Friday, December 11, 2009

83 Days at Ballymaloe

We made it! I'll have to go buy myself a few larger pairs of pants, but we made it. It breaks my heart to realize that it's over. Well, not over yet. I woke up to take the three dreaded written exams, from 9-3:30, with a couple breaks for lunch and tea. I hadn't sat through 5 hours of exams since college, and boy was I rusty! It was a long, drawn out exercise in creative guessing. In other words, a train wreck.

I wracked my brains to list brands of olive oil (basically making up Italian sounding names like "Il bueno" or "Ciao bella"), or what type of bread would need "Gram" flour (what the HECK is gram flour??), or what dishes contained obscure spices like "fenugreek" (when in doubt, curry). And don't even get me started on the fish identification. All flat fish look the same!

Truth be told, I could have studied a little more... a lot more. But my last days in Ireland were better spent. After thorough cleaning of our cottage, it was time to dress for dinner! When we returned to the school at 6:30, the tremendous teachers had transformed our mild mannered dinning room by day into a Christmas banquet hall by night! Live music, candles, and prosecco abounded. Hors d'oeuvres, celeriac and hazelnut soup, roast turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding and plenty, plenty of wine - it was a great party. We capped off the night at our old friend, the Black Bird Pub.

I couldn't help but think, as I fell asleep, how lucky I am to have had the privilege of spending 12 weeks at such a unique and unparalleled place. We didn't just learn how to cook, we learned a new way to think about food, ingredients, and the farmers and artisan producers who make it all possible. What Darina Allen has created at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, and what Rory, the teachers, and all the staff maintain day-in and day-out, is nothing short of spectacular. Forever grateful, I'll never forget it.


  1. Well done Binny,enjoyed following your blog.All the very best for the future,Martin & Noreen(Woodside Farm)

  2. Just had to post a comment, I received Darina Allens Ballymaloe Course (book) as a Christmas gift and was searching online for more information when I came across your blog and have spent this afternoon reading it from beginning to end - I would love to do this course myself someday and enjoyed reading your blog as much as you seem to have enjoyed the course, so thank you for the wonderful work!
    John, Ireland

  3. such lovely memories for me after finishing the course in July

  4. Binny, if you're still checking these comments I'm doing the course right now and just LOVE your blog. So helpful. Would love to hear what you're up to these days. Are you using these skills professionally or are you the world's best home cook? Sue, London

  5. Having done the April '09 course reading your blog was like reliving every day in Ballymaloe! I could happily re-do it all over again if I had the finances!And promise to work faster,(my practical exam took well over 4 hours!! ) finally master the brown yeast bread and anything to do with caramel.I was all at sea for the first few weeks and could have done with a blog like this beforehand for advice on what to expect.I hope it's kept permanently on record here!Thanks for persevering in its writing.Mary C

  6. I spent a week at Ballymaloe in Septembr taking a course with Rachel Allen. I found and read your blog with interest especially after having gotten a taste of the Ballymaloe experience. myself I'd be very interested to hear about what you're doing now!

  7. Binny,
    What a great blog. I'm thinking of going to Ballymaloe and would love to talk to you about your experience. Is there a way to contact you?

  8. Hi Binny,

    I've really loved reading your blog. I leave for Ireland in one week to start the 12 week course. Hope your following your passion for cooking! Karen

  9. Hi binny

    i was doing some research into ballymaloe cookery school as i'm thinking of attending next january and found your blog. It is absolutely fab and was wondering what your up to now? Still living your foodie dream! i hope so! & do you have any advice for someone who is thinking of enrolling?

    thanks so much for any advice you can give me
    Clare, Dublin