Bon Appetit: If Alice Waters went to Cooking School she'd go to Ballymaloe
Ballymaloe Litfest of Food & Wine 19-21 May 2017
Submitted by Shaneod on Sat, 30/05/2015 - 12:00am
The first time I visited Ireland, I subsisted on charmless pub stews, dull dark bread, and supermarket cheese—all the while wondering, Where, in this greener-than-green land where dairy cows roam the cliffsides, is the real food?
The answer, I learned three years later: It’s at Ballymaloe, where the back-to-basics approach to cooking and farming felt, well, revolutionary. I walked with chef Darina Allen through her family’s sprawling County Cork estate and realized everything was edible—the tender tips of a spruce tree, nameless greens I thought were weeds. On her farm, wheels of cheese (real cheese!) were aging in climate-controlled bliss.
In her nearby cookery school, which offers everything from afternoon classes on “afternoon tea and cakes” to 12-week certificate programs, student chefs from Dublin to Penang were assembling platters of tiny radishes, their immaculate greens still attached. Back in the shabby-chic confines of Ballymaloe House restaurant and hotel, I flagged down a dessert cart laden with carrageen moss pudding, made with seaweed foraged from the coast. Through it all, Allen kept walking, talking, tasting, laughing, an indefatigable hybrid of Alice Waters, René Redzepi, and Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Patmore—so old school she’s new school. (Ballymaloe’s popular Litfest draws speakers including Waters and Redzepi, as well as Yotam Ottolenghi, April Bloomfield, and others.) I realized, if there’s one place to learn the lost art(s) of making real food, it’s at Ballymaloe.
WRITTEN BY MATT GROSS PHOTOGRAPHED BY SHANTANU STARICK