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

Month: October 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Spud Sunday: A Better Bar

Remember the horror that was (and still is) Tayto chocolate?

Personally, it’s something that I have been trying to forget (though for some perverse reason, a half-eaten bar of the stuff still lurks in the cupboard; no sugar craving has proved desperate enough to result in consumption of same chez Spud, and that’s saying something). Happily, the whole experience was redeemed somewhat recently by a gift brought back from the States by thoughtful friends and which proved, at least, that crisps-in-a-chocolate-bar can work.

Potato chip chocolate by Chuao

Chuao Chocolatier’s potato chip chocolate

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Spud Sunday: Big Fish, Big Food

Before I get to this week’s spud topic, this is something that I think is worth your attention.

Tuesday was the Irish Government’s Budget Day – delivered to the tune of their austerity anthem – while Wednesday was no less than World Food Day – an initiative of the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organisation, with a theme based around sustainable food systems and food security (or how we ensure that people have ongoing access to food without destroying the planet in the process). On Thursday, however, it was another organisation that brought the intersection of these two events into sharp, local focus when news of an urgent appeal for support by Irish Seed Savers hit social media channels.

Irish Seed Savers

Irish Seed Savers is a Co. Clare based non-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of Ireland’s plant genetic resources, and they maintain a seed bank with over 600 rare and endangered vegetable varieties, along with native Irish apple and grain collections, as well (of course) as a collection of heirloom varieties of potato. In their appeal, they point out that knowledge of, and access to, this seed base brings with it at least some control over Ireland’s future food security, but with severe cuts in funding from the Dept. of Agriculture in recent years, the survival of Irish Seed Savers – like the survival of the seeds they save – is in very real danger. You can read about the appeal and ways to support the organisation here.

I used to think of Tayto – or, rather, Largo Foods, Ray Coyle’s snack manufacturing business, which makes Tayto, Hunky Dorys, King Crisps and others here in Ireland – as the big fish in crisp terms. And, relative to some of the newer entrants to the Irish crisp market, like Keogh’s and O’Donnells, that, I suppose, is the case. This week, however, has given my big fish notions a bit of Big Food perspective.

tayto cheese 'n' onion

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Spud Sunday: Better Through Food

So, the Irish Blog Awards are over and done with for this year, and though I didn’t become the possessor of any new trophyware this weekend, I was mightily pleased to see the gong in my category, Best Blog of a Journalist, go to friend and fellow McKennas’ Guide editor, Caroline Hennessy of Bibliocookthe original Irish food blog and one of the longest running Irish blogs of any kind, while in the Food & Drink category, it was great to see Conor Bofin of One Man’s Meat get the nod this year.

IFWG logo

For me, though, there was an acknowledgement of a different kind this week, when I was invited to become a member of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild. For those not familiar with it, it’s an association of established food writers – think Myrtle, Darina and Rachel Allen for a start – they assess your writing and take a vote on whether or not you can join their gang; there may also be secret handshakes involved, I didn’t get that far yet.

In any case, I’m greatly honoured to have been asked to join – it feels a little bit like getting picked for the school team. And now, without further ado, may I present this week’s installment, which is late (again) but it is here, because that is what I do and I’m flattered by those who think I do it well.

People might say ah, it’s just food, it’s nothing – but really, what is better than this?

Better than what, exactly? You might suppose – given my well-documented predilection for all things potato – that I was referring, perhaps, to a crisp sandwich or a massive plate o’ spuds (and there are times, in my world at least, when both are hard to beat). The words, however, weren’t mine and the context was much broader.

Kamal Mouzawak at Glebe Gardens

Kamal