...there's both eatin' and drinkin' in it

Multi Cultures

What springs to mind when you hear the word culture?

Does it conjure up images of the arts and theatre, dahling?

Or does your mind turn to those things that help to define a shared national identity?

Or do you think, instead, of buttermilk? (in which case your view of culture would appear to be rather more bacterial than regional)

Culture (in the not necessarily high-brow and decidedly non-bacterial sense of the word) is a many-faceted thing and food is most definitely one of those facets. Aspects of what we eat, how we eat it and who we eat it with can bind us (culturally speaking) to some and differentiate us from others. Ditto for drink, of course.

For the Irish among us, it’s tea, it’s Guinness, it’s soda bread and (yes) it’s potatoes.

And it’s not just Lyons and Barry’s tea (or maybe even Campbell’s) but it’s the ritual of tea-drinking and the desire of a Mrs. Doyle-like host to ensure that you have a cup of tea at all costs. Even if you are on your way out of the building, you will be offered “a cup of tea in the hand” to swallow as you make your exit.

Neither is it simply our liking for a floury spud but, deep down, there is a connection to a defining period in our history. That and the fact that we know that Tayto are the best crisps going. Plus there’s the whole eating crisps with chocolate thing, which others seem to find strange. It could be said that, in a cultural sense, we are both what we eat and how we eat it.

culture night 2009

What put me in mind of this, of course, was the fact that Culture Night will be upon us soon – Friday 25th September to be exact. It’s an evening where some of our nation’s towns and cities throw open their doors to the public and host events that encompass arts, music, architecture and, yes, some food and drink too (though I have yet to see any mention of tea or tayto). Events are free (though some require booking in advance) and, in Dublin, Dublin Bus are providing a free shuttle service within the areas where events are taking place. You can get the full low down here.

On the food and drink front in Dublin, you can visit the Guinness Storehouse (fresh from the Arthur’s Day celebrations the night before), sample some (presumably French) wines at the Alliance Française, or check out some artisan foods at the RDS, including a lecture by Peter Ward, a longtime promoter of artisan food production. If you’re in Cork, the very fine English Market will be open late for the occasion.

If you want a break from all of that culture and you’re in the Galway area, there’s what sounds like an interesting event the following day, titled Taste & Smell: The Chemical Senses, with presentations and demonstrations exploring the chemistry, physiology and psychology of taste and smell, lead by food scientist David Jackson. If you care to bring your buttermilk along for a deconstruction of its aroma, that’s probably as close to culture as you’ll get when you’re there. You can find out more about the event here.


  1. zerrin

    I’m always intersted in different cultures. Food is undoubtedly a big part of culture and I think it even effects the rest of cultural issues. It would be great to join the event to learn more about different cultures.

  2. Tangled Noodle

    Yay for multiculturalism in all its iterations! Culture Night sounds like such fun – are you planning to attend any of these events? My choice would be the Taste & Smell presentations. 8-)

    I checked out the crisps ‘n’ chocolate link – admittedly, it didn’t really connect for me until I read a comment that pointed out choc-covered pretzels and the salty/sweet combination. A-ha! I will have to try this; I understand it’s crisps first, followed by chocolate. Will take note!

  3. Sophie

    I love the food, history & culture of different cultures. We learn a lot of each other!

    This Culture night sounds so good to me! Art, food, culture,etc. What a great event! A lot of cities should do that!

  4. Daily Spud

    zerrin: there’s always something new to be learned or experienced as far as different cultures go and food is definitely a big part of that

    Tangled Noodle: my plan is (but of course) to attend the food tasting and artisan food production lecture on Culture Night; I would absolutely love to go to the Taste & Smell presentations but, unfortunately, will be elsewhere that day…

    Sophie: absolutely – it’s a great idea and would be lovely to see other cities do likewise

  5. Jenni

    Sounds like a great time! I’m w/TN–I’d be all about the Taste & Smell presentation. And, along the lines of crisps and chocolates, I humbly present the NC pairing of peanuts and RC Cola. Pour a wee bag of salted peanuts into a bottle of RC Cola (it has to be RC) and drink and chew. Scary, yet somehow satisfying. Sweet-salty-bubbly. Hooray!

    My Secret Words: SCHUMACH waggish. This is my new Spy Name.

  6. sippitysup.com

    It’s funny so many of us were drawn to Taste and Smell… must be the crowd we hang with. GREG

  7. Daily Spud

    Jenni: oh gosh, that is scary – but, there again, I like the combination of salted peanuts mixed in with tayto crisps and washed down with lucozade (a fizzy glucose drink), so it’s really not so far removed from your RC cola spy drink :)

    sippitysup: yeah, definitely hanging with a few food obsessed people lately!

  8. OysterCulture

    and to think I only missed this event by a day – I hope you had loads of fun!

  9. Daily Spud

    I did enjoy the night. The lecture on local food production with Peter Ward was really interesting and will work its way into a post at some stage…

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