The “Food Unconference” the organisers called it.
The event in question, Foodcamp, returned as part of this weekend’s Savour Kilkenny festival, after a very successful inaugural outing last year. The agenda was largely determined by the attendees, each of whom was free to give a presentation, and the guidelines were simple: inform your audience rather than sell to them, and bring something to share for lunch.
My desk is all a-clutter. Assorted items clamour for my frequently divided attention, and, lately, suffer from varying degrees of neglect.
Over there, my review copy of Domini Kemp’s new book, Itsa Cookbook, languishes. Frankly I got distracted when I read therein that her granny cooked potatoes in a pressure cooker, and have been more interested by the idea of emulating that than by anything else in the book (though I can safely say that fans of Domini’s Saturday columns in The Irish Times will be pleased to know that they can now get themselves a bookful of same).
Also sent to me lately, a glossary of delightfully named Scottish delicacies. The name alone makes me want to try Cullen Skink, a soup of smoked haddock, mashed potato and onions, though desire and execution are proving, as often happens, to be two very different things.
Other bits and pieces, such as reminders of upcoming food events, like the Food and Wine Christmas Show in the RDS from November 26th to 28th, as well as a slew of potato-related news stories, crowd my inbox.
But none of that and, I repeat, none of that is terribly important compared to Foodcamp.
As I climbed out of the taxi, my driver, Anthony, had one last wish for my onward journey:
“Give them my love”, says he, “and tell them to keep brewing the Smithwick’s for me and for you”.
I think he might just have had a tear in his eye as he wished me well, being quite overcome at the thought that I was on my way to visit the Smithwick’s brewery. Having discovered my intended destination, Anthony’s eyes had lit up and his expression become more animated. At the mention of the Irish ale that is Smithwick’s, he had announced proudly “that’s my drink, so it is”.
We had swapped beer stories and talked about that certain solidarity that exists among Smithwick’s drinkers, perhaps the result of always being the odd one out in a sea of Guinness and lager stalwarts.
Smithwick's through the years
I will admit that, having been a Smithwick’s drinker for years, I was just as excited as Anthony was about my visiting the brewery. Forget that I was leaving a half-unpacked house behind me, a visit to Smithwick’s trumped all.