In what might just have been the ultimate way to spend a Spud Sunday, I was, this past weekend, in far West Kerry, immersed in Féile an Phráta and An Spud-Off Mór (that’s the Festival of the Potato and the Big Spud-Off for those in need of a translation).
Judging spuds: one of many Kerry spuds to come under scrutiny this weekend
A full report will follow in due course on my spud adventuring (though not before I take off again next weekend for a packed few days at the London Food Blogger Connect conference, where, the programme reminds me, that I’ll be speaking on Friday afternoon and again on Sunday morning on blogging, writing and – in all likelihood – on spuds; it’s a subject I find hard to avoid).
Indeed, were it not for my prior foreign engagement, I’d be tempted to stay in Kerry where, hot on the heels of this weekend’s festivities, are the Flavour of Kilorglin, taking place from 5th-7th July and the Kenmare Food Carnival from the 12th-14th – plenty to occupy those in a food festival frame of mind. In the meantime, while you await news of potato festival delights, herewith a little light reading on the latest bit of spud gadgetry to come my way.
Mash is like that little girl of nursery rhyme renown: when it is good, it is very, very good; when it is bad, it is horrid. A fellow festival goer this weekend reminded me of just how horrid that horrid can be, when she described the misery of her mother’s mash: overcooked, watery potatoes, added to a blender and made pourable with a large quantity of milk. A sad and sorry end for any self-respecting spud.
When Expedia asked me about my favourite places to eat around Ireland, a lederhosen-bedecked part of me could hear Julie Andrews singing about a few of her favourite things in an alpine, Sound of Music setting. Not that I’m about to burst into song or – worse, still – parade about in lederhosen, but you might indulge me, all the same, if I wax just a bit lyrical on the subject of favoured spots for supping.
If the entry for Earth in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was “Mostly harmless,” then my entry – making the rather colossal assumption that I’d have one – would probably read: “Mostly spuds.” However, even if it is (mostly) possible to do so, man – or, in my case, woman – does not live by potato alone, and my favourite food places, inevitably, serve much else besides.
Coming up with a list such as this is always fraught. Through the good offices of this blog, and in being a contributing editor for John and Sally McKennas’ Irish Food Guide, I’ve had the privilege of eating in many fine places indeed, more than I could do justice to here. In the end, the selection below is as much about favourite food people as favourite food places – the one almost invariably determines the other.
W.J. KAVANAGH / L. MULLIGAN GROCER
WJ Kavanagh, Dorset St.
There’s a section in journalist and food critic Jay Rayner’s new book, A Greedy Man in a Hungry World, which discusses the notion of comparative advantage. This is where, he explains, by dint of labour costs, climatic or other considerations, certain countries can produce certain goods better and more cheaply than elsewhere – he points to iPhones made in China and, foodwise, among other things, to crops grown in the corn belt of the Midwestern United States.
It’s part of his assault on those who blindly assume that local-is-best when it comes to food (people whom he also suspects are the proud possessors of said iPhones); his attempt, as he puts it, to “kick ten tons of crap out of the local food movement.” His point? It’s not that locally produced food is suddenly off the shopping list – there will always be cases where it’s the best choice we can make, and not just for reasons of taste, but because it’s also about food security and supporting local economies – but that local doesn’t always equate to sustainable and that imported foods – and the large-scale agriculture that may produce them – aren’t necessarily bad.
Nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned hyperbole:
in addition to the bold subtitle, the back-of-book blurb asserts that this volume will do no less than
“…change the way we shop, cook and eat forever”
Or something like that anyway.