They say it’s best practice to rip the plaster off in one go – less painful that way. But I couldn’t face it. So I booked a few days in Spain, knowing I would need serious shut eye to recover, to digest (if you will) and, you know, give myself a softer landing as I crashed out of Ballymaloe. We have had a lovely time here, lazy days, long walks, lots of wine. Jeff has been very patient as I recount the tales of the the last 3 months – he could probably write this for me ! He doesn’t bat an eyelid when I read every label on every item in the shopping trolley, even though they are in Spanish, and we are missing quality sunbathing time.
So now on the last day of my holiday, the burning question, what next? It is time to acknowledge that my bank balance has seen better days. My 8 year old self is laughing at me now as she stuffs fivers into her piggy bank. So yes it is time to send out the CV, to find a job. And what job will this be? I don’t really know yet. In Ballymaloe they make you feel like anything is possible. You can do anything you want. There weren’t enough hours in the day for all I was going to accomplish. I was going to rear organic chickens, maybe sell jam at a farmer’s market, open a thriving cafe, feed the masses on film sets. Whatever I do, I really want to hold on to the feeling that the world is my oyster, that anything is possible. Watch this space and maybe one of the above might come to fruition.
So what was it like? Simply put, it was amazing. Ballymaloe is so much more than a cookery course. It is living in a gastro-bootcamp, in a community of like-minded people sharing a common goal. It is co-habiting in a little sphere that sometimes makes you feel like you are a contestant on the TV production of Big Brother. You are put into a house with random strangers and put to the test in a physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging capacity. You are so busy that you rarely leave the confines of the bubble. It all probably sounds a bit mellow-dramatic but when you are accustomed to an office 9-5 job, working in kitchens and absorbing vast amounts of new material can actually be quite exhausting.
Without making it sound like a cinematic adventure you also sometimes feel like you are a contestant on Masterchef. You are caramelising onions, julienning vegetables, grinding spices, kneading bread, flipping pancakes. You are running, you are sweating, you are delivering. It tastes so good. And then there are days when you are disheartened. Slicing fingers, burning hands, dropping pans, breaking plates. You are so frustrated that you want to pick up the monkfish you are filleting and throw him out the window. But you don’t. Although those days exist, they are few and far between.
And of course, the food. It was incredible. I have eaten so well over the past 12 weeks. I have cooked with the best quality and freshest ingredients possible. We have cooked fresh fish,crab, lobster, oysters, beef, lamb, pizzas, falafels, curries, countless puddings and every type of pastry and bread imaginable. Three course meals at a minimum, everyday. And guess what? I didn’t step on the scales and break it. In fact I didn’t weigh myself at all. Ok, there is no denying, I am a little softer around the edges but nothing like a few lunges in the New Year to help that. I knew every single ingredient that went into each dish (and where it came from) and I felt satiated.
Ultimately, I have met and got to know so many amazing and inspiring people, teachers and students alike. I have felt totally energised, exhilarated, exhausted. I take with me a life skill that will hopefully (and I am optimistic) lend itself nicely to a new career path. I have made memories to cherish forever. I am so glad I took the leap of faith and did the Ballymaloe course. I have had a super time. Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat.