Remember the horror that was (and still is) Tayto chocolate?
Personally, it’s something that I have been trying to forget (though for some perverse reason, a half-eaten bar of the stuff still lurks in the cupboard; no sugar craving has proved desperate enough to result in consumption of same chez Spud, and that’s saying something). Happily, the whole experience was redeemed somewhat recently by a gift brought back from the States by thoughtful friends and which proved, at least, that crisps-in-a-chocolate-bar can work.
Chuao Chocolatier’s potato chip chocolate
Before I get to this week’s spud topic, this is something that I think is worth your attention.
Tuesday was the Irish Government’s Budget Day – delivered to the tune of their austerity anthem – while Wednesday was no less than World Food Day – an initiative of the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organisation, with a theme based around sustainable food systems and food security (or how we ensure that people have ongoing access to food without destroying the planet in the process). On Thursday, however, it was another organisation that brought the intersection of these two events into sharp, local focus when news of an urgent appeal for support by Irish Seed Savers hit social media channels.
Irish Seed Savers is a Co. Clare based non-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of Ireland’s plant genetic resources, and they maintain a seed bank with over 600 rare and endangered vegetable varieties, along with native Irish apple and grain collections, as well (of course) as a collection of heirloom varieties of potato. In their appeal, they point out that knowledge of, and access to, this seed base brings with it at least some control over Ireland’s future food security, but with severe cuts in funding from the Dept. of Agriculture in recent years, the survival of Irish Seed Savers – like the survival of the seeds they save – is in very real danger. You can read about the appeal and ways to support the organisation here.
I used to think of Tayto – or, rather, Largo Foods, Ray Coyle’s snack manufacturing business, which makes Tayto, Hunky Dorys, King Crisps and others here in Ireland – as the big fish in crisp terms. And, relative to some of the newer entrants to the Irish crisp market, like Keogh’s and O’Donnells, that, I suppose, is the case. This week, however, has given my big fish notions a bit of Big Food perspective.
Given the image above, I may as well get straight to the point: National Potato Day is, once again, on its way.
Started as an initiative by Keogh’s, it’s two years since the inaugural National Potato Day took place and this year, for the first time, it will run with the support of Bord Bia (which, I suppose you could say, makes it official). That, in turn, means that we can expect more in the way of events in the run up to the day itself, Friday August 23rd, and greater media coverage; details of happenings will appear on the potato.ie site from this coming Monday, July 29th, with a number of events announced already, including the plan by Sam’s Potatoes to make an attempt on the record for the largest ever potato sack race at the Tullamore Show on August 11th and a 5K fun run hosted by the Meade Potato Company on National Potato Day itself.
Running and sack racing aside, I chatted to Lorcan Bourke of Bord Bia about their aims for National Potato Day. It was a conversation that had a familiar ring: counteract the perception that carbs are bad; highlight the neat nutritional package that is the potato; broaden people’s perspectives on how a potato can be prepared; bring some colour to the potato palette (***) – in other words, the kind of thing I do on a regular basis. So, with that in mind and anticipating the event to come, here’s a little colour from the warmth of the Canary Islands, where they’ve got salt and spice and aren’t afraid to use ‘em.
*** This is a rare bird – a sentence where you could probably get away with using palette, palate or even, at a stretch, pallet
(for those who like to think of their potatoes in bulk terms)