As the sun started setting on my first day traveling to Ireland, I pulled into the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry. Golden light streamed through the vibrant gardens. Dogs and chickens ran up to greet me. The salty breeze tickled my face. I felt invigorated, and present. Fear and missing home vanished as a couple freshly-arrived students welcomed me into our cottage and offered freshly-made bread, homemade butter, and pumpkin soup.
The cookery school (on a 100-acre organic farm!) is well-known in Europe, but seldom heard about in the US. Rooted in the pedagogy is the importance of seasonal, local, sustainable cooking that honors cultural heritage and practical skills for self-sufficiency in the countryside. Every second offered me a new experience and exposure to different manners of thinking, creating, and respecting the bounty of this Earth. The energy we put into the program was our reward, and that is why my immersive, engaged time here was so gratifying.
Each week, students shared cooking stations and received new chores (herb/vegetable picking duty, salad prep for lunch, making stocks, cleaning the floors, etc.). We cooked for several hours, ate our food, and then watched demos of new creations to cook the next day. By the evening, we were all pretty spent, but somehow I managed to run almost every night to explore the rolling hills and make sourdough with fellow bread fanatics.
Curious about the adventurous dishes we cooked? My jaw dropped when I learned to make stingray, pig head (a dish called “brawn”), periwinkles, and monkfish. I also butchered a lamb, made homemade cheese, drank warm milk minutes after milking a cow, crystallized flower petals, foraged for edible foods, and spent *days* making a single recipe of puff pastry (it’s WORTH IT). On top of all of this, we also had a wine class every Wednesday where we traveled around the globe on the flavorful wings of curated wines and spirits.
The fall of 2015 catalyzed an immense amount of personal growth, and built a steadfast foundation for who I am as a person today. I am creative and experimental with food, and this emanates out into the rest of my life. I see value in living simply and intentionally, especially when it comes to nourish food into your body with love and joy.
While the focus of this post is primarily what I DID, ultimately, the relationships that I built along the way impacted me the most. The passions and backgrounds of everyone on that 100 acres of paradise in southern Ireland wove a beautiful social fabric. We were all immersed in the experience, and collectively inspired and pushed each other to grow along the way. My heart cracked open in the warmth of connection to such a vibrant community.
Three years later, in this moment, I see how I bring this back to my life in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I now fearlessly lead my life with love, curiosity, and intention. For a daily recount of my experience, check out my blog, Livvy’s Emerald Adventures!
Livvy Call grew up with a Waldorf School education in Richmond, Virginia, and loves learning about cultures and communities through food and farming. While she studied dietetics at JMU, her true education came through actively seeking unique learning experiences relating to interdisciplinary collaboration, community service-learning, and travel. Her passions lie in educating others on building resiliency and skills through experiential learning -- ask her about some of her adventures! Connect with Livvy.