The Joy of Food, Rory O’Connell’s excellent third book was published by Gill Books at the beginning of October. My signed copy arrived in the post, beautifully wrapped with a limited edition linen tea towel from Stable. That’s the gorgeous shop in Westbury Hall, off Dublin’s Grafton Street where I want to buy absolutely everything in the shop. The package also included several post cards of Rory’s line drawings that illustrate the pages of this enchanting book. All so beautifully chic and stylish.
I know what you’re thinking – well, she would say that wouldn’t she? After all, Rory is Darina’s brother who co-founded the Ballymaloe Cookery School with her in 1983… True, but many of you who have been watching the accompanying series, The Joy of Food on RTE, will have realised that Rory is an exceptional talent…A curious chef with his own unique style, who not only loves to cook but also loves to share his knowledge, making him a much-loved teacher here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork.
For me, as his older sister, it’s a trip down memory lane, an extra fascinating element. We were both brought up in the little village of Cullohill in the rural midlands of Co. Laois by a mother (our Dad died when I was 14) who loved to cook yummy meals for us every single day. Simple but truly delicious comforting food, vegetables and fruit and berries from the kitchen garden. Chickens and eggs from our own hens, milk from the Kerry cow, meat from the local butcher, wild food in season…This was our norm and was unquestionably where we learned to cook but also to appreciate the magic of food and its ability to enhance both our family life and the experience of friends and the students we share with.
The evocative introduction to the chapters in this new book gave me an even deeper insight into my brothers psyche, his passion for good food, and superb ingredients in season. Memories of family picnics, foraging expeditions up Cullohill ‘mountain’ to gather hazelnuts, the importance of laying a beautiful table and lighting a candle, even when dining alone. Read about the difference a little bunch of flowers makes, I also loved his homage to the pestle and mortar, his musings on the joy of owning a few hens and was intrigued to read how much Jane Grigson’s book Good Things meant to him because it’s my favourite too.
It’s packed with delicious sounding recipes, special tips and insight into how to use some less familiar ingredients e.g. sumac, perilla, shiso…