Ballymaloe LitFest and a postcard from my mortifying/proud childhood…

Donal Darina_3

Yes, I'm afraid to admit, that bespeckled boy with the tea towel on on his head, demonstrating how to make homemade pizza, is me… You may be wondering why the strange get up, but to me it was quite clear at the time, that with my jam jar glasses, I was a dead ringer for the Queen of Irish food, Darina Allen.  It made complete sense to set up my dad's video camera with the help of my best friend, dressed as Delia Smith, to present the forgotten episode of Darina's TV show "Simply Delicious: The Cook Off", complete with my best impression of Darina's dulcet tones.  Clearly it would have been a ratings winner!

While I was growing up, Darina's prime time RTÉ TV show, "Simply Delicious", was something my whole family sat down to watch, listening intently as she dished up delicious recipes and the gospel of good quality Irish ingredients.  Not only was Darina invading my TV screen at the time but my aunt and my two uncles had also just finished the world famous Ballymaloe Cookery course, which meant classic recipes like cucumber pickle, poached whole salmon and Ballymaloe brown bread were passing my lips at birthdays, baptisms and first communions. 

Donal Darina

Full of inspiration and armed with the complete collection of the Simply Delicious cookbooks I worked my way through the recipes and even used to sell the biscuits and cakes I would make to the neighbours, though you will be glad to hear, my mom insisted I left the tea towel at home.  The confession I have to make today is that despite the impact Ballymaloe and Darina has clearly had on me, I have never been to Ballymaloe House, which is why I am literally brimming with excitement for this weekend's LitFest which features some of the most influential names in the food world. 

I feel extremely privileged to be included in the line up speaking as part of the New Voices In Food taking place on Saturday alongside Thomisina Myers, Rachel Allen, Stevie Parle and Claire Ptak and chaired by the legendary Matthew Fort.  It's moments in life like this that you have to stand back and appreciate things and I'm guessing if you told the be-speckled, tea towel headed boy that he would grow up to write cookbooks and present cookery programs he would be jumping for joy and beaming with pride, I know I am.