STILL SMILING Cafe owner Lucy Bracken was delighted to stay open during Covid-19.
Name: Lucy Bracken
Occupation: Business Owner, Leafy Greens Cafe, Westport.
I wake up usually around 7am though I tend to stay in bed until 7.30 or 8am depending on what the day is holding. I don’t like getting up but I think that is partly because when I get up, I go, and I don’t stop until I get back in at about 11pm.
Eamon is usually gone when I get up. He is also self-employed and works a long day too. I start by waking my daughter Alice (11) who also likes the bed. Then, I let the dog out. We have a beautiful Golden Doodle called Molly. She has her own run outside and little house and I’m in love with her. I never liked dogs much but Alice wanted one for a long time. She is the only child at home, as her sisters are much older, in their thirties, so the dog was partly as a companion and a playmate. I don’t think anyone has every loved me as much as the dog does. I feed her and walk her and as a result she is my best friend. Dogs are obviously very loyal, at least this one is. She comes with Alice and I whenever she can and we really enjoy her. I also feed and let out the chickens which came as a surprise gift from Eamon a few months ago. Who said romance was dead!
I was delighted as I’d wanted hens since I was a child – we had loads and I think they are very useful, from eating scraps to laying beautiful fresh eggs. At the moment one of the hens is sitting on nine fertilised eggs sourced from my childhood friend, Alan Kennedy. He and my brother, Gary, had every sort of hen you could imagine. I’m really enjoying having the opportunity to do the things we did as children. Life’s simple treasures. We try to have porridge and banana for breakfast and then once everyone is fed and watered we head to the café. During school time I drop off Alice on my way in. The routine is much better then. During holidays we do our best. Alice loves horses and spends a lot of time at the stables in Murrisk. She rides and helps out and I go to work.
My mother Ann lives in Murrisk so it is lovely to call in to her too. I sometimes laugh about how we must have appeared when we moved lock, stock and barrel to Westport from Africa in the 1970s. There were ten children, a small airplane, a boat, a Citroën Safari bought en route in Paris and, of course, our parents, a mother from Dublin and a father from Kerry. My father, the late Gerry Bracken was an Agricultural Advisor in Lesotho and had just taken a new job in Balla Co-Op.
In so many ways it is no wonder I ended up with such a love of all things culinary. When we moved to Westport we first lived in a big rambling house that had old granary stores. With such a big family to feed, my mother quickly colonised and cultivated the large garden with figs and asparagus, radishes and potatoes,
Since we re-opened Leafy Green fully in June I have a new chef, Emma Jennings. She is what you’d call a real friend. She ticks all the boxes. Absolutely all of them. I’m really lucky as I’ve had great girls working with me right from the beginning; your staff really are your biggest asset. Leesa Murray is my righthand woman and we are all looking forward to the winter, while Mia and Sorica will be heading back to college shortly. They are lovely, smiley, helpful girls who work hard.
So Leafy Greens now sells a lot of takeaway food. Our ethos is still ‘fresh, local, seasonal’ with the majority of our salads coming from Joe Kelly, an organic grower. His produce speaks for itself.
The café closes around 4pm and then we start to clean up and are home around 5pm. After that the second job clicks in: making dinner, washing, walking the dog, catching up with Eamon after the day and if it is school time, homework.
Covid has been a very interesting time and I feel lucky because I stayed open throughout and so bills got paid and a new system was in place for when we reopened fully. It was great to see that people slowed down a bit and were really grateful for small things. Westport is a fabulous place, full of interesting and largely nice people. I just hope we don’t forget what we learned about life in the past few months. My wish is that we all get to live more slowly and gratefully because we are all truly blessed her in Mayo.
In conversation with Áine Ryan
If money was no object, what would you do everyday?
I’d probably do much the same but might get more help and be able to bring my dreams forward to open a cookery school.
Most unusual thing you have eaten?
Favourite place you have visited?
The Caribbean with my sister, Nicky
What makes you nervous?
Name three celebrities you would invite to your Zoom party?
Meryl Streep, Darina Allen and Matthew McConaughey
Best advice you ever got?
Hard work never killed anyone
Three things always in your fridge?
Milk, yoghurt, parmesan
Most prized possession?
My beautiful daughter, Alice
My lovely mother
Sum up the coronavirus in three words?
Opportunity for change
Last book you read?
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying