FOOD writer and first time author Valerie O’Connor is on a crusade to save the humble loaf - and a mission to debunk the view that bread is bad for you.
The city centre resident and busy mum of two is well accustomed to putting enough bread on the table for her two hungry teenage boys. Now, she is hoping to introduce the masses to the joys of baking bread, and rekindle the love of old childhood favourites, with her first book, the aptly titled Bread On The Table.
The former press photographer always had a notion of being a food writer, and the pieces of the pie fell into place when she moved back to Limerick, and studied horticulture in Dromcollogher in county Limerick for two years.
“My job wasn’t creative enough for me any more, so I made a list of what I can do - photography, writing about food, cooking food, eating food, so I thought food photography would have the best earning potential,” said the Bridgestone guide contributor.
She originally pitched the book in a somewhat different guise to publishers in Cork, and it later found a home with the O’Brien Press, who felt the book could have a great shelf life.
Valerie, who runs food trails in the city and is a tutor in food growing, cooking and baking, said this book was “an epic project for me”, and saw her travel across the country to cut her crust with traditional bakers. The history of traditional breads features in the book, alongside classic recipes with a modern twist, such as wholemeal and honey loaf, Irish breakfast pizza, scones with black pudding and apple, wild garlic focaccia and Guinness, and treacle and walnut bread.
With the exception of Paul Hollywood’s book, Bread, she found there was some room on the table - and book shelf - for a comprehensive guide on Irish baking. “For all the cookbooks that were coming out, they all seemed pretty similar - all about butternut squash soup, quinoa and Thai curry - and there was no sign of Irishness in anything.”
With a bit of elbow grease, and by setting aside 15 minutes a day, she hopes this book may also discredit the old adage that eaten bread is soon forgotten. It will be launched this Thursday, May 1, in O’Mahony’s bookshop at 6.30pm