I met Nana, P.’s grandmother, during my first visit to Ireland in the summer of 2001. She was eighty-six years old.
She lived with Papa–her husband William–in a neatly-kept house with a manicured garden in Malahide, a quaint coastal town near Dublin. I remember how amazing they both looked for their age.
Nana, in particular.
Right away, I had noticed how well she carried herself. It was impossible not to.
Nana belonged to a different generation, one that takes great pride in making sure men and women always look presentable. She liked to keep her hair and make-up always neatly styled, no matter what day of the week it was. And she gave a lot of attention to the way she dressed. In her bedroom, various pots of Clarins beauty creams were carefully lined up on her dresser. It showed: she looked stunning.
The family had told me how difficult she could be, but truth being said, I only met a charming Nana.
When, to everyone’s utter surprise, she decided that it was an excellent idea to fly to France at the age of ninety five, so that she could celebrate Lulu’s christening with us, she managed to enchant every guest. Especially my dad with whom, it was obvious, she liked to flirt.
Nana was known for her obvious force of character and solid opinions. There was always a lot of talk in the family about her, and what was going to happen next. Who she would upset, who she would make smile.
Nana was just like that. Full of life and strong ideas about things. An amazing gardener. A regular to drinking a glass of sherry every evening before dinner. Known for her excellent potato bread too.
In May of this year, we unexpectedly had to travel to Ireland because sadly, Nana passed away. She was ninety seven years of age.
I still don’t know how she did it, but it turns out that the week we gathered in Ireland for her, the weather was unbelievably beautiful. As I had never experienced it before. We could eat barbecues outside and swim; we took long evening strolls and visited Bloom, making new friends along the way; we cleaned peas and beans while sitting on the garden bench.
We wondered. Maybe she had kept that in storage for us all?
I’ve had these images since May. Without the proper time to devote to them.
I wanted to keep them for Nana. To show her how beautiful Ireland, her country, is.
How much we all love her.
And how truly lucky I feel to be part of her family.
We all know that she had a good life.
We are so thankful.
The other day, while I was thinking about her, I suddenly felt like eating something that would take me to Ireland–I love Ireland, and I love that Lulu is Irish too,
So I thought about potatoes. Because every one in the family loves their spuds. We do too.
And I imagined a dish with finely sliced potatoes with pretty pink turnips and onions. Irish cheddar, of course, and cream. A dish with Irish and French touches combined.
“This is so good!” P. exclaimed that evening at the table after eating the first bite.
I smiled. Agreeing.
It made me feel warm inside because I knew that Nana would have enjoyed this dish terribly too.
- Butter for dish
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 8 leaves of sage, finely chopped
- Sea salt and pepper
- 2 pounds (900 g) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
- 9 ounces (250 g) small pink turnips, finely sliced
- 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
- 2 ounces (60 g) Irish Cheddar, grated
- Beurre pour le plat
- 125 ml de crème liquide
- 125 ml de lait entier
- 8 feuilles de sauge, ciselées
- Sel de mer et poivre du moulin
- 900 g de pommes de terre, pelées et coupées en rondelles fines
- 250 g de petits navets roses, coupés en rondelles fines
- 1 oignon rouge moyen, coupé en rondelles fines
- 60 g de Cheddar irlandais, râpé