It's All About The Herbs

So, I am about to start week number 6. Halfway through. The 6 week exam is nearly upon me. On Friday we will line up to identify 10 herbs, 10 salad leaves and will be given a skills test. Each and every one of us performing in our allotted 20 minutes slots. I can feel the shift in the air, there is definitely tension brewing.  The chat is all about the herbs, now I'd like to tell you that this is leading to some sort of hallucinogenic party (well maybe it is but I haven't got the invite) but no it is all about the identification, oh and what you do with it of course.  I have to say I am boring myself. It is all about the herbs. I mean there is only so much herb chat you can sustain without losing the will to live.  However, it is an important milestone in the journey, it will in some capacity determine the course of the next 6 weeks.

Tensions. Questions. They definitely seem to be the order of the week.  I have felt myself getting quite irritated this week, the relentless pace has defintely got to me.  Now anyone that knows me will tell you that I am not work shy, quite the opposite, I work incredibly hard, I push myself, and at times put a stupid amount of pressure on.  However, I'll be honest this week I have just wanted a bloody break, from the chores, the conveyor belt of recipes and demonstrations, from the chairs in demonstration, my god, they are like an instrument of torture.  How you can expect a captive audience for 4 hours with chairs that are like planks of hell I don't know.  Anyway I have definitely wanted a break.  To be honest I just wanted a break so I could for one moment stop and appreciate and enjoy the reasons why I am at Ballymaloe. There is it the cat is out of the bag. This week I have allowed myself to own up to the things that I am not enjoying.  It's funny because there is sometimes a negative associated with being honest about what you aren't or don't enjoy, there is so much pressure both in society and sometimes within ourselves to be happy and grateful all the time that if you dare for one moment say what you aren't enjoying, or let's be honest, what is pissing you right off, you are betraying the societal code of conduct for everything to be amazing the whole time.  Well the truth is there are things about this experience that I wish could be different.  I don't need to  be taught about hard work, I have grafted most of my life, I took the very brave decision to leave a job to change the path of my career, I did not do that on the assumption that  I would walk into a job an as the executive chef of the Fat Duck.  Although I am sure if you gave me a blow torch and a test tube I'd work something out.  No offence Heston.  It can also be a double-edged sword.  There is so much to learn and the truth is I know I can't possibly learn everything in 3 months, so I take more on, fermentation workshop, I am on it, sourdough in the evenings, yep I'm there, a ceremonial group jointing of a chicken, grab the front row, the days become longer and the pressure becomes more intense.  Experiences in life are to learn from and the bad and the indifferent should be embraced because they are the things that will teach you about what direction is suited to you.  I learn by doing.  I learn by being interactive and having a someone, or people to bounce off.  I loved the fermentation workshop and I am getting pretty into bread making, these are things that are slowly cultivated and time is given to their perfection.  Maybe these things have stuck with me because the learning experience was more measured. Or maybe I like sour stuff that smells a bit pokey? Ha! Who know? Does it matter?

I suppose this week the rose-tinted glasses of Ballymaloe became a little tainted, but you know what that's okay.  Feeling it is fine, it's what you do with it that counts right?  Look at me getting all philosophical on you.  I am surprised I haven't high fived the air with my motivational pep talk.

Let's get back on track.

What else occurred in Ballymaloe this week?

  1. The sock thief is still at large
  2. The Friday night quiz night was anarchy oh and apparently we used 75kg of sugar in one week.  Jamie Oliver would have a field day down here
  3. I was ashamed to say that I did not recognise the Indian flag in the quiz.  It was in black and white and I was on my usual meal of red wine and cheese
  4. I hate quizzes
  5. There was another competition this week for the best Irish breakfast, needless to say I didn't win (cooked breakfasts and me haven't really spent much time together)
  6. I had a chest puffing inducing moment today when I saw the cake I made at the Stephen Pearce cafe on Saturday was proudly on sale (see below)
  7. I love working at the cafe and it's awesome knowing there are real live people out there who are parting with their hard-earned cash for a bit of your squidgy chocolate cake, but it was very strange feeling so out of my depth, I haven't felt like that in a long time. Good humbling experience. Go me
  8. All the best chat happens in the laundry room. There's nothing like communal washing to really open you up
  9. I've settled on a fortnightly washing of my linen in case it's been keeping you up at night
  10. Fermentation can cause serious injury, proceed with caution.  If you have a particularly lively one you could end up wearing it, as I learnt this morning

Well that's it for this week, I am now off to ponder one of life's big questions, what to do with chervil.  I wonder.

Nadra Shah