You know the how. The where. The who. I would like to share the why behind this blog. It’s time. I’m gonna get down, dirty and frankly, a little emo here so if you can’t hang, scroll down to the cake recipe and eat cake. That’s what I’d do.

I have been writing here for just over two years. If you have been following along, this wasn’t always an entirely food-related blog. I did like to blather on about food..here and there…but as deliciously indulgent as those posts were, it wasn’t initially the gist of it.

My focus was on the humorous, quirky treasures that are part and parcel to marrying an Irish farmer and navigating a new life in the Irish countryside. Part comedy and part scan of my life through two lenses: city + country/American + Irish and seeing bits of colour in the everyday routine of Irish country living that others might miss along the way. Eventually, I turned to traditional Irish cookery and baking, a delicious way to explore and embrace my newly adopted culture…..either that, or a damn good excuse to enjoy sinful delights like this or this on a regular basis.

BUT, it didn’t start that way either.

Rewind to confession (well, we are in Ireland): My first blog post was a complete rant.

A full-blown, sad, depressed, lonely, mofo angry, soliloquy of my life that evening. My husband was still not home at 9:30pm, pretty standard at the time. It was my 5th day spent inside alone with our little boy while it bucketed rain outside and made the windows so blurry you couldn’t see out. It was probably the 10th night we had eaten supper without daddy. Once Geoffrey was in bed, I opened my computer and began typing…well, pounding, on my keyboard. IT IS 9:30PM AND MY FARMER IS STILL NOT HOME. ALONE AGAIN. THIS IS WHAT IT IS REALLY LIKE. I AM MILES AWAY FROM CIVILIZATION. IT IS NOT IDYLLIC. I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS. &%£%@$&!!!. Then I deleted it. Then I cried. No, not cried. I bawled. My brains out. Like a little girl who lost a puppy. I hurt.

Suddenly, I had realised that somehow in 4 fast years, life as I knew it had completely vanished.

Poof. Gone. Forgetaboutit.

Life 2005-2009

  • Full of absolute confidence and adulation, I left a flourishing career, loads of friends, family, my dear kitty, my cute convertible and a lovely walk-up. Yep. Picked up sticks, moved to Ireland and married the love of my life.
  • Morphed into a mummy in a new country without said family and friends.
  • Designed and self-built a home on the farm (note: do not attempt this)
  • My father became unexpectedly ill and within three months he died.
  • I died.
  • Then started this blog.

Yes, I died. A lot. Moving abroad, marriage, motherhood, building house were definitely challenging, but losing my father nearly killed me. And that fateful night at the computer, the weight of it all hit me like a ton of bricks.

Roughly one year earlier, on September 13th, 2008, my dear dad left this world. I held him in my arms with my head resting on his chest as he took his very last breath.

I don’t remember much that happened in the year after that except that my in-laws were very kind and they whisked myself and Geoffrey off to Spain with them for two weeks immediately after we returned from the States so that we wouldn’t be alone so much. Richard had taken 6-8 weeks away from the farm to be with us that summer and he would be working very long hours upon our return. The only other memory is of soaking Richard’s neck with tears each and every night for at least 8 months as I unsuccessfully tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t stop ‘hearing’ my father’s last breath. And I couldn’t stop thinking about every last detail of that summer. Nor did I want to.

We had arrived stateside on June 10th. I knew my dad had not been feeling well. He had been undergoing tests of every size, shape and acronym. The next day, he had a follow-up appointment with a specialist and I accompanied him. He had undergone a small procedure on his kidney and when we sat down in the examination room the doctor informed him that it had went as planned.

Then, the doctor put an X-ray up on the wall which lit up like an Irish country night sky all filled with starry constellations. I stood up in front of my father and quietly asked the doctor, “what are all those pretty bright spots?” He gravely replied, “You’re going to stay here all summer, right?”  I stood there staring at those stars for what seemed like an eternity while tears silently ran down my cheeks and my throat throbbed like I had swallowed a large boulder.

Two days later we were escorted into an oddly luxurious chemo suite.

Three weeks after, I moved into his hospital room with him as he fought infection.

Radiation.

Surgery.

Chemo.

Emergency Room.

Home.

Hospice and the “Comfort Kit”

Last breath.

In the two weeks before he died, I began a feeding frenzy. Looking back, I am sure it didn’t help matters. But, my dad was going to die and I wanted him to eat all the foods he loved before it was over. Plus, my denial/fix-it mind kept telling me he needed more food. Needed to put on weight. It was ridiculous. I begged him for requests. I fulfilled each of them and then some. Lasagne, pizza, ice cream, kneecaps from Jerry’s Bakery, German Chocolate Cake. I fed him with a spoon. I remember he was exceptionally pleased with his chocolate cake even though he could only manage a bite, maybe two.

There is so much to tell about my father. And, so much to tell about that last summer. Maybe I will share more as time goes on. But for now, I want you to know that this is why I began writing here. I needed an outlet. To share the good. To leave the sad behind. Even if I didn’t know it at the time, this diary gave me one more reason to carry on, to look at the positives and laugh a little, to have company when the farm kidnapped my husband for 16 hour days….to adjust to all the crazy changes life can throw your way in such a short period of time.

But most of all, it has helped me to heal and to come back to life.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.

Now, have a slice of my dad’s cake.

It will make you smile. I promise.

Dad’s German Chocolate Cake

Makes one 3-layer 9 inch cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup water

4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups white sugar

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 egg whites

Filling/Frosting

1 cup white sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup butter

3 egg yolks, beaten

1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 3 – 9 inch round pans. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat water and 4 ounces chocolate until melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 4 egg yolks one at a time. Blend in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, mixing just until incorporated.

3. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter, then quickly fold in remaining whites until no streaks remain.

4. Pour into 3 – 9 inch pans Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto wire rack.

5. To make the Filling: In a saucepan combine 1 cup sugar, evaporated milk, ½ cup butter, and 3 egg yolks. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut, pecans and vanilla. Cool until thick enough to spread.

6. Spread filling between layers and on top of cake.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell. Dedicated to Alfred M. Wozney 1935-2008

Also, a special thank you to Damien Mulley for encouraging me to share.

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