This time last year I was busy preparing for my first big food show, LitFest, which is held in 'The Home of Food' in Ireland, Ballymaloe. Even to be accepted to present was a great honour and to present my, newly released, tins of Flaked Seaweed was a real treat.
My neighbours on one side was 'My Goodness' food stall. Residents of Cork, these guys were sure to attract a crowd. Not only because of their delicious vegan bites, drinks and plates but also for their magnificently designed stall. There was a competition for best stall and these guys were going for the win. I, on the other hand, just needed to get my first food festival right.
My neighbours on my other side were very supportive. A cheese coop, CAIS Ireland, with rotating rosters for a number of producers from all across the land. They were offering cheese plates from the various turophiles. They were also offering advice and encouragement.
To my good fortune, advice and encouragement also came from the leading lady herself, Darina Allen was impressed with my offering and even gave me a mention in her popular column in The Irish Examiner. Brimming with confidence and dressed in strong colours, Darina floated through The Big Shed, greeting folk and sharing pearls of wisdom like the Dali Lama. Her home for the remainder of the year, the whole farm is filled with an incredible energy. Food aficionados from Central and South America, from Holland to Italy, 30 nations or more, and all gathering to share their love for and to experience new foods. Talks were continuing, in the Grainstore, on topics from wine to smoked foods, and Farming the Soil to Fermented Drinks. There was also a guided seaweed forage by the wonderfully talented Prannie Rathigan. Prannie's book, The Irish Seaweed Kitchen, was an inspiration to me and continues to provide me with delicious recipes and tit-bits of information about the wonderful natural resource that Ireland has at its shores.
It was a great pleasure to meet so many people who were keen to taste and ask questions about the seaweeds on offer. Along with the tins of Flaked Seaweed, I was also offering packages of seaweeds and tasty soups that included seaweed. The weather was kind to us that May weekend in 2017, kind enough to offer the lovely people visiting this part of East Cork a hot and cold soup. The hot soup was a spicy chickpea and lentil soup with pickled sea spaghetti on top. This was my nod to Yotam Ottolenghi who was present at the event but I never got a chance to greet him. The cold soup was a Dulse Gazpacho, was my play on the popular Spanish summer offering. Seamus Sheridan, who was assisting on my neighbouring cheese stand, pointed out the I was giving all my attention to informing customers about my seaweed offerings and neglecting to present my soups to the captivated audience. He then went on to invite me to present my wares at his, highly regarded, Sheridan's Food Festival the following weekend. I duly accepted and I will return their next weekend for part II of this blog.
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