“Before long it becomes hard to imagine doing much of anything for ourselves — anything, that is, except the work we do ‘to make a living.’ For everything else, we feel like we’ve lost the skills, or that there’s someone who can do it better.”
Though Micheal Pollan might, I think, have missed the news about this weekend’s Grandmothers’ Day events at Sandbrook House in Ballon, Co. Carlow, I suspect, reading the extract from his forthcoming book, that he would have approved.
The extract paints a dizzying picture of an economic world, spinning ever faster on an axis of relentless specialisation, a process which, at the same time, binds us in a tourniquet of learned helplessness and leaves us hopelessly disconnected from the origins of our food. He articulates the case for loosening those bonds, “making visible again many of the lines of connection” with our greater food system through the medium of cooking (or equally, one might infer, through practising the many other food skills with which our forebears were familiar).
And it is that reclaiming of lost skills and passing on of inherited wisdom that underlie both yesterday’s Slow Roots symposium and today’s Slow Food Ireland family event at Grandmothers’ Day. It seems appropriate, then, to introduce you to winter buttermilk, one old way with food that I have recently discovered, and one which is, to my mind, well worth remembering.
The thing about winter buttermilk is that it is not, in fact, buttermilk at all.
What’s more is that, despite what its name might lead you to believe, winter buttermilk has a dairy content of precisely zero, containing neither butter nor milk nor moo nor cow, but flour and water and – perhaps somewhat inevitably, given my well-documented obsession – spuds. It also (and this is the important thing) makes for a damn fine loaf of soda bread.
Nobody, as the Monty Python crew once memorably observed, expects the Spanish Inquisition.
Everyone, on the other hand, expects spuds on Paddy’s Day, but I’ll betcha nobody expects spudakopita (cue Python-esque diabolical laughter). You can get the low down on this potatoey St. Patrick’s Day version of spanakopita below (though there’s no need to restrict its making to one day of the year – remember that potatoes are for life, not just for Paddy’s Day).
What is special about St. Patrick’s Day when it comes to spuds, though, is that it was, and is, a traditional day for planting pototoes in Ireland. Kaethe Burt O’Dea of SPUDS.ie (who is quoted in today’s Washington Post piece on Ireland and the trialling of GM potatoes) wisely suggests that we might do well to reclaim this day as a National Potato Day and relegate the consumption of copious pints to a supporting role. I’ll plant to that.
Plant a spud – or several – this St. Patrick’s Day (image from the SPUDS campaign)
Meanwhile, given the season that’s in it, I have found myself awash with samples of a spudly nature generously provided to me by assorted parties who know my taste in edibles only too well.