Sun 14 Jul 2013
For the first year I lived in Ireland, I mainly worked from home. While I loved the freedom (making my own schedule, staying in my PJs, etc.) it wasn’t the best way to socialise myself in a new country.
Though I had a small group of friends in Drogheda (where I lived back when I first came here), I was starting to feel pretty lonely working at my dining room table most days with little to no interaction with other human beings. It was so depressing that at one point, I was putting on makeup and getting excited about a trip to Tesco for milk and eggs. At least I could talk to someone, even if the interaction was limited to a 3-minute chat with the check-out lady.
After relocating to Dublin and moving in with Mountaineering Man, I took a job at a digital creative agency in town. As with most agencies, the hours were long which meant that I spent more time with my 50-odd colleagues than I did with MM or anyone else in my personal life.
The people who really became my family there was my workgroup – the Social Media team. There were four of us for most of my time there and I was the only female in the bunch. We were a scrappy lot, and I mean that in the best way. Philip – a long-haired thrash metal rocker with a sharp wit and a thick Northern accent – welcomed me into the fold with a typed-up list of recommendations and advice. “Don’t ever, EVER eat at the Bridge Café,” he wrote, referring to the greasy spoon deli and one of the only choices for food near the office.
To this day, I’ve never eaten there – despite the fact that Philip has gone against his own advice and eats there almost DAILY now (“I was wrong about it!” he claims, though I attribute his change of heart to sheer desperation thanks to a lack of decent eateries in the Ringsend area). Philip is the master of the hilarious yet thought-provoking quip (“Some day soon, somebody is going to print a 3D printer on a 3D printer and the universe is going to implode”) – and so-bad-they’re-good jokes.
Andrew, though much younger than me, always impressed me with his focus and determination. Despite his youth, he’s a bit an old soul; he has the discipline of someone far older and doesn’t immerse himself in the mindless fixations of many others his age. Andrew also takes his sandwiches as seriously as he takes his work. During his first week he created a somewhat unusual sandwich at the local café up the road and declared the broccoli, ham, feta, chicken and various other odds-and-ends concoction, “the best sandwich I’ve ever had.” This coming from the guy who also regularly adds popcorn to his sambos – I’ve yet to decide if this is genius or evidence of a mind gone completely mad.
My boss Dave is one of those people who has the wisdom of someone who’s lived a million lives. He’s travelled all over the world and the insights he’s gained through that kind of exposure shows in the way he deals with people. From day one I liked him; he leads by example, not by demands. Dave expects great work but encourages creativity by bringing out the best in individuals rather than attempting to force his way of doing things. I think he understands people better than most, which seems simple but in reality is an incredibly rare gift.
So it was with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to the guys and the rest of the staff at In the Company of Huskies last week. Despite all the stress, hectic deadlines and the normal bickering/dramas of people who spend the better part of their lives together in an office, it was tough to say goodbye – made even more difficult thanks to the incredible send-off I received from the staff.
Philip (along with my friend and Huskies project manager Mariana) spearheaded a custom cookbook called Husky Home Cooks, which featured recipes from colleagues, complete with photos and hilarious instructions (“I don’t measure…just use some cop on!” wrote Andrew of his Murray Mushroom Soup ingredient list). It’s a keepsake unlike any I’ve received before and I will treasure it forever. My colleague (and fellow food-lover) Brian hand made a chopping block for me, and even carved a little husky head in the wood. We had a team lunch followed by a night out at the Huskies’ local pub, The Oarsman, with many rounds of drinks and lots of laughs.
There is no doubting the role that the agency and its staff played in my assimilation to Ireland, and for that I will always be grateful. Tomorrow I start a new job and a new chapter, but I will never forget my friends at Huskies. Thanks guys, it’s been real!
American Flag Cake
During my time at Huskies, I brought in numerous cakes and treats for the crew – something I always enjoyed doing. For my last week, I made an American flag cake, which was inspired (more like requested!) by my colleague Adrian, who emailed me the recipe and a not-so-subtle hint (“How great would it be if you made this for your leaving cake?”). As it was the 4th of July and I was the only American on the staff, there was nothing more fitting.
Adapted from Epicurious
For the cake:
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for dusting pan
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional butter for greasing pan
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
For the frosting:
- 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the decorations:
- 1 1/2 pints strawberries (about 3 cups total)
- 1/2 pint blueberries (about 1 cup total)
- Equipment:13- by 9-inch metal baking pan, stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, pastry bag, star-shaped pastry tip (such as Wilton #2110)
Make the cake:
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan and line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pan with flour, knocking out any excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the boiling water, cocoa powder, and instant coffee granules until smooth. Whisk in the milk and vanilla.
In a second medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars and beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium until fully incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and cocoa powder mixtures in batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. (The batter may look curdled.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top, and bake the cake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the wax or parchment paper, and let it cool completely. DO AHEAD: The unfrosted cake, can be cooled, wrapped securely in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature up to 24 hours, before assembling and serving.
Make the frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter and beat until creamy and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, add the sifted confectioners’ sugar in three batches, mixing until fully incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is smooth. Chill the frosting in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before assembling the cake.
Assemble and serve the cake:
Frost the top and sides of the cake with 2 1/2 cups of the frosting. Transfer the remaining frosting to a pastry bag fitted with the star tip.
Using a toothpick or small knife, outline a 4 1/2-inch-long by 3 1/2-inch-wide rectangle in the top left corner of the cake. This area will be reserved for blueberries.
Starting with the longer side of the cake that is closest to you, pipe a line of frosting along the top edge of the cake then arrange two horizontal rows of strawberries directly above the line of frosting. Pipe a second line of frosting above the strawberries and arrange two more horizontal rows of strawberries directly above the frosting. Repeat this process two more times, making sure to exclude the top left corner that is reserved for the blueberries. Arrange the blueberries in horizontal rows in the top left corner of the cake.
Slice and serve the cake immediately or store it, covered securely in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until ready to serve.