Having listened to Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before, I was struck by the phrase ‘The days are long, but the years are short’. How true this is!
This is my fourth year in self-employment, my third year doing food tours and my first year wholly branded as Irish Feast. It feels like just a couple years ago that I started to think about what I wanted to be when I grew up and decided to work for and by myself. Irish Feast has grown out of that journey.
Irish Feast is an acronym - Irish Food Experiences and Small Towns. Ta da! It encompasses working with local festivals to compere cookery demonstrations or provides one-off food tours; it includes promoting local supper clubs, innovative chefs, artisan producers and ‘things to do locally’; and of course, at its heart, providing fabulous, fun, surprising and scintillating food tours of local towns and villages. Not only does Irish Feast stand for something, but we also have a strapline and a pitch (and can use ‘we’ truthfully!).
Our strapline: For Food is History on a Plate.
Our pitch: What we do is encapsulated in a quote from Matthew Fort from the book ‘Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons’. ‘No ingredient or combination of ingredients arrives by accident. There’s always a reason for them being there. They tell of trade, conquest, migration, social change. Any people’s fundamental identity is lodged in their food.’
On an Irish Feast food tour, whether in Ballycastle or Bushmills, Glenarm or Rathlin Island, we tell tales of ancient peoples and modern foods; of Viking raiders and English sailors; of the great clans of yesterday and the collaborative industry of today. Discover old recipes and new trends; talk to traditional family-owned restaurants and up and coming artisan cafes and eateries; taste all our history and culture, and truly experience the creative future of our home on a scintillating, surprising, seriously tasty Irish Feast Food Tour.
Gather your friends and family together, book now and discover the truth of the old Irish proverb ‘Laughter is brightest where food is served best.’ I’m looking forward to meeting you.
Over the last eighteen months, I have realised that to deliver what I wanted, I needed to stop being ‘me’ and start being ‘we’. There is now a band of wonderful guides who work with Irish Feast, all equally passionate about food, history, local and having great fun — my kind of people.
In 2018, Irish Feast attained a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence which was personally pleasing and showed that professionally, we’re on the right track. We just have to reach a wider audience and persuade more people to walk and eat with us. Simples! Yeah, right. The business of consistent, on-brand marketing across websites, social media and in person; reaching new customers and persuading them to come back to us; keeping the finances under control and the paperwork up to date; working with customers, suppliers, guides and networking successfully with local groups and clusters - all of this is hard work. I don’t know what made me think it would be anything else, but my..! It’s VERY hard work!
I struggled this year even as the food tours were taking off. I was getting caught up in the minutiae of business, forgetting to have fun, forgetting that the days are long but the years are short - to enjoy the journey. So I’ve stepped back from the day to day of Irish Feast to let our hosts' personalities and knowledge shine through and other foodie fanatics guide our guests, allowing me to concentrate on the strategy of the business. I’m acknowledging that I have reached Superhost status on AirBnB for 3 consecutive years I’m making time to work a couple of days a week in a completely different sphere of life, and building in time for mental and physical fitness. This works for my magpie personality - I love finding things out, learning the history of our food, and its culture, meeting like-minded people. The time spent on Irish Feast will be less but better. The tours will show more of the history of the food and the personality of the guide. If you meet me this year (and I hope you will!) and I appear unhappy, or stressed, remind me - the days are long but the years are short. Enjoy the journey.
Irish Feast is doing very well: there are tours scheduled every Friday and Saturday in Ballycastle and Bushmills; Rathlin’s collaborative guide agreed dates and has crab and seaweeds up her sleeve, Glenarm will continue developing in its own eclectic way, and one-off tours and talks are being planned with many fab friends. The website is looking good, and the blog is growing with others also giving a fun, informative input, and the dates for 2019 are already filling up fast. Breathe...
May we all have a peaceful, prosperous, positive 2019.