Thursday, November 12, 2009
Big news! The whole of Ireland is now a GM-free zone. One of the few countries to declare this nationwide, the Irish Government recently banned the cultivation of any genetically modified crops. I think this happened weeks ago, but I am only just finding out now. That will give you an idea of just how much I have been reading the news.
Back to class! On Wednesday, we attended a day long seminar entitled "Cooking for Pleasure and Profit: The Business of Making Food Pay". Phew! It was a long, albeit informative, day. Our headmistress' sister, Blathnaid Bergin (http://www.therestaurantadvisor.ie/), runs a consultancy that advises food establishments on how to "make it work". Her core advice is to start with a menu. From a menu, you know what you'll be serving, which skills your staff will need to have, who your customers will be, etc. We reviewed case studies, regulatory requirements, and all the innumerable back-breaking and head-racking things that go into running a business in the food industry. Basically, the final message: if you cannot handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.
In the middle of swallowing this jagged little pill, we had an unrelated and brief visit from Tommy Hayes, head honcho and founder of the Irish Seed Savers Association (http://www.irishseedsavers.ie/). "Seed Savers" grow and harvest seeds, seeking to develop and store as many varieties of as many fruits and vegetables as possible. They do this to improve a plant's genetic diversity (so that if a virus wipes out one type of apple, all the other apple variations will survive) and to combat the 3 multinationals who control 90% of the worlds seed supply (this is a scary concept when you think that seeds equal food!).
On his 20 acre farm, which is sort of like a Noah's Ark for seeds, he stores over 1,000 different vegetable varieties. Anyone can become a "seed saver" member and receive 5 packets of seeds a year. It is sort of like the Fruit of the Month club, only you'll have to grow it yourself!
After class, we headed down to a local concert venue (http://www.thegrainstoreatballymaloe.com/) to hear former "Stockton's Wing" band members play (including our very own teacher, Mike Hanrahan!). Stockton's Wing was an Irish folk band that toured Europe for most of the 80's and 90's. Apparently, our mild-mannered teacher-by-day moonlights as a rogue Irish-singer-songwritter by night...