Hey guys, my name is Paul, I go under the alias of Calso Cooks.
I used to be a plasterer by trade, running my own very successful business before the recession got its nasty claws into me, like so many in this country, and I lost everything I had within a very short space of time. That was on 2008 and 7 years on I am still feeling the effects of it.
It really hit me hard, it crippled me financially (landed me in debt), physically (I was fit, healthy, strong… that wasn’t long faltering) and I guess emotionally (I will admit I was in love with plastering… I loved my job, I pushed myself harder and harder every day I was on site, always trying to be the best I could be).
I had my older brother Carl working for me, I know they say it is difficult working with family, but Carl is also my best friend, everyday working with him was a blessing… that is something that was the hardest part of losing the business, was losing that bond with my brother.
In the 7 years that have passed since, I moved to Co.Clare from Armagh, tried to set up business as a handyman (anything to pay the mounting bills) this was kinda successful for a year or 2 but with everyone feeling the pinch I found myself getting less and less work as people didn’t have the money to spend on hiring me in to clean windows, paint or tile a bathroom etc.
Through those first 2 years I struggled… BIGTIME.
The sudden upheaval of everything played havoc in my head. Plastering had made me feel important, made me feel like a man, at the end of every day when I was plastering I knew that I had done a hard day’s work, but now… now I felt worthless, felt like a cheat, felt pathetic!!!
Looking back now I know that everything was out of my hands that had happened and that in fairness I was trying my best to turn things around for myself, but in those moments I just felt like a bum.
I ended up getting into such a vicious circle… I would get a job to go to that would help me pay a bill, but when the morning came for me to go do it, I’d not want to get out of the bed… “what’s the point” those 3 words rattled around my head more than I could ever imagine.
There was darker times, darker thoughts… days that I want to forget about forever… that is for another day.
I needed something, something to distract me, something to live for.
I always had an interest in the idea of “Growing My Own”, I used to watch Jamie Oliver programs and River Cottage, Jimmy’s Farm etc… The thoughts of going out into your garden and digging your own veg for dinner really appealed, but I didn’t know how.
So I splashed out on a €5 membership in the local library and got books on how to grow your own… with the consent of my landlord I started digging… immediately I was in love again, I was seeing progress with everything I done, every day that passed. Getting up out of bed was easy again, going doing those odd jobs was less of a chore and I found my state of mind becoming a little brighter.
Then I was getting fresh produce from the garden so the next step was to teach myself how to cook… so out came the €5 membership again and I was getting all sorts of cookbooks out of the library, teaching myself flavour combinations, techniques and pretty much the basics on how to cook.
A little further down the line I started my blog www.thesustainablelarder.blogspot.ie … a little more further down the line came a solo run around Ireland to, firstly, prove something to myself and secondly, to raise awareness for mental health with the charity Aware (again this is for another day) and then after that I was spotted by the publishing company Mercier Press and between us we published my debut cookbook Calso Cools: Real Food Made Easy in Jan 2014.
I know this story ends quite well and I have been very lucky in that way, but believe me when I say it has been the result of very hard work and determination. I was lucky in the fact that a new found hobby is turning into a career, but sometimes you just gotta get up off your backside and make things happen… I sat for years hoping and praying for things to just get better… it won’t unless you start to change things yourself.
One simple change
I have a saying I have used for years … “God helps those that help themselves” Things just won’t miraculously change for the better by themselves… but a simple few changes can get the ball rolling.
Why not try it right now, decide to make one simple change, maybe it’s going to bed a reasonable hour, maybe it’s getting up out of bed at a set time, maybe it is to have a decent breakfast, maybe it is to not open that bottle of wine until the weekend, maybe it is to get outside and get an hours light exercise done… these are all simple changes I made on the journey.
I will be blogging quite regularly for Mental Health Ireland and with each future blog will come a recipe or 2, recipes that will be simple and tasty and that will perk your mood up. I will start with this very simple but effective one:
Sea Bass Fillets with Zingy Ginger, Chilli and Spring Onion
This simple dish combines wonderful Thai style flavours to really compliment the beautifully delicate flesh of the sea bass with crispy skin.
4 x sea bass fillets, about 140g each, skin on and scaled
About 3 tbsp sunflower oil
A large knob of ginger, peeled and shredded into matchsticks
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 fat, fresh red chillies deseeded and thinly shredded
A bunch spring onion, shredded long-ways
1 tbsp soy sauce
Season the fish with salt and pepper, then slash the skin 3 times. Heat a heavy-based frying pan and add 1 tbsp oil. Once hot, fry the fish, skin-side down, for 5 mins or until the skin is very crisp and golden. The fish will be almost cooked through. Turn over, cook for another 30 secs-1 min, then transfer to a serving plate and keep warm. You’ll need to fry the fish in 2 batches.
Heat the remaining oil, then fry the ginger, garlic and chillies for about 2 mins until golden, add a dash of soy sauce. Take off the heat and toss in the spring onions. Spoon the contents of the pan over the fillets.
And remember… healthy body/healthy mind
Food will play such an instrumental part in having brighter days. That is all from me, it has been a pleasure introducing myself.