A change is as good as a rest. Or so they say. As my limbs were weary and my bones heavy from a summer of growing, harvesting and preserving, I took myself home to the motherland for some much-needed rest and recuperation.
Two days of driving and an overnight ferry might not sound like a great start to a holiday, but from the moment I sat into the car I felt relief. I had spent days getting organised, picking the last of the ripe vegetables before digging over the beds for their own winter rest, weeding the onions and cabbages that are still growing and preparing enough food for the long journey ahead. I even found time to pack a few clothes. When the time eventually came to leave I sank into my seat with a satisfied sigh. I’d done it. I’d dug and planted and weeded and harvested and foraged and filled my freezer and pantry with fruit and vegetables to get us through most of the winter. Now it was time to relax – finally.
The autumn sun warmed the car and made the countryside shine as we drove through Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before our ferry trip back to Ireland. As the big ship heaved its way into Rosslare harbour the smell of the sea and the squawk of the gulls reminded me of one of the things I miss most about our little island – fish. Oh, how I miss fresh fish. Growing up literally within sight of the sea we’d practically been reared on herring and mackerel, which were often only a few hours out of the water. When my dad asked what we’d like for our welcome home meal I had no hesitation. Fish.
We ate lots of fish over the course of the holiday – pan fried cod, smoked haddock and tomato bake, crispy deep-fried hake, golden fillets of plaice and a delicious salmon gravalax. We also had some wonderful sushi, served with a miso soup that was brimming with chunky salmon flakes.
In between all that fish we did manage to eat some other fabulous Irish food. Roast beef on the bone, tender and juicy. Wexford lamb, succulent and oh so sweet. We were invited to meet some blogger friends, Margaret and Mona, who I had previously only known virtually. Margaret prepared a most fabulous lunch using ingredients from her garden and her own free-range, outdoor bred pork. We started with a courgette (zucchini) scarpaccia, followed by a pork larb that packed a real punch from ginger, lemongrass and a dash of soy sauce. Dessert was prepared by Mona and was utterly delicious, with the pecans and crumbly digestive biscuits providing a perfect salty balance to the baked cheesecake filling. Food with friends, whether old or new, is always good, but this meal was particularly memorable.
Between the bloggers’ lunch, my 20 year college reunion, dinner with an old friend and a family get-together it was quite a hectic trip, but one I enjoyed immensely. But was this trip the change of scenery that would rest and rejuvenate me? Well, no. With late nights and perhaps one too many glasses of Guinness I came home almost as tired as I was when I left. I’m more relaxed, definitely, but I’m still knackered.
The change I’m looking forward to is the one that’s just beginning now. The browning and tumbling of the leaves, the crispening of the air, the shortening of the evenings, the first frost and then the heavy winter snow. I intend to do like the hedgehogs in my garden – to roll up in a ball on the couch and hibernate. I have a stack of reading and writing that I’m so looking forward to getting stuck into. I have homemade damson wine to sip when the real cold sets is. This change is most welcome. Bring it on. I’m ready.