Fermentalist with a fetish for fatty foods. Don't listen to those looneys telling you that fat is bad for you. Love your gut, eat real food. Writer at Irish Examiners on Saturdays and Irish Independent and Sunday Times, Food and Wine Mag and Tourism Ireland
It's a strange feeling, I imagine, a little bit like an expectant father pacing the halls, old school, while his wife labours in the final stages of the making of something new and precious to them. Like a baby, a book takes a short amount of time to conceive the idea, unlike a baby, it's very much in your own hands how the development process goes. Like a baby, you never really know what it's like to have your first until you hold it your hands, unlike a baby, and if you're lucky, it then quickly leaves you to live its life in the hands and eyes of the world, the people who like your book enough to go out and buy it. The world is full of books and information, what makes anyones special? What makes mine special?
What makes it special to me is that it came from here, from this blog, from a life of being fired up by food and the stories behind food. The book as it is, was not an intention, a book seemed like a nice idea but it was beyond me what it was going to be about, focusing on one subject wasn't something I'd had much experience of, there's been restaurant reviewing for the beloved Bridgestones, photographing, cooking, reporting, horticulture, cooking, gardening, all of the above, but most of all there's been the eternal head scratch that I'd like to have something beyond what I did yesterday.
This book; a document about bread in our time, from time before now and into now, was a different book first. Also like a baby, it decided what it would be when it was ready. First it was a book about bakers, commissioned by someone else, then someone else changed their minds and my tail fell between my legs and I dragged myself off to another publisher who said the first idea had something but no 'shelf life', so what did I want from it? "What did I want from it?" , what a nice question to be asked. I answered unhesitatingly "I'd like that more people might want to bake bread". I'm all about the self-sufficiency you see, forever banging on about doing things for yourself, little things, good for your body, good for your mind. You don't need to come from the river cottage to make bread or sauerkraut, you can live in a city and grow your own food, you get the idea.
The publishers, the O'Briens in Dublin, met me to discuss "my book", I brought two loaves of bread and a pot of home-made jam and some butter to the meeting in a huge red coolbox that used to belong to my mother. Then I walked to the bus-stop after the meeting, with the huge coolbox weighing me to one side, and went to watch Katie Taylor win the Olympic Gold in a crowded pub on Baggot Street on a sunny day. I filled my culture vulture belly at the RHA exhibition before I got another bus to catch the train back to Limerick, again coolbox in tow. They gave me a year to do the work, I thought it was way too much, I wanted to go home and wake up with the book beside me, smiling lovingly at me before it make me breakfast. Nah ah. It does take time and it did, and then it took some more.
Researching, writing, baking, making, sourcing props, getting ideas, styling photographs and photographing a cookbook is something usually done by a team of people. In fairness, the people in question are usually further on a defined career than me. The O'Briens have taken a chance on me, an unknown, other than being known for my beligerance, love of food, love of telling everyone about good food and where to find it and my dogged belief in the interconnectness of all things. I love my book, I know every inch of it as it was passed back and forth to me by a devoted editor, back and forth, back and forth, every word, every comma, every meaning, and still I left something out.... the size of the time required for the brack is 26-28cm, dagnannit!!!
I hope you like the book, here's a spelt bread recipe that features in it, that's been in this blog since 2011 and gets the most comments from people who bake it, it does work and the title is true. If you want to come to the book launch, I'd love to see you in O'Mahony's on Thursday May 1st at 6.30. There will be bread.
Niall Toner is publishing a feature about my book, featuring three recipes and some pictures of me with flour on myself in today's Sunday Times. If you have €2.90 leftover from your night out in Costelloes, go and get it, and bake some bread.