Monday, 17 April 2017


                             My bid to make Easter about more than the chocolate

I FEEL there must be quite a strong urban-rural divide when it comes to feasts like Christmas and Easter.

More so when you consider farming. Despite the fact that it's dying out a bit in Ireland, there's still a fair amount of farming on this island.

Because even though people, no matter what their background, usually have more in common than not, it's hard to imagine too many farmers, painstakingly hanging dozens of decorative eggs on the tree in their garden. I could be wrong.

Farming has changed, of course. As a child, I got to spend a fortnight each Summer, sharing a massive old farm house in Cork with two other families - one of whom owned the house and worked the farm.

They strut around the garden, bullying the dog

They were the days before health and safety regulations tied us all up in knots, and when I wasn't digging sandcastles on the local beach with brothers and cousins, I was messing about a farmyard with the farmer's children.

But it's the closest I've come to real rural living. Ever.

And as I was buying a shoulder of lamb for the meal this year, it struck me how much of a disconnect there is between the farmer breeding those animals, and somebody like me buying the cut of meat at my local butcher's.

I'm not sentimental. We don't eat huge amounts of meat, but we are all happy omnivores.

But despite my city background, I know enough to realise how little I know about the realities of life at the other end of the food chain.

Which is probably why, as I get a bit older, I find myself wondering if I should make a bit more effort to grow some food.

Note I said, grow some food. Not keep animals. Friends of ours keep laying hens in their suburban garden. They have names like Flossie and Henrietta, and when they are not in their enclosure, they strut around the garden, bullying the dog, or wander into the kitchen for a look around. I'm not quite ready for that.

I don't want to boast, but I am a brilliant dandelion grower

But in years gone past, we have grown tomatoes and strawberries and raspberries on our patio. We went a bit overboard with the tomatoes, and because they were all the same variety, they all ripened at the same time.

I grew very creative. Short of bottling them - I have my limits - we ate them with everything. I think of that year as my Italian Summer.

Another year we tried to grow potatoes down the end of the garden, and dubbed them surprise potatoes, because it was a surprise when we found one.

And I swore I'd never grow broccoli again, when the slugs grew fat on them.

It's tempting to imagine though, that with a bit of work, I could grow a few easy things. Onions, maybe. Lettuce.

I was thrilled to read that dandelions are completely edible. Packed with Vitamin C, they can be washed and scattered through your salad. I don't want to boast, but I am a brilliant dandelion grower. 

And we still have rocket growing wild on our doorstep, after we planted it two years ago!

I also thought I had mint, and chopped up a bunch of leaves to fragrance the jug of drinking water on the table, at a recent dinner with friends.

It was only afterwards that I discovered that the huge plant was actually a huge - though harmless - weed.

It's not the only weed I haven't tackled: we have giant planters that once sported shrubs and flowers. They are currently a mess, but perfect for small-scale herb and vegetable growing, and less daunting than a full vegetable patch.  

So as I nibble on a chocolate egg this Easter, I know this year, I will again strive, in my own small way, to connect at a very basic level, with our food.

Cáisc shona dhiabh.*


*Happy Easter.

Dear reader,

Warm welcome from Dublin this Easter. 
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