What a glorious day to be hoofing it around Dublin. It was sunny and warm with a light breeze. Keeping our fingers crossed this continues for my little break at the beach! I met good friend and former Dub Judy B. who was toting her little suitcase on wheels. We filled it full of books and headed out. After visiting many bookshops and food shops where the owners/managers were out we finally hit on a live one. Jack Irwin at Down to Earth Health Foods on George’s St. was engaging and fun and even though they don’t really sell books he took 10 and promised to promote them. The next stop was Connolly Books on East Essex St. As their business card says this is “Ireland’s Oldest Radical Bookshop.” They sell books on Irish History, Politics and Culture. So, being an Old Radical myself, I figured, why not? Sean was happy to take Coming Home to Cook athough I think it’s the only cookbook in the shop! I assured him that it was certainly political as my grandfather, Diarmuid O’Siochain, was arrested in Kenmare, of sedition for passing out anti-conscription leaflets to young Irishmen in 1905. For those of you who need a brief Irish history lesson, the Crown was coercing Irishmen to fight in their foreign wars. Obviously, as Ireland was still a British occupied country there was a huge movement against this. But, being a Sheehan and living up to the meaning of our name – O’Siochain means Peace- my grandfather decided to act and was arrested and put on trial in Tralee. Ok, back to Connolly’s, in walks Harry, a 1st generation Dub (you’re a blow in anywhere in Ireland unless you’ve been in the county for 7 generations.) The craic began when he heard the cover picture is cousin Laim Roche from Cork. Or, as he says, “the Republic of Cork. There’s 2 Irelands – Cork and the rest of us. They still have real resentment towards Dublin for being the capital of the Republic. We usurped it without even knowing it.” On and on, all in good fun. Sean put the book on the front shelf next to the new big hardcover books of Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela and Harry took a picture of me next to it. Diarmuid would be proud! We had lunch across the street at a little cafe and sat outside and soaked up the sun. Judy’s friend Joe joined us and we talked about Turin, Italy where we are hoping to go in October for the Slow Food Festival’s biannual Salon Gusto www.slowfood.com. Over to Fallon & Byrne a wonderful gourmet food shop with a restaurant and wine bar that made me feel like I was back in NYC. www.fallonandbyrne.com. Susan, the store manager, graciuosly took 25 copies! Up Dublin! She’s going to promote it, put it in the window, and I’m going to send her the press release and a point of sale flyer. Across the charming Ha’Penny bridge to the Winding Stairs bookshop where Regan took the book to add to his wonderful bookshop that is a Dublin landmark with a restaurant upstairs overlooking the river. www.windingstair.com I find Dublin to be a charming city but I was apprehensive as to the reception I would get. All I hear lately about Dublin is that it’s crowded, dirty, the traffic is terrible…..but it was good to me and as Judy says “It’s still Ireland” So, the generosity and warmth continues. The narrow cobblestone tree lined streets, the bridges, the monuments, statues and architecture is inspiring. I was glad that we passed the Garden of Remembrance. There is a magnificent sculpture beneath the Irish Flag, facing pools of water and colorful, lush flowers beds. It is the official monument to “Those who Lost Their Lives For Ireland’s Freedom.”
I left Lisdoon in a misty, foggy blur. The weather that is, not me. I”m excited about being out on the road again, on my way to Dublin and points beyond. I’ll be away for a week of book selling and some down time in the sunny southeast and I’m commited to writing in this blog every day. First stop today was Neenagh, in County Tipperary. I shouldn’t be happy about this, as Tip beat Clare in the Munster finals match yesterday but here I am (oh,oh, I’m really Irish now!) Neenagh is a big town with lots of nice shops. I stopped in at Healthy Me on Pearse St. www.healthyme.ie for shopping online. This is the kind of health food store I like, lots of homemade breads brimming with nuts and seeds on the counter, many gluten free. A little cafe in the back is where you can sit and have some good veggie food, fresh squeezed juices and coffee. Anne was delighted with the book and suggested it be placed on the front counter. Here we go again…this is what I hear everywhere…which is why the book is selling so well, the shop keepers are promoting it, it’s not just sitting on the shelf! John and Katherine Ryan own The Neenagh Bookshop on Friar St., a good size Independent bookshop with a nice selection of local and Irish history books. Katherine was impressed with the book, was sure it would find an audience in Tip and is going to display it in the front window. It’s a beautiful drive from Tipperary into Laoise. I was now in the midlands, the sun was coming out and it was actually getting hot and humid. Maybe we will have a summer, after all. I stopped in Portlaoise, another big town with a lot of road construction going on and crowds of shoppers packing the streets. I made my way to G&B Books at 4 Peppers Lane. Mary McManus owns a great old bookshop filled with new and used books. We had a good laugh about the million Mary’s that there must be in Ireland over the age of 40! Once again, book