Food for thought

Curra­binny – the name used for a new book – stuck the Mur­ray fam­ily to­gether af­ter tragedy, writes Marie- Claire Digby

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD -

If you are of a cer­tain age, most likely late teens or early 20s, you will prob­a­bly be fa­mil­iar with James Ka­vanagh. You might have par­tied vi­car­i­ously on­line with him – and shared in his de­bil­i­tat­ing hang­overs – or watched as the minu­tiae of his daily life is re­layed on his In­sta­gram and Twit­ter ac­counts.

If you are of an­other gen­er­a­tion, you might have stum­bled upon his an­tics on­line and mar­velled at the fact that he is still in busi­ness – as a per­son­al­ity who works with brands to pro­mote their mes­sage on so­cial me­dia – what with the wild nights out and the some­times out­ra­geous carry on.

I t i s a c o n c e r n s h a r e d b y t h e 29- year- old’s par­ents, who fea­ture reg­u­larly in his video con­tent. “My dad is ob­sessed with me and my ca­reer. He’s like, ‘ Are you earn­ing money. What are you do­ing to­day, are you mak­ing money?’ He rings me ev­ery day to ask me that, be­cause he just doesn’t see what I do as a job.”

But dig a lit­tle deeper, and you will find a busi­ness savvy com­mu­ni­ca­tor who has been mak­ing a liv­ing from his so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­i­ties for just over three years, hav­ing pre­vi­ously been em­ployed in pub­lic re­la­tions for six years, where his clients in­cluded Ker­ry­gold and Barry’s Tea.

The prod­uct he is pro­mot­ing on the day we meet is on the ta­ble in front of us. Ka­vanagh and his part­ner Wil­liam Mur­ray, an artist, Bal­ly­maloe- trained chef and part- time bar­man at L’Guele­ton restau­rant, have writ­ten The Curra­binny Cook­book, a hand­some well- struc­tured col­lec­tion of recipes us­ing tra­di­tional, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, given a con­tem­po­rary slant.

Un­der the Curra­binny ban­ner, the pair do oc­ca­sional pri­vate cater­ing gigs and pop- ups, sell food at craft fairs and mar­kets, and hope to even­tu­ally launch a home­wares range. But first, they want to open a Curra­binny cafe, and have an es­tate agent ac­tively scout­ing for a site in Dublin.

“We ac­tu­ally found a stun­ning place, right op­po­site Pyg­malion on Cop­pinger Row. It was in the base­ment of the Geor­gian So­ci­ety build­ing. But there was not enough space for a kitchen and 30 seats and you’d need 30 seats to make the money back,” Ka­vanagh says.

“Ini­tially we were like, ‘ we have to have the cafe open by the time the cook­book comes out’, but now we’ve let that go and it’ll hap­pen when it hap­pens,” Mur­ray adds. The in­ten­tion is that the cafe, and de­vel­op­ing the Curra­binny brand, will be­come full- time oc­cu­pa­tions for the pair.

Ka­vanagh and Mur­ray met on the dat­ing site, Grindr, and have been to­gether five years. They could hardly be more dif­fer­ent – Ka­vanagh is out­go­ing, flam­boy­ant and funny. Mur­ray is, by his own ad­mis­sion, “more re­served, qui­eter, happy out, in my stu­dio, with a cup of tea”.

What they do share is a love of good food, and the book, the cater­ing com­pany and the planned cafe are joint ven­tures they have been work­ing on since spend­ing a sum­mer at Mur­ray’s home in Curra­binny, near Car­ri­ga­line, in 2015.

The book is ded­i­cated to the me­mory of Jenny Mur­ray, Wil­liam’s sis­ter, who died in 2007, aged 19. “She was very ath­letic, she was very good in school, she would have been re­ally good at singing, she acted, she was a sail­ing cham­pion,” Mur­ray says of his sis­ter, who was four years his elder.

“It was the 29th of March. I woke up that morn­ing and went to school ... the hall mon­i­tor came to the door and was like ‘ Wil­liam your par­ents are in the prin­ci­pal’s of­fice, you need to come down’, and I was like ‘ oh no, what have I done, I’ve ob­vi­ously done some­thing re­ally bold’. I re­mem­ber my mum say­ing that Jenny was dead.

“She woke up, she was study­ing for an art his­tory exam, she had all her books and pic­tures of art around her in the bed. She texted her boyfriend, she was in first year UCC, and then she fell back asleep again. My dad went in to wake her up and he knew im­me­di­ately that she was dead.

“I think it was de­scribed to us like her brain sent an elec­tric sig­nal to her heart to stop . . . sud­den adult death syn­drome any­way.”

Af­ter Jenny’s death, Mur­ray’s mother Breda Lynch, an artist and lec­turer in the Craw­ford Col­lege of Art & De­sign, “re­tired im­me­di­ately”, and his dad, Peter Mur­ray, a bar­ris­ter, “moved to Dublin [ dur­ing the week], for a few years, to do some law thing he was do­ing up there”, Mur­ray says.

“We all kind of de­tached from one an­other in a weird way. My par­ents were amaz­ing and looked af­ter me, but there was cer­tain ex­tent to which I had to look af­ter them as well. You kind of lose your in­no­cence a bit when you see your par­ents com­pletely bro­ken down.”

Curra­binny, where the Mur­ray fam­ily home looks out on to Cork har­bour, near the vil­lage of Crosshaven, be­came the glue that stuck the fam­ily back to­gether again af­ter the tragedy. Breda has a stu­dio there where she cre­ates ex­tra­or­di­nary, haunt­ing struc­tures made from found ma­te­ri­als, and grows veg­eta­bles, and Peter, now re­tired, in­dulges his love of boats.

Wil­liam and James are reg­u­lar vis­i­tors, with their In­sta- fa­mous sph­ynx cat, Diana. The boys are pre­par­ing lunch – recipes from the book, of course – when the pho­tog­ra­pher and I drop by. Sal­ads made with in­gre­di­ents from Breda’s gar­den and glasshouse, grilled lo­cally caught mack­erel, and an ar­ray of de­li­cious cakes and bis­cuits that mark Mur­ray out as a gifted baker, are ar­ranged on the din­ing ta­ble.

was‘ d‘

I think it es­cribed to us like her brain sent an elec­tric sig­nal to her heart to stop . . . sud­den adult death syn­drome any­way

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DARAGH MC SWEENEY/ PRO­VI­SION

■ Wil­liam Mur­ray and James Ka­vanagh who have writ­ten The Curra­binny Cook­book, ded­i­cated to the me­mory of Jenny Mur­ray, Wil­liam’s sis­ter, who died in 2007, aged 19.

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