The Right Tools

Gardens when we arrived and six weeks later.

Gardens when we arrived and six weeks later.

We have just finished up six weeks at Ballymaloe and I’m enjoying the long weekend Bank Holiday. With each passing week I add another tool to the list of items I now “need.” Here is the list at a glance: pizza paddle, pastry cutter, decorative cutters to make things pretty, cake platter, pasta maker, a big wide bowl, more and better whisks, a copper bowl (egg whites beat up better in a copper bowl who knew?), an ice cream maker, a deep fryer, plastic condiment bottles, cocktail toothpicks. The list goes on and on. Cooking is much simpler with the right tools. All these years I could have been making so much and so much better or prettier as the case may be. Most of us do not have the luxury of having all the right tools. We learn to make to do with what is available to us or within our means and then do the best we can.  One can dream!

The same is true for mental health. The reason I like my profession of social work is its emphasis on person in situation. Social workers understand and consider the impact of the environment on a person’s mental health. We never assess a person outside of the situation they are currently in or had been reared in. There are the basic tools: eat healthy, get enough sleep, exercise, surround yourself with good people, pray or meditate, abstain from or keep alcohol to a minimum, do not take drugs or smoke. Food is a great example of the impact of lack of access to the right tools for mental health. What if you do not have access to healthy food? There are many food deserts in the United States wherein communities do not have access to healthy food choices.  There are a couple of food deserts where I live.  I do not feel I can properly address the food deserts and other problems of lack of access at this time and in this context as my mind is filled to the brim with learning the skills of cooking.  Anyone who knows me will be waiting for the rant right now.  At the same time it must be said.  Some people take too much while others starve.  And for reasons of profit, I’m guessing, we glorify the takers in our culture.  The value of sharing seems to have been left behind in kindergarten.  I believe this mindset is affecting all of our physical and psychological lives as it perpetuates fear.  Fear that we have to protect what we have and that there will never be enough.  The result is that we treat humans and other animals like disposable leftovers as if they have nothing to do with us.  There are inspiring people out there finding positive solutions to the food desert issue. I want to give a shout out to an innovative man in the States whom I’ve just recently heard about since I’ve been in Ireland.  His name is Ron Finley  He goes by  the Gansta Gardener.  You can also see his TED talk at A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central LA.  Inspiring!

My hope is that we will soon understand that we are connected to each other, to other animals especially the ones we eat, and to the life of the planet.  I love the philosophy here at Ballymaloe that places a high premium on the humane treatment of animals, supporting small and local farmers, dairies, fishermen, butchers, fishmongers, growing, and even foraging what you can locally.  Not a scrap is wasted.  Whatever food is not used in the kitchen or eaten in the dining room is saved for donations, stock, given to the chickens, or composted.  The people at Ballymaloe have most definitely embraced reduce, reuse, recycle.  The effort is a conscious one. There are no leftovers.

Okay there is my rant.  I just couldn’t write about the right tools while the issue of access weighed on my mind.  Hence the delay of this post.  To end on a high note how about a  Ballymaloe ice cream recipe?  You might just decide to invest in a new tool.  Go on it’s summer.  Speaking of which, I’ve barely seen a drop of rain since I’ve been in Ireland.

Ireland is just green!

Ireland is not only green!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Makes one pint

1/2 vanilla bean pod (you can find at the grocery store you can often reuse the pods to justify the cost)

6 fl oz of whole milk

4 egg yolks (you can make meringue with whites or whip and fold into waffle batter)

2 1/2 oz (generous 1/4 cup) of sugar

6 fl oz whipped cream, cold

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a heavy saucepan.  Add the the bean pod and milk.  Heat to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat.  Cover and allow to steep for ten minutes.  Remove the bean pod and scrape again to release every bit of flavor.  Add the scrapings to the milk and discard the pod.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.  Add the warm milk gradually to the egg/sugar mixture, stirring constantly until all the milk is added.  Clean your saucepan then return the mixture to the pan and cook over low heat again stirring constantly until the custard coats the back of a spoon.

Pour the cream into a large bowl.  Strain (through a sieve) into the cream.  Mix well then chill thoroughly.

Freeze according to the directions on your ice cream maker.

Like I said, I never thought I needed one before!


Pairs well with ice cream, but Carrie Beckman's still looks better:)

Rhubarb Tart with Flake Crust. Pairs well with ice cream, but Carrie Beckman’s still looks better:)


3 thoughts on “The Right Tools

  1. The beauty of good tools is that they disappear when in use allowing the user to fully focus on the task at hand. The beauty of a good therapist is that s/he disappears in the process of psychotherapy allowing the client to fully focus on the task at hand. Paradoxically, poor tools and less skilled therapists loom large drawing attention to themselves by becoming obstacles rather than mediators of the task at hand.


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