Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tom Bombadill and Goldberry

With Mass in Irish on the radio (A Thiarna, ár n-Athair), I headed off across the mountains this fine sunny day to visit my favourite fairy-man, Herbie Brennan of Faerie Wars, and his tree-woman wife, Jacquie. I didn't go by the ugly new motorway which would have been faster, but went via the holy vale of Glendalough and over the wild bogs of the Wicklow Gap. The leaves are not yet out on the trees or the hedgerows but the whin is in full bloom, a cloak of gold on the brown shoulders of the hills. What lifts the heart? It is the beauty of my country. Got lost at one point and arrived flustered and late to be welcomed by my hosts and the other guests. Then we all sat down to a feast, for Jacquie is not only a herbalist, painter, and crystal healer, but a gifted cook as well. We began with 'tapas' in the Spanish style - a warm mini pitta bread served with little kebabs of sausage and chicken, tapenade, fresh humous, a salad of herbs and greens, and feta cheese with brown and green olives. That could have been lunch in itself, but then came salmon poached with lemon and butter, floury potatoes, and organic broccoli, with a rich hollandaise sauce. And, ah, dessert: a delicious custard and fruit tart straight out of the oven accompanied by a big bowl of fresh strawberries, black currants, and cherries swimming in their juices. Was I able to go on to the cheese platter with crackers? Nope. But I managed one Belgian chocolate and a demitasse of brewed coffee. As we dined like lords and ladies, the conversation roamed over many a topic including the Great Famine, thinking in different languages, the banning of herbalists in France, the similarities between Lent and Ramadan, the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor, Whirling Dervishes, and the mysterious life of cats. Good food and good company: a thing to be praised!

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