The second post and I'm already running late! Some minor laptop problems (American computer chargers do NOT work in Irish outlets... who knew?). Class began yesterday, day two, with an opening lecture from our headmistress. She stressed the importance of where the food chain all begins- in the 12 inches of soil beneath out feet. The more nutritious the soil, the more nutritious (and, conveniently, delicious) our food, the better our health. A simple bit of deductive logic which escapes so many eaters today! Her first lesson? How to make compost. Every scrap of unused produce gets recycled in a heap that initially feeds the chickens and eventually decomposes into some brownish material which, my collegiately educated brain tells me, MUST be good for the soil in some way or another. They throw everything from carrot peelings to egg shells to brown toilet paper rolls in there. As a chicken, I'd be pretty disappointed to find a toilet paper roll in my dinner (or an egg shell, for that matter), but into the compost it goes.
After our first lesson in compost, we saw a variety of gardens including fruit, vegetable, herb (see photo), and indoor (a greenhouse covering an entire acre of land!). The farm also boasts of a few cattle, some pigs, the aforementioned chickens, and a number of beehives. Apparently, there has been a rapid decline in the earth's population of bees in recent years, perhaps due to worldwide pesticide use or the mobile telephone signal waves (seriously). Regardless of the reason, our headmistress stressed the importance of 'saving the bees', a cause yours truly had never heard of (shame on me?). I became especially interested in this epidemic when I learned seconds later that eating local honey feeds us local antibodies, an effective cure for seasonal alergies and hay fever (ding ding ding!).
For lunch, we sat down to a feast prepared by the staff. We ate deviled eggs from the farm, shrimp caught by Ballycotton Bay fisherman that morning, smoked salmon from a local "smoker" (?), etc. You get the point- EVERYTHING is locally grown and produced. With such incredible meals, many are beginning to wager how many pounds we will gain throughout the course. I think the over-under is around 10.
During our afternoon demonstration (see photo below!), we observed how to make oatmeal biscuits, wholemeal bread, carrot soup, mushroom a la creme, and fruit salad with various herbs. Unfortunately, because of the powers that be, I cannot share the recipes. Take my word for it, they were delicious.
I'll end with some memorable quotes and tips from our lovably quirky headmistress (paraphrased, I'm sure!):
- "apples aren't supposed to look perfect. Those red shiny things in American supermarkets are terrifying!"
- "choosing an oven is as important as choosing a mate because you'll have to live with it for 20 years"
- "we do NOT use [artificially] 'low fat' ingredients. Low fat is low flavor is low nutrients... low everything"
- "good knife skills halve the work and triple the pleasure"
- "buy root vegetables unwashed if you can. It will be difficult not to notice the improvement in flavor"
- "processed foods have terrible amounts of salt in them. There is more salt in cornflakes than seawater"
- "use the best ingredients, and you won't have to do much to make it taste great"