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Clodagh McKenna

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If it hasn't happened already, then some day soon someone somewhere will use the “M” word when writing about Clodagh McKenna.
That's right. The comparison between Ms McKenna and America's Martha Stewart seems inevitable. After all, journalists now use the term “food entrepreneur” to describe Clodagh's many activities. When she isn't writing cookery books she is appearing on television and filming her own tv series, or appearing on the cover of glossy magazines. She has sorted out the food for Aer Lingus, sorted out the food for Arnott's, guest edited the Irish Times special Food & Wine magazine. There are cookery courses, cookery schools, a restaurant, her own Clodagh's Kitchen range of foods, food columns. The comparison with Ms Stewart seems inevitable.
Except it's not, of course. For where Ms Stewart is pretty much a standard-issue control-freak, Ms McKenna knows where the real stuff is. When she cooked a dinner at the Whitney Museum, she served black pudding and St Tola goat's cheese, offered bacon and cabbage, nettle and potato, fish and butter, rhubarb and seaweed, oats and milk. Clodagh may well be on the telly and the magazine cover, but when it comes to food she goes straight back home to Cork, rolls up her sleeves and starts peeling the spuds. “The recognition doesn't sit easily with me”, she explained to one interviewer about why she was living in Turin when her first t.v. series was being broadcast back in Ireland. She doesn't seek the spotlight: it seeks her.
Part of the reason why she is able to do so much lies with her skills as an organiser: when she had charge of Slow Food West Cork the organisation was the driver of the most dynamic and delicious dinners anyone can ever remember, and all the graft was Clodagh's. She knows what it takes to get up early in the morning and load the car for the Farmer's Market, and how to do it even if you have had a late night. She understands control, but she doesn't need to use it: she simply makes sure that things get done and knows that will likely mean she is the one who will have to do them.
A more accurate term would be the “A” word: like Alice Waters, it was summers spent in France that opened Clodagh's eyes to the glory of food. The Ballymaloe School honed that hunger, a hunger to cook and to feed people, but also a hunger to simply do things, lots of things, because in making things – food, books, whatever – you are making your world, weaving your quilt. She's a grafter, everyone knows that, and she doesn't sit easy with recognition.

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