on the front counter. The highlight of the day was my stop to Jim Tynan’s The Kitchen and Foodhall. Jim owns a big full service cafe facing the courtyard and a beautiful gourmet take out shop around the side. He writes a weekly food column for the Leinster Express. It’s a full color page with his writings about life and food with recipes. We talked about how much fun it is to write about food and how it touches people in different ways. (Yesterday I visited a really sweet woman I know from the Burren who spoke very thoughtfully about the memories of my mother I wrote about in the desserts section.) Jim asked if he could use the book for the next column. It’s a great acknowledgement from someone who has a solid reputation in the good food movement in Ireland. I’ll post it here when it comes out, friday week. And, he took 20 books and placed them on the front counter. Yeah! check out Jim’s website www.kitchenfoodhall.com. From Laois to Kildare the landscape opens up to rolling green fields. This is horse country. The world famous Irish Stud Farm is here and the horses are gorgeous! Many songs have been written about this area and it’s easy to see why, it’s absolutely beautiful. I stopped at Farrell’s Bookshop on Main St. in Newbridge, another big, bustling town. Dermod and Anne were good craic and they are putting the book in the window of their very lovely book and gift shop. My last stop of the day was Barker and Jones in Naas. It’s a big Barnes and Noble like bookshop with a cafe upstairs that buys self published books. Jason, the manager, was lovely and suggested I go to their other stores in Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny. Ill be down in those counties late in the week, but right now I’m heading into Dublin.
Passing the magnificent Kylemore Abbey, traveling over the bog roads out of “Connie” I thought of my trip last September with my friend Judy B from NJ. We were working our way up to Donegal and traveled this route. We spent a wonderful few hours at the Abbey and were impressed by the walled garden which was recently uncovered -literally – it was completely overgrown and is now being restored with original Victorian plants. Definetly worth a visit if you’re in this part of the world. I passed the Fjord in Leenane where the landscape opens up to gentle meadows full of grazing sheep. It seems that around every corner in Ireland there’s different scenery. From the wild landscape of Connemara the road took me to the majestic mountains of Mayo and the very civilized “tidy town” of Westport. I visited here last year on my way to the National Museum of Rural Life in Castlebar which is the only national museum outside of Dublin. Another must see as it covers every aspect of the harsh Irish rural life from 1850-1950 housed in a mansion overlooking the beautiful Turlough Lake. Westport is a pretty town on Clew Bay with a canal running through the streets, lots of flowers in the town square and a busy feel to it. I stopped in at the Harvest Moon Health Store on Bridge St. As I was speaking with the owner, Angela, a customer from Listowel, Kerry asked to look at the book and then asked if she could buy it. Michelle O’Donnell and her family are on vacation in Mayo and we had a nice chat about Kerry (I directed her to my Grandparents love story, which I included in the book, and which started in Dingle,Kerry) and I let her know that the book is for sale in Listowel at Horan’s Health Foods and Wolfe’s Bookshop. Harvest Moon is a well stocked shop and Angela took a supply of Coming Home To Cook. Ylang Ylang www.ylangylanghealthstore.com where you can shop online, is on James St. and Anne Marie O’Malley was happy to take a supply of books and once again I heard, “what a beautiful book.” Over to Seamus Duffy’s Bookshop on Bridge St. This is a big shop with a friendly staff and Seamus bought a supply of books outright. Dymphna at McLoughlin’s Bookshop on Shop St. took the books and directed me to their other store in Castlebar. So, off I went. The sun was still shining as I arrived in Castlebar. Suddenly it felt like summer. Hot and sunny with a light breeze. Perfect! McLoughlin’s on Hopkin’s Road is a huge bookstore that was packed with parents and kids buying next year’s school books and summer reading. I met Blatnaid McLoughlin, who owns the shops with her husband who’s family is from Clare. We had a nice chat about the Burren and she happily took the books. Katherine Brennan at Castle Bookshop on Castle St. took 10 books and congratulated me for “a beautiful book and a job well done.” Thank you, Katherine. As it was getting late I decided Ballina would be the last stop before heading to Sligo. Ballina is a small village and I knew from my directory of health food stores that Harvest Thyme at Molloys was my destination. In Ireland, there are many pharmacies that also have a health food section. I was greeted by Sue and Nikki who were gracious and efficient in their blue uniforms. They loved the book, suggested it be sold rom the front counter (!) and directed me to their other stores in Mayo and Roscommon. I strolled down the street to Keohane’s and met Kathleen Keohane who directed me to their other store in Sligo where her husband, Michael would buy the book. She was curious as to my traveling around with the book, we talked for a while and she was apologetic that she couldn’t put me up for the night but she was going to be out playing bridge. Now, that’s Irish hospitality! Up Mayo!
