With the sincerest of apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, I was inspired by events last Friday to pen this slightly less than epic variation on his Charge of the Light Brigade:
Spuds to right of them,
Spuds to left of them,
Spuds behind them;
And on through Temple Bar,
Strode the six hundred;
Though some may indeed have come charging past that evening, it was chiefly in their numbers that the denizens of Dublin’s Temple Bar bore any resemblance to the 600 immortalised in Tennyson’s classic. As Pádraic Óg Gallagher stood in front of Gallagher’s Boxty House passing out boxty dumpling tasters, Sam Dennigan Jr. and others from his namesake potato company offered bags of their microwaveable spuddies to passing striders and, in an engagement that lasted a mere 90 minutes, they had, give or take, 600 takers for their ready-to-go packets of baby spuds.
Sam Dennigan Jr. with potatoes for those trooping
through Temple Bar last Friday evening
This, then, was National Potato Day.
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.
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.