For those of you who don’t know my story, I’m a Foodie. I am completely obsessed by food, and have been for most of my life.
Born in 1959, I grew up in Southern California and was lucky enough to have been minded and influenced as a child, by two of the best cooks I’ve encountered to this date. They were Mexican women who cooked most days for most of the day. They used cheaper cuts of meat which involved more labour and time, (what we now call ‘slow food’), as well as making their own tortillas, pickling their own home-grown chillies, making their own tamales, etc. So I hold them and their cuisine dear and near to my heart.
Since literally having my fingertips on the edge of their chopping board(s),(and being berated for the same), I’ve spent my life experimenting, reading, chopping, stirring, baking, roasting, growing food, asking questions, testing, trying and very much GRINNING,and SMILING at the world of food. I’ve become a firm believer in reincarnation for the simple reason that often, when I cook, I am aware of what I refer to as ‘The Food Gods’. There is a place one can connect to/with that’s a point of letting-go and allowing the ‘magic’ to take over. This is when food becomes not just delicious or amazing looking, but sublime. This place is, in my experience, a hub of knowledge and I thrive on visiting and tapping into it.
I came over to Ireland in 1979 on a music exchange programme to Trinity College, Dublin (the subject I’m actually formally ‘trained’ in!), and fell in love with Ireland and a man. In 1994, myself and my soul-mate, David Milne, opened Danette’s Feast restaurant at Urglin Glebe, Bennekerry in Co. Carlow. We earned quite a few awards and developed a lot of long-lasting friendships with our suppliers, customers, and indeed with others in the trade. David was front-of-house and I did all the cooking in the kitchen. We learned A LOT!!
In 2000 we closed our doors and I helped Rachel and Frank Doyle open their new doors to the first Mulberry’s Restaurant in the Arboretum in Leighlinbridge. I then took a bit of a break and went back to teaching a bit of music.
It was at this time that a certain mythological character started to appear in our society….it was of the feline variety, large with whiskers and stripes. People stopped cooking. They were buying and eating a lot of processed food, not eating together anymore because the mythological cat was creating an environment that was driven by intense greed, and that greed needed to be sustained by too much work. (Viscious circle, very similar to a dog chasing it’s tail, experienced by some, but not all of us– just for the record).
So, in 2001, I approached the then headmaster of Kilkenny College (where my husband is the Head of Music), with a proposal for a transition year course called ‘Real Food’, which incorporated basic cooking skills, growing food and learning about artisan food producers, food issues (constantly arising), GMO’s, irradiation of food to name a few. The Transition Year organiser, Erica McNiece, was very supportive of the class and it became one of the most poular options for the students. It culminated in an end-of-year trip to Cork and West Cork where we visited many producers and then cooked for them on our final evening there.
When the mythological cat dissipated from people’s imaginations, and we had to start paying for the illusion- the course was unfortunately axed. (In my opinion, a very bad move to remove life-skill courses, but that’s another debate).
This has led me to where I am now. I’ve gone back to cooking professionally and have created a range of sauces, dressings and dips called ‘Danette’s Magic’ as well as starting to blog about food. The sauce range includes: Moroccan Gold hummus, Cashew Nut Pesto, Tapenade , Tomato and Fresh Basil Sauce, Fajita Sauce, Carbonara Sauce, Curry Sauce, Ranch Dressing, Salsa as well as seasonal sauces such as Cranberry and Orange Relish and Salted Caramel. There is a page entitled ‘Magic’ on this website which will include recipes of how to use these cooking sauces, dressings and dips.
This website is currently being re-designed and will include a section on learning how to cook, which will be for all age groups, but especially for young people. The best way to learn how to cook, by the way, is to cook.
I’m passionate about food, about the subject of food and everything to do with food, and hope I can not only share that with you, but inspire your passion too.
Should you have any questions, suggestions, or if you try the recipes and want to share your results, I very much welcome you to use the comment box and I will respond.
“She’s mad but she’s magic. There’s no lie in her fire.” – Charles Bukowski