Recess was my last stop in a very long day of selling, chatting and driving. I headed towards Clifden and a visit with Emma and Pete in Ballyconneely. Emma was my assistant last summer at our job in the Burren. We had a good laugh over how that job ended for me and how much happier we both are not working there. I was thrilled to hear that she’s pregnant and due in December. She looks great and they are both very happy as are their families, this will be the first grandchild. Emma took the exams for medical school in March and is waiting to hear the results. This winter while she was studying, Pete went to England to visit family and research buying a van to make a chipper (fish and chips van). He found a telecommunications van in Liverpool and brought it back to Ireland. He gutted it, put in restaurant equipment, cut a window in the side, installed an awning and will be putting “Loaves and Fishes” on the road soon. He will buy local fish, make hand cut chips and seafood chowder that he will serve in hollowed out bowls made from Emma’s fresh bread. With a few tables and chairs under the awning they have a portable restaurant. I love it when people come up with great ideas and follow through with them. Fairplay to you, Pete, for actually doing it. I know it will be a huge success! We spent a cozy night around the turf fire and I fell asleep to a furious wind and rain storm raging outside. They’re right on the edge of the peninsula and the storm was blowing in off the ocean in all it’s glory. I woke up to a glistening fresh day of sun and brilliant blue skies. Leaving Ballyconeely I once again passed little coves with colorful fishing boats and white sand beaches. How I was tempted to just lay on the beach on soak up the sun! Emma and Pete pointed me in the right direction for selling the book in Clifden. The Connemara Hamper www.connemarhamper.com is an Artisan Food and Cheese shop that does not sell books but decided to take Coming Home To Cook because they liked it so much. Once again, it’s displayed on the front counter. I had a good chat with Leo who goes to the Galway Farmers Markets every Saturday morning to buy organic wine and vegetables from Dirk and Hella Flake, organic farmers extraordinaire and good friends who are featured in my book. Terri at An bhean feasarl, the local health food shop is a Kinesiologist who also runs the Clifden Holistic Therapy Center. She is delightful and took 10 copies. Nicole Shanahan owns the Clifden Bookshop www.clifdenbookshop.com a well stocked friendly shop. I left Clifden with lots of sunshine overhead and a promise to myself to return very soon to this welcoming community and gorgeous landscape.
To the north of Galway city are the Twelve Bens, the mountain range that dominates Connemara’s skyline. Connemara is in the county of Galway and a world of it’s own. It is the Gaeltacht, one of the Irish speaking areas in Ireland. I visited here a few times last year but didn’t see it’s unique beauty until now. Traveling over the bog the road opens up to small fishing villages nestled on lakes and peninsulas. This is a great place for fishing, birding and hiking. It is a very similar landscape to Northern Maine and the Eastern Canadian provinces. Maybe that’s why I find it so appealing, it’s like New England with lots more sheep, ancient rock walls and that feeling of history that is prevalent everywhere in Ireland. I stopped in Moycullen at The Village Bookshop where the manager, Niall, is a vegetarian and was going home to try a recipe from the book. Let me know how it goes, Niall. In Oughterard I met Leah who owns egg living www.eggliving.ie. , a boutique home store that sells an eclectic mix of home and garden products. She loved the book and (again) is selling it from the front counter. In Recess I stopped in at Joyce’s Craft Shop where Mark Joyce has a big shop filled with nice Irish products, the smell of candles greets you as you enter. Maybe I need to back up a little and tell you how I actually approach people when selling the book because Mark’s reaction was perfect!
Selling the book
I’ve researched small independent bookshops and health food stores in Ireland. When I go on the road, I pretty much know who I’m looking for. Additionally, people are enormously helpful and point me in the right direction to another shop in a nearby village. When I go into the store I ask for the owner or manager and then ask if they buy from self publishers. Since I’m going to Independently owned stores, most of them do. Then I show them the book. The cover grabs them immediately. As one shop owner said, “It’s so nice to see a farmer on the cover an Irish cookbook!” They page through it, and usually comment on the beautiful design, the straightforward look of the recipes, the beautiful photographs. I point out the stories from my Grandfather’s family history and the references to the Burren. That usually leads to a chat about west cork or clare and cousins who live there, a vacation taken there once, how the trad is mighty in both of those counties, some stores I could check out, the uniqueness of the Burren, the importance of healthy eating, where I’m from in America, how longed I’ve lived here, and generally good, friendly, warm craic. Then we talk about the terms of sale and I leave the books happy that I not only made another sale, but how nice this person was and thrilled that they genuinely appreciate what this cookbook is all about.. .family, food and my experience in “coming home” to explore the richness of Irish life. I keep feeling that this is a unique experience. I’d love to hear other’s experiences selling anything this way in other countries.
Ok, back to Mark Joyce. I go in, start my pitch, and he interrupts me and says, “beautiful book, great cover, lovely design, I’ll take 12.” Then he asks me to sign one to his wife Kathleen and daughter Saide, who’s a vegetarian. We had a lovely chat and a few good laughs about lots of things and he tells me I have a lot of faith. Well, I guess that’s a big part of what this is all about, believing in yourself, your product, which in my case is a labor of love and knowing that people are open to it all. Up Connemara!
I left Lisdoon on monday with the boot full of books. First stop was Ballyvaughan where I restocked at Aillwee Cave, Brendan’s Boats, Quinn’s Craftshop and Linn’s. The thing about a trip like this is that it’s Ireland and it’s not usually a quick pop in to check the books. Which is what makes this adventure that I’m on so unique. There’s good craic everywhere. Tony and Wendy own Brendan’s, a unique shop with handcrafted leather goodsand internet cafe with yummy food. www.brendansboat.ie. As with Aillwe Cave Farmshop, the book is right on the front counter and selling well. George at Quinn’s www.quinncrafts.com has a great sense of humor and always a pleasure to visit, I always leave there laughing. He has a lovely tearooms in the back of his well stocked gift shop. Good coffee and scones! At Linn’s which is a big, beautiful shop and tourist info stop has the book on the front table with books of local interest. Location Location Location…. On to Kinvara to Burren Beo, Murphystore and Healing Harvest where I chatted briefly with Mary Joyce, a fellow Yank who is now in NYC for a 3 week visit to her other “home.” We reminisced about heat and humidity and I envied her for heading into that Northeast USA summer haze as we’ve had dreary summer weather for a few weeks. Elizabeth at Murphy’s www.murphystore.com loves the book but can’t decide whether the picture on the back cover was a good idea. Hair in the face, rocks, wind, sea, wild surf, it’s the west of Ireland! There’s very few good hair days here! She owns a friendly, light filled giftshop on the quay with a little cafe overlooking a harbor dotted with colorful boats. On to Galway city and a delicious lunch at the Budding Cafe on Sea Rd. Ellen and Frank Heneghan own a gorgeous flower shop in an old brick building. They opened up the back, put in sky lights and created a cafe serving an eclectic menu of fresh savory tarts, salads, more good coffee and delectable pastries. Again, the book is on the front counter. Ellen has it in a basket lined with pretty yellow paper which makes the green of the cover really stand out. Just down the street is Dr. Dilis Clare, a GP and Herbalist who has decided to stock the book in her very interesting health food/herbal remedy shop where she also sees patients. I had a good time talking to Olivia, a Galway University student who works at Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop on Middle St., right around the corner from Shop St. www.charliebyrne.com. Again, book right on the front counter! Charlie Byrne’s is a small version of Strand Books in the West Village in NYC. Packed shelves, huge variety, always lots of readers standing around browsing. Olivia is a part of the GU Vegetarian Society and is promoting the book at their weekly dinners. Up Galway! Leaving the city I felt refreshed and was heading into new territory for Coming Home To Cook sales. What would I find in Connemara?
June has flown by with it’s sunny weather. Until the solstice when the skies opened and it rained for a week. You don’t come to Ireland for the weather! I spent a week in West Cork distributing the book from Cork City, over to Cobh and worked my way along the coast up to Bantry. There’s lovely small bookshops and health food stores in that part of the country. A big thanks to everyone who took the book but a few really stand out. Thanks to David at the Quay Food Company in Kinsale www.quayfood.com It’s a well stocked little shop that dosen’t sell books but David liked it so much he took them and said he would bring them to sell at the tuesday Farmers Market. Also to Matthew at Bandon Books on Howard Court in Bandon who was so impressed that he said he expects it to go far and encouraged me to get national press. I left his shop feeling very energized. Patsy at Ying Yang Health Foods in Skibbereen has a nice big shop full of goodies and Gillian at Hudson’s Whole Foods in Ballydehob makes great coffee and now sells Coming Home To Cook. On to Bantry to Organico www.organico.ie I met Hannah and Rachel, 2 of the 3 sisters who now own the family business. It’s a well stocked shop with a big, airy cafe upstairs. I was hesitant to leave the book on the shelf in the shop. It’s a little book and will easily get lost on a bookshelf. It needs to stand out, and the cover has to be seen! Upon hearing this, Hannah offered to sell it upstairs at the cafe. It is displayd on a shelf at the top of the stairs. I sat and signed them and then had a delicious salad and more good coffee! I spent the night in Carriganimy with Liam and Joan who were busy with the sillage. It’s a huge job involving 7 extra men whom Joan fed for 3 days. I’m always amazed by how hard the whole family works. Karen was there helping out and, of course, Steven, who is just 25, is now a full time farmer. He never stops! If you want to know more about West Cork and where the book is available please join in.