If Ireland were to have a Queen, then without question she would be Myrtle Allen. I had the honor to visit with Myrtle while filming in Ireland. What did I learn from this amazing lady? That necessity is the mother of invention and that we become what we are destined to be by applying ourselves in pursuit of excellence.
Myrtle sums up how it all began, "I suppose it all started in 1932 when Ivan, aged 17, came to help Wilson Strangman to run his farm at Shanagarry. Times were hard but he and Ivan diversified their production brilliantly into alternative crops. These were and still are the basis of our cuisine. In 1943, in wartime, large quantities of tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers and apples were being exported from the farm to England and Wales. The surplus came into my kitchen along with cream, butter and eggs and slowly I learned how to cook with them, guided by my gourmet husband. In 1964 I felt confident enough to open our dining room as a restaurant for dinner on five nights a week. I knew our food was good but I didn't expect to get so many awards. As farm prices went down we expanded our rooms and restaurant business."
Myrtle Allen and her late husband Ivan founded Ballymaloe House in 1964. They set out to use only fresh produce from their garden and greenhouses, meat reared locally, and fresh fish from nearby Ballycotton. The menu is written each afternoon, based on what is fresh and seasonally available. Dining at Ballymaloe is simply perfection, served in a friendly, knowledgeable way. ♣
Myrtle Allen has been honored with every food and hospitality award. The National University of Ireland has conferred the award of Doctor of Laws for her contribution to Cuisine in Ireland and for giving the Irish people the confidence to believe in their own resources.
Myrtle has served as an exemplary role model for all to follow. While today, going green and organic is all the rage, Myrtle had set the standard decades ago. Simply, the culinary world is a better place under her tutelage. Today, there is so much pride in Ireland’s cuisine and largely due to her efforts; her columns in the Irish Times, cookbook author, restaurateur/ hotelier and influence as a cookery teacher.
I send my appreciation over the pond to an incredible lady who inspired so many by setting such high standards in the culinary arts. When she is crowned Queen, I would surely serve in her court.
Visit Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. Or, at least take the time for a virtual visit and read up on this amazing family with three generations running the Ballymaloe enterprises.