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The Irish Times Healthplus

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

I am grateful to Grace Linehan and the charming pupils of Schull Community College 6th form home ec students who received me so politely and with such concentration when I spoke to them. Preparing my slogans for the class really did cause me more thought – and worry! – than anything I have done in recent times.
One of the Schull pupils, by the way ,is Molly O'Mahony who has just released a fine cd, with Norman Collins on the guitar (pictured), called “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars”, a collection of (mainly) Antonio Carlos Jobim songs, which is hugely enjoyable. Do look out for the cd when in West Cork...

Leaving Certificate Home Economics, and me.


9.15 am, the last Friday morning in May.
After sleepless nights, worrysome days, reams of note-making and note-scrapping, book consulting and time planning, it is finally time to talk to Ms Linehan’s class of Home Ec. Leaving Cert students in Schull Community College, West Cork.
So, how can you convey the world of food, with all its social, health, culinary and political ramifications, to a gaggle of seventeen year olds, in a mere seventy minutes?
After sleepless nights and worrysome days thinking it through, I have decided that, like any decent propagandist, the only way is to resort to sloganeering.

1. The question is not: How clever are you? It’s: How are you clever?

The world of food is a world composed in large degree of people who think differently, and who are distinguished by being able to do many tasks simultaneously. Many of these people also had a terrible time at school, because their intelligence didn’t fit in.

2. Man is the Cooking Animal


Aside from our big brains, this is what distinguishes us from everything else. Cooking is, thus, the beginning of all human society.

3. Cooking is Rocket Science.

The next time some geeky engineering student laughs that Home Ec “Isn’t exactly rocket science, is it!?”, just ask them to figure out: How do you make a soufflé? Then ask them if they think they could get a job working in Heston Blumenthal’s kitchen. They couldn’t: the science would be beyond them.

4. You are what you eats eats too.

Animals have rights, especially if they are animals which we humans regularly eat. So consider just what you are eating has, in its turn, eaten, and how it has been treated. If you close your eyes to this question, then you are denying animals the respect they deserve.

5. Eat the View.

Barack and Michelle Obama planted the south lawn of the White House in part as a response to the pressure group Eat The View. Eat The View says simply that if you look out your window at a vast expanse of manicured, drugged-up lawn, then you are wasting the chance to grow lots of your own food, thereby cutting down the food miles, saving carbon emissions, and saving the planet.

6. Omega 3 + Omega 6 = Omega-3

Too many Omega 6s in your diet undoes the good work in your cells that the Omega 3s do, so try to get the Omegas into balance. Cut back on the processed foods, and beef up on the bluefish and the grass-fed beef and lamb.

7. Eating is an Agricultural Act.

Modern society has schismed the relationship between what we eat and the people who grow and rear the food we consume. Having a link to the people who make the food you eat is not merely good sense for your diet and your health, it is also good sense for society. So go on: hug a farmer.

8. Slow Food.

The international Slow Food movement is not about fancy eating, but rather it is a group concerned with the culture and history of our food, and the meaning of our food cultures. If you can afford it, do try to get onto the degree course at the Slow Food University in Italy. A good Home Ec result in the Leaving Cert will surely help you get there, and then you can help to make Slow Food as ubiquitous in our lives as Fast Food.

9. Cooking is Magic.

This is really the nub of it all. A cook is firmly in charge of their domestic economy, and in charge of their health. They are, each and every day, engaged in a creative act. That creative act of cookery is also supremely social. Cooking for your friends and family is the ultimate social act, the very glue of society, and the most profound form of empowerment. Above all, the transformatory nature of cookery, the alchemical reactions we initiate and create in the kitchen, lets us weave our own form of magic.

The charming students listened attentively, made informed comments, then gave me a polite round of applause and a nice bottle of red wine to say thank you.
Young people today! They just fill you with hope for the future.

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