The Emerald Isle

This is a story with hindsight. It is about the last public event I attended before the COVID lockdown. It is that pre-COVID moment when all our lives changed. Can you remember your last event? Was it sports, music, theatre, a film? Or maybe a big, family gathering with hugs and kisses. Little did I realize at the time how different my world would be as I write this.

The event was a George Brown College cookbook release and a Q&A with the chef. He was the Irish chef Jp McMahon – the driving force of the new Irish culinary scene. His Michelin starred restaurant Aniar, along with its cooking school, and now the cookbook The Irish Cook Book has catapulted the cuisine from potato to Galway Bay oysters.

Galway Bay, Ireland

I was sitting in the fourth row. I noticed a senior couple come in and head for the second row. What caught my attention was they were wearing blue medical masks. No one else in the room of a hundred or so were wearing masks. The date? It was March 11, 2020. I was aware of the coronavirus and that it was affecting people in long-term care homes. But it did not affect me. I was healthy and never got the flu. So, in a way, I understood why they were wearing masks. They were in an age category where they were susceptible. It just seemed odd at the time.

Another hindsight moment. At that time, the public health officials were telling us not to touch our face and to sanitize our hands. Nothing was mentioned about wearing masks. But, at the time, there was not much research into how the coronavirus was being transmitted. We were all washing our hands for 30 seconds several times a day. I remember there were 30 second songs being posted to social media that you could sing while washing your hands.

One of the reasons I wanted to see Chef McMahon was that I was planning a trip to Ireland in June. I was going to make reservations at Aniar while there. It became apparent a few weeks later that was not going to happen. I am grateful that I got to hear him speak of the joys of Irish cooking. And I have the book to bring the Emerald Isle to my kitchen.

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