Bord Bia Potato Champion 2013, David Curran, from Fethard, Co. Tipperary (centre) with John Donohue, Tullamore Show Horticulture Organiser (left) and Lorcan Bourke of Bord Bia (right)
As far as one day agricultural events go in Ireland, the Tullamore Show, which had a hefty 61,000 visitors yesterday, is about as big as it gets. It’s host to a bewildering array of farming demonstrations and competitions, from sheep shearing to show jumping, and there was plenty to interest your resident potato anorak, from Bord Bia’s All Ireland Potato Championships (a growers’ competition, where potatoes are judged according to interior and exterior appearance – kind of like the lovely girls’ competition, except for spuds) to the mammoth potato sack race organised by Sam’s Potatoes in advance of National Potato Day on August 23rd (which, while it didn’t break any world records for numbers competing, was still a great deal of fun).
Sam’s Potatoes sack race
But though they may have come to the Tullamore Show in their thousands, one of the main things of interest for me turned out to be much more of a minority concern, as I discovered when I fell into conversation with Tom Egan, chairman of the Loy Association of Ireland, about the revival of interest in the craft of loy digging.
Ah yes, the eagle-eyed among you will observe that this week’s Sunday installment is suffering from two day delay syndrome. What can I say except that a week spent in the U.K. will do that to a body, and I did, as you will see, have some rather important foods to attend to while I was there.
Thank you for the loan of your taste buds.
That was how Bob Farrand opened proceedings at the final day of judging for this year’s Great Taste Awards, which took place at the HQ of the Guild of Fine Food in Dorset last Wednesday.
My guess is that everyone there had been more than happy to volunteer the use of their taste buds for the day (and a fine collection of taste buds they were, belonging, among others, to buyers from such as Fortnum & Mason and to respected food writers like Joanna Blythman, Charles Campion and Xanthe Clay). And I know that I had be only too delighted (charmed! honoured!) to pack my palate and get on a plane in order to participate, and all this despite there being no guarantee that potatoes would feature (and sure enough, despite their undoubted potential to taste great, spuds didn’t feature on this trip, except on the fringes and in conversation, with at least one exchange including the suggestion that a post about the decidedly dangerous weapon that is the potato cannon might provide appropriate grist to my mill – but I digress).
Lights, camera, kitchen towels:
Founder Bob Farrand & adjudicator Mike Cook chat before final judging begins, while the Great Taste beavers busy themselves in the kitchen alongside
One word to say it all:
signage for the Spud-Off Mór at Tigh T.P.’s in Baile na nGall (Ballydavid) on the Dingle Peninsula
That was T.P.’s response when it was suggested that the story he was spinning might be somewhat less than factual.
I was in the West Kerry Gaeltacht, at the end of the Dingle Peninsula – almost as far west as you can get in Ireland before you fall off the edge – with some newly made acquaintances, scooting between events at the recent Féile an Phráta (Festival of the Potato). T.P., former master of Tigh T.P.’s pub in Ballydavid – now run by his son – had lead a walk that morning along the misty shores of Smerwick Harbour to the site of a famine-era village and had regaled the general company with stories and local lore.
“Ah now, pure truth, that’s a higher order of truth,” said the bould T.P., and you could almost hear the glint in his eye. Something told me that it wasn’t just the spuds hereabouts that might require a large pinch of salt.
T.P., man of pure truth