I’m still integrating my Ballymaloe experience while also trying to figure out what my particular spin on cooking, holistic cooking, and mental health will be. I’ve been home just over three weeks. Since my return I’ve either had a house full of people or have been traveling. I have been cooking up a storm and loving it, but lurking has been the need for definition and direction, which, given the houseful and travel, I haven’t had a chance to focus on until this week.
Some realizations: I am still a mother first. My three children have all come to visit since my return. I’ve been honing my new skills trying out new recipes for them that I thought they’d enjoy. Since having children, I have been on a quest to make meals both healthy and delicious. Lately though I’ve experienced a bit of a conundrum because, besides the bread-making, I have really enjoyed making the Ballymaloe desserts. However, they typically contain far more sugar than I’m comfortable serving (my next blog will address this issue). Then again, nothing says welcome home like peach sorbet with raspberry whipped cream when your son’s favorite fruit is raspberries or using the leftover egg whites from the homemade pasta for a roulade for your daughter’s arrival. I’ve made more desserts in the past three weeks than I did in the whole of my children’s collective youth. You should have heard my rants about the evils of Halloween candy when my kids were young. Can you understand my dueling interests here?
In addition, my youngest is unemployed. We are commiserating in our common need to earn a living balanced against a wish for satisfying and meaningful work. Outside of really enjoying his company especially when we walk the dogs together, I’m attuned to his anxiety and his eating habits. I have been on a mission to get him, my pickiest eater, to eat more fruits and vegetables, but I also aim to please. All he needs to do is make an offhand remark about some food he’d like to eat and I’m all over it. Yesterday he mentioned that he likes waffles, but doesn’t like how flat they turn out using our waffle maker. “I’ve got a solution for that,” I say. Any guesses what was for breakfast today?
Secondly, there was a method to Darina’s madness (just an idiom Darina not to be taken literally). For instance, the “order of work,” we were required to do for each morning’s cooking is a handy tool especially when you have guests and other demands on your attention. Every morning since coming home I’ve made an order of work. I don’t always stick to it due to aforementioned offhand remarks about waffles and such, but the order of work has given each day some structure.
Thirdly, I realized just how much I learned at Ballymaloe. Now that I’m home and sharing my knowledge with other people, I appreciate the skill building that went on there. Remember all those helpful hints about food preparation that I’ve alluded to in previous posts? They come back when I return to a recipe or someone asks me a question as my friend did yesterday about whether to strain her raspberry sauce through a sieve. Yes, the answer is yes to make for a nice presentation.
Speaking of presentation—I also learned a lot about making a dish look nice. I have a long way to go, but I am far more cognizant about how my dishes look now.
To be honest, what I haven’t figured out is how to incorporate the mental health piece with the cooking piece. I have been so happily immersed in the cooking that I’ve felt quite distant from the mental health aspect I’m afraid. I continue to believe that the process of cooking can be very beneficial to one’s mental health alongside other healthy practices. I also want to continue to explore the similarities and differences between the two systems.
What I know about myself is that I am a practitioner who cares about people. Whatever I end up doing I will be teaching people directly. I am not a researcher. I read a lot about healthy foods, exercise, wellness, and mental health but I cannot simply regurgitate the information. I can tell stories and use stories to illustrate a point. I can also use the practice and process of cooking to either help people learn to cook or learn about themselves or both, much as I have learned about myself through Ballymaloe.
A Healthier Waffle with Peaches with Monk fruit and Cinnamon
1/4 C ground flaxseed
1 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sprouted wheat flour
1/4 C wheat germ
2 T date sugar
1 & 1/2 t baking powder (sifted)
1/2 t salt
1 & 1/2 C milk (your choice–I used organic whole milk)
1 whole organic egg
1 & 1/2 T coconut oil or canola if you wish
1 t vanilla
2 organic egg whites whipped (said solution)
2 ripe (hopefully locally grown) peaches
1 T monk fruit crystals (or date sugar or granulated sugar)
1/4 t cinnamon
squeeze if fresh lemon juice
To prepare the waffles put the all the dry ingredients (ground flaxseed through the salt) in a large bowl. Whisk to mix then make a well in the center. Combine the milk, whole egg, oil, and vanilla then add to dry ingredients stirring until just combined. Whip the egg whites and fold into mixture. Place 1/3 cup of mixture onto hot waffle iron coated with cooking spray. Typically you cook until steaming stops or according to manufacturer’s directions. (I have determined that I need a new waffle iron).
To serve: Skin peaches by marking an X on the bottom of each peach then cover with boiling water for 10 seconds. Immerse immediately in cold water. This makes peeling a cinch. Section peaches then combine with monk fruit, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Top hot waffles with butter, peach mixture and maple syrup. Serve immediately.