20 Jun 2014


Tonight I sit at the table looking at life over the rim of an ingeniously crafted grilled lemon gimlet.* I am pondering this crazy, cathartic journey of love that I signed up for nearly 11 years ago.

Warm fuzzies take up residence on my forearms and I smile.

Still kismet.

As I gallop nearer to the finish of photography for this book, I am filled with emotion and pride. Looking back, I am simply struck by how life can take so many turns and twists in your one go ‘round.

Damn, destiny can be demanding.

I sip down the last gorgeous citrusy drop of my mixed drink and start wiping down the kitchen worktop.

Nine years in Ireland. (Pinch)

Where did that go? (Ssshhhh, don’t ask)

I hazily conclude that if you give life your best shot, demands are met with very handsome rewards.



I’ve been floating around in my apron and wellies for the for the past month prepping, testing, cooking, co-styling and shooting recipes nearly every day, in and around our home, the farmyard, and the many pastures and meadows that cradle and surround us.


Fortunately for me, my fabulous friend and food stylist, Sonia Mulford-Chaverri made it across the Atlantic to be my partner in all of this food fluffing. So far we’ve been having great fun making everything look awfully pretty together.

Of course, everyone in the family has been enlisted as well, including our Airedale Terrier, Teddy, who clearly seems to feel he has some directorial talents. He takes the biscuit.

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Sure, during week 3 the dishwasher died (that one last butter bell?) and our clothes washer waned (too many tea towels?), but thanks to our local dairy co-op, we were back in business in no time. Yes, I stumbled while eagerly trying to hoist a large piece of furniture (a.k.a “prop”) and subsequently spent the day at the hospital waiting for an x-ray (no break, just a bad sprain, but plenty of colorful chinwagging with fellow Irish patients.)

As of today, I am on oven burn #6 and wearing it like a badge of cookbook courage. Also, the donkeys breaking into one of my kitchen garden beds and eating most of my strawberries and newly sprouted Georgia collard greens was admittedly quite heartbreaking.

Ahhhhhh, farm life.


On the other hand, we had a lovely visitor from Tennessee who brought and baked her special family recipe for buttermilk pie (yes, it will be in the book!) and afterward, we made beautiful buttermilk fried chicken with a big mess O’greens, so all was not lost. Thank you Lavonda Shipley.


I must admit, the best bits have been shooting outdoors frolicking in all of the once-foreign-to-me fauna and flora (even if the sweet heifer calves that surround us in the fields are forever trying to guttle up our picnics before we can properly photograph them). Can’t blame em, right?


It is the absolute perfect time of year to capture the breathtaking nature of the Irish countryside at its finest. Things don’t bloom here, they BURST…virtually everything is heaving with flowers and leaves everywhere you turn. Beguiling.


Will leave you with some other bits of bacchanalia….and back soon, promise.

Last month, I was invited to travel to the charming Inishbofin Island off the coast of County Galway to enjoy a lovely dinner and night at the Inishbofin House Hotel. The island, which translates to “The Island of the White Cow” is reachable by ferry from Cleggan and boasts breathtaking beaches and ruins chockablock with history. BBC chef, Ray McCardle, is on board at Inishbofin House consulting on the menu with head chef Taidgh McDonald and their new menu is a treasure to keep an eye on. If you are traveling to Ireland and want to try something different than the Aran Islands, hop over to is truly delightful.

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I will be blabbing about food blogging on a fantastic panel at this year’s Hay Festival in the ancient town of Kells, County Meath on Sunday, July 6th. The Hay Festival is a vibrant mash of literature, world music, politics, comedy and film and is produced every year across Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. My friends at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers asked me to participate this year, and I’m proud as punch to join this renowned gathering. Come along if you’re free! On your way, check out the Hill of Tara and put an intention on the wishing tree.


Shake, shake, shake ♫ ♬…..come and boogie with me while making farmhouse butter at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin on July 26th. More details to come.

Slan Abhaile,


*Sonia’s Grilled Lemon Gimlet recipe: one sliced lemon, sprinkled with sugar and grilled. Fill one small tumbler with ice. Pour in two jiggers dry gin, healthy splash of lemon juice, and top with grilled lemon. Suck and eat lemon slices when you’ve finished your drink. Photo of rag tree by Bruce Friedman. All other photos by Imen McDonnell 2014. 

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11 Responses to “Intermission”

  1. MarlisB says:

    Ah, an Airedale!!!!! Loooooove!

  2. Lorna says:

    Glad to hear it’s all going well – it sounds busy, busy, busy. Enjoy Hay 🙂

  3. Krista says:

    I”m smiling so happily as I hear of all the wonderful things happening as you pursue what you love and do it brilliantly. 🙂 I groaned with you at the thought of your donkeys eating your garden. Sigh. 🙁 My goats have done that a couple of times and it gutted me every time. I guard them zealously now. 🙂

  4. An Cailin says:

    Dear Imen,

    It’s always delightful reading your posts, I really look forward to them. I am also excited about your upcoming book, do you have an estimate for when it’s coming out?

    Before I go I must also compliment your enchanting photos. They always make me want to drop everything and catch the next plane to Ireland.

    Slán go fóill,

  5. Aine says:

    How bizarre. I found gooseberries at the Alexandria VA farmers market yesterday and spent the afternoon happily recreating Peggy’s gooseberry jam. Today, we’re back from a great BBQ with friends this afternoon and all my Arizona-born husband wanted for dinner was toast and gooseberry jam! So here we are, cheering for the USA (go USA!), while eating toast from an Irish woman’s jam recipe found through her US daughter-in-law who lives ten miles from my brother, but made by an Irish wife for her American husband in Washington, D.C.! While the internet makes strange bedfellows of us all, the jam is massive! (Add that to your Irish vocabulary lesson :)) great jam. Thanks Peggy/Imen. Really REALLY looking forward to your book. My christmas present issues are all solved … Not to mention that I love your writing and stunning photos so the very first copy is for ME.. (Why did I emigrate???) Am impatient to read and see more 🙂

  6. Christina says:

    You are such a talented cook, photographer and writer that all you have at this point in life is well-deserved! So happy for you and your success! Your blog is absolutely one of the first that I mention whenever anyone asks me my favorites. Although your photos are of Ireland, they have made me miss Scotland, but knowing that I will be there in a few months is a bit of a consolation! xx

  7. Donna Baker says:

    All sounds like heaven to me.

  8. Gill says:

    Loving the photos – looks like it was great fun photographing all the food! 🙂

  9. J. says:

    Beautiful, just beautiful, Imen!

  10. Caitriona says:

    Great update. You’ve fallen down the rabbit hole I know. This year will be forever etched in your memory as a catalyst for yet more huge change in your life. It’ll be great to catch up at Hay in Kells. Much love. xxx

  11. Emily Grace says:

    Imen, this is such a lovely journal entry. Thank you for sharing!

    I’m so sorry the donkeys ate your strawberries and greens, but I’m so pleased a bit of Georgia and Tennessee made it into your post. 🙂

    All the images are lovely, but the last one is mesmerizing. It should be very large wall art.

    Looking forward to your cookbook.
    Emily Grace

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