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.
Beside being P.’s grandmother, Nana was une grande dame to me. The queen of Ireland as I jokingly imagined her in the Irish role of Maggie Smith playing in Downtown Abbey.
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
This is an absolutely beautiful tribute – images, words, and recipe! I welled up reading about such an amazing woman and I find it wonderful that your little one could know her, if only for a while.
Bea, how beautiful this is and just might be one my favorite post, what a special time this was a celebration of life through living beautifully and in a thoughtful way. i am not sure what it is exactly bea since your photographs are always beautiful but these are extra, extra lovely.
Tender story. Really like the simplicity of the photos, colors too. Thanks for sharing.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a ainm dilís.
I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a really amazing woman, and I can see how much she will be missed.
Pete and I were in Dublin on that same weekend, invited to visit Bloom, which we really loved. I hadn’t been to Dublin for over 20 years, so it was good to be there again.
What a beaautiful, beautiful story and pictures!! And I’m so sorry for your loss… Those old ladies are truly amazing!! Nana sounds a lot like my great grandma, whom I named my blog after 🙂
Bea, you’d dead right, Nana would have loved to have a dish made in memory of her, and it is “beautifully turned out”!!!! Must say, our garden and surrounds always look gorgeous when you take the photos!
Heartwarming tribute to your husband’s Nana! How wonderful that you were able to gather all those beautiful memories.
The potato dish you created looks so inviting, I wished I could dig right in.
Your provincial stories and recipes are such a nice escape from the hustle of city life… sigh.
This is so lovely, Bea (made me get teary). I remember you telling me about her here in Seattle. I am so glad she came into your life.
The photos are gorgeous. Now I want to go back to Ireland!
Thanks everyone. I love reading your words!
A beautiful post, like a breath of fresh country air!
Such beautiful colors, such sensitivity. The immediacy, the sense of being there…Thank you so much…
I was looking forward to your Irish pictures. This is spectacular. A country on my list of places to visit.
What a lovely post. Your photos are simply breathtaking.
Bea, what an absolutely touching post. Photos are spectacular as well…
Wow, this is an absolutely beautiful tribute – I want to save these images forever. Stunning. I’m sorry for your loss, but so very appreciative of these lovely pictures, words and recipe.
God rest her soul. Your post and tribute is beautiful. Very heart felt and warm. I am sure Nana is smiling from above.
Lovely story, beautiful pics, as always. Merci, Bea. Your potato-turnip gratin is a must-try. Love the way you’ve arranged the slices @ an angle, rather than the typical flat layering.
What a gorgeous post ! The pictures are stunning and I’m sure Nana was someone very special, the kind you meet only once in your live. Thanks for sharing this precious family story with us.
Lovely photos as always Béatrice, Ireland truly is an inspiring country !
Keep the inspiration coming 😉
What a truly eloquent post… so full of the love, history and tenderness that I’m sure Nana gave to you all.. Thank you for sharing her with us.
What lovely memories!
The love goes down Bea. The love goes down 🙂
A beautiful tribute to your husband’s grandmother! Pictures are gorgeous as always.
These photos are beautiful and instantly transport me back to my childhood table and memories of gathering eggs with my own grandparents in Ireland. Thank you for that little bit of time travel.
Thank you so much everyone for the kind words.
I’d love to see a photo of Nana.
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It truly warms my heart that your food is always accompanied by a story or a memory. Nana will live on through every person who recreates this recipe. Not to mention that I think everyone who reads this will be adding a trip to Ireland to their bucket list!
I think I recognize that door… I lived in Malahide until May (now I live … I’d like to have known Nana myself!
Merci Béa pour cette recette qui m’a fait de l’oeil dès que je l’ai vu grâce à ses jolies couleurs et à la sauge. Comme je n’avais pas lu les ingrédients et que mon panier bio m’approvisionnait en gros radis roses cette semaine, je me suis dit, c’est parfait. Quand en cours de route, nous nous sommes rendu compte que ce n’était pas des radis, on s’ est demandé ce que ca allait donner. Et bien, radis et creme de soja, c’est parfait!
This recipe was yummy! I added a bit more cheese, and also added thyme. I would also recommend adding a layer of herbs to the middle layer, so that they could meld with tthe flavors inside the dish. I don’t typically like turnips, but they definately add a layer of flavor and complexity to the dish. Yummy!
Hi, your photos are so beautiful, can you tell me what camera do you use? Do you use perhaps any filter? Byebye from Italy
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