the Chocolate Christmas Tree

With only a handful of days left I know there won’t be a dry eye in the house and it will be me handing out the Kleenex. Not because I won’t be sad but because my tears have been shed. Oh yes, two weeks prematurely too. Flashback to last Wednesday week.

I am sitting in the Christmas demo and thoroughly enjoying, mind you. The teachers have made a very special effort decorating the room with holly, fairy lights and wreaths. Each of them are wearing Rudolf ears, dangling Christmas tree earrings, red aprons – the works. Darina, who is the queen of storytelling, is reminiscing about Christmas growing up in her house, the eldest of 9, and we are captivated as she simultaneously  works up a snow storm of all things Christmassy, including mince pies, mulled wine and Christmas cake. Everything is generously dredged with icing sugar. I am in my element.

At the same time, my gorgeous younger sister is texting me as she boards a plane in Byron Bay, Australia. She is coming home after more than 6 years away and I know it is an emotional journey for her. One of my best and oldest friends is also messaging me about the excitement of preparing to welcome her baby girl into the world in a couple of weeks time. Heartstrings, people! Distracted, I put the phone away and I glance up to see Pam, one of our tutors, carefully begin the construction of ‘The Chocolate Christmas Tree’ . Almost abruptly I am hit with a wave of nostalgia. (Anyone who had the Simply Delicious Christmas Cookbooks will know about the Tree!) I am transported back in time, circa 1989. I am 4 years old. I am sitting with my legs dangling from the countertop in our kitchen, licking melted chocolate off the back of the wooden spoon, ‘helping’ my amazing Mum with some feast or another.  I am suddenly reminded in that moment that my passion for food is deep rooted and it has been instilled in me from a very young age . I feel incredibly grateful for this and realise how lucky I am to have been brought up by parents who worked hard to put good food on the table that we still sit around, thankfully, quite often. Without warning and out of nowhere I can’t quite seem to handle the emotions. There are tears brimming at my eyes. No tissue at hand. Damn! They are running down my cheeks now. No saviour. ‘Who can see me?!? Sitting here in the second row, wiping tears away with the corner of my sleeve, at the sight of the last branch being delicately placed on ‘The Chocolate Christmas Tree’?!’ It’s just a tree, Cat, they are thinking! Ever so slightly mortified.

Ann, who is sitting beside me,  unknowingly saves the day as she leans in and whispers something in my ear about salmonella and I am back in demo with a bang. I am 30 years old and my feet are firmly on the ground – but I do still really want to lick the back of that spoon! I’m  not really sure how it went from mince pies and chocolate to pathogenic bacteria but that is the nature of the Ballymaloe demo – so fast-paced, you can’t miss a beat!

Other highlights and pictures over the past few weeks ;

Butchery- unexpectedly quite enjoyed butchery class – I had half a lamb to butcher into the various cuts and then had to put it all back together again. Pics below.

Being involved in a pop up dinner – I prepped starters with Sonja, another student, for a 70 seater pop up restaurant that we ran last Saturday – amazing , fun day!

Made croissants, consommé, pork en croute and rack of lamb among other things this week !

Now time to get the head down for my final written and practical exams that start this week. Say it ain’t so!!!!

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Darina !
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Pam starting construction of Tree
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The finished piece – don’t hesitate to ask me and I will root out the recipe !
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Eeek not sure how to go about this…
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Getting into it!
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Putting the jigsaw back together
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Rachel in action

10 thoughts on “You had me at the Chocolate Christmas Tree

  1. Catherine…..I was right there with you on your seat as you reminisced. What a beautiful beautiful blog posting and more so what a pleasure it is to read them. You have instilled even more so the magic of family and traditions at Christmas for me. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed your blogs, they have been a treat, week on week and made us feel like we were right there, chopping up the lamb in butchery class, sitting your wine exam and finally enjoying all the nostalgia of our childhood Christmas. I am quite sad to think I will not have many more if any more blogs of yours to read… They have brought me so many smiles and laughter throughout your whole journey.
    Thank you for this! xxx

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  2. I have loved following you on Instagram and enjoyed reading your blogs getting more excited and nervous by the day as my own Ballymaloe experience gets ever closer. I hope the 100 question wine exam went well and I wish you luck with your remaining exams. I look forward to hearing where life takes you after your Ballymaloe experience. Good luck! 😃😊😉😆

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    1. Hi Melanie, thanks so much!!! Glad you have enjoyed !! Nothing to be nervous about whatsoever – how exciting that it is all ahead of you. You are going to have a blast!!! If I can be of any help before you head off let me know ! Thanks again !!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My own eyes are brimming with tears as I read. That’s the magic of Christmas, that lovely yearly happy milestone, wishing for Santa when your little, stirring the puddings on those dark winter afternoons, the brown paper and twine to seal, and oh for the aroma of spices. Finally the Sunday before Christmas, the royal icing on the cake. Precious happy memories full of love warmth and anticipation. Bring on the homecomings and gatherings. I’ve so enjoyed your blogs, Catherine . Best of luck with exams. See you soon. Bring on the festivities with all the trimmings

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