It was a mighty busy week last week and no mistake. Amongst the various goings on, yours truly featured in last Friday’s installment of Dublin City FM‘s Sodshow with Peter Donegan, to which you can listen back below (and, yes, the interview was recorded much earlier this year – at Sonairte‘s Potato Day – hence the springtime talk of potatoes chitting in my hallway).
Curiously enough, it was when I reemerged from the recording of said interview that I stumbled into what I later christened The Great Potato Standoff of 2013 – an incident which had everything to do with the feverish interest generated by the return of the Lumper potato last March. And, as I learned this week, those newly-resurrected Famine-era spuds are far from a flash in the pan…
A feed of Lumpers
Back in March of this year, Marks & Spencer Ireland announced a limited three week run of Lumpers, grown for them by Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes. It signalled the first time that the Lumper potato – which had been the mainstay of the Irish peasant farmer in the pre-Famine era, and which had succumbed in such devastating fashion to the onslaught of blight in 1845 – had been grown in any kind of significant quantity in Ireland in around 170 years.
It’s fairly safe to say that, back in 1742, people didn’t spend too much time obsessing about saturated fat or trying to reduce their carb intake. If anything, they were far more concerned with ingesting whatever carbs they could lay their hands on, spuds included.
I mention 1742 because that was the year of the first public performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, which took place in Fishamble Street in Dublin, an event which will be commemorated on April 13th next in Temple Bar, with their Handel’s Day celebrations.
Handel had been invited to perform by the Charitable Musical Society, who wanted to raise funds following the Great Irish Famine of 1741 – an event perhaps lesser known, but equally as devastating as the later Potato Famine of 1845-47 – a combination of bad weather and poor harvests that froze potatoes in the ground and left a nation dying of hunger.
It is an indescribably long way from that famine to a world where, within the past few weeks, I have been sent notices about applications aimed at helping people to reduce their intake of saturated fat and carbs. Somebody has perhaps noticed the frequency with which spuds and butter are combined on this site and would like to do something about it, I fear.
That’s what I would have said if anyone had challenged me about my supping of hot whiskeys at lunchtime on a Tuesday. As it was, I don’t think anyone in the vicinity was too bothered about my whiskey intake – possibly they were too busy downing hot toddies themselves. Besides, it was Dublin, it was January, it was cold. And the whiskeys were free. I really don’t think you need any more excuses than that.