IWD 2021: Darina Allen

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. In our last article we looked at some inspirational women in herstory, who fought and overcame many challenges to achieve their goals. In doing so, not only did they make the world a better place, but they encouraged and supported the women who followed. They have inspired women to recognise their own strength and courage as a woman and to strive for their own dreams.

In the next few articles, we look at some exceptional women, who today are challenging many obstacles in their career.

Darina Allen

Irish chef, food writer, TV personality, natural teacher and founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork. Darina is a leader of the Slow Food movement in Ireland and instrumental in establishing a network of farmers’ markets. Darina is chair of the Midleton Farmers Market. Darina is an advocate of organic and local produce with a dedication to sustainability. 


What women are influential in your life?

My mother, Elizabeth O’ Connell and mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen was incredibly influential in their work ethics and values. They both understood the importance of feeding your family well with wholesome and nourishing food, as it helps so much with mood, energy and vitality. 

Vandana Shiva, is an Indian woman who works with farmers in India to save seeds. She is an incredible environmentalist. I’m also very impressed by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern and Alice Waters from California who started the Edible Foods Campaign. Alice Waters and Stephanie Alexander from Australia, have both been incredibly influential in working with school’s to educate children how to grow food. 

You have such an amazing passion and flair for food. What advice would you give to any women interested in making a career out of their love of food?

If you can cook, there are countless opportunities all over the world to make a living, working in a cafe or restaurant, starting off your own business, setting up a food truck, selling your products at a Farmer’s Market or online, such as cakes, jams or ice-cream. Not only is cooking the easiest way to win friends and influence people, but it also enhances your own quality of life. 

Learn to cook with fresh, seasonal and chemical free food. If you start off with something fresh and delicious it’s going to be easy to make it taste good. Taste, flavour and nutrients are closely linked. Learn about the foods in the wild as there’s so many good nutrient foods all around us. Get curious and learn about wild and foraged foods. Wild foods are bursting with goodness and full or flavour, such as; nettle soup, nettle champ, winter cress, watercress and dandelions. I would recommend eating a dandelion leaf every day as it’s so good for you. 

What is your International Women’s Day message that you’d like to share? 

In kitchen culture globally, women had to put up with all kinds of abuse. Women were told to “just get over it” and “suck it up” as that was kitchen culture. The Me Too movement was like a tidal way of people coming out and saying – this is not okay. People were sharing their experiences and realising what happened is not okay, that sexisim is not accaptable and they do not have to put up with it. 

Sexisim can be a very deep cultural thing, both women and men need to know that it is not okay. Be cautious about someone who is joking about women, or says you can’t do this or that, because you’re a woman. While they may say it as a joke, it could be an indication of a hidden prejudice towards women that could manifest in different, more violent ways later on. 

One needs to be very clear of oneself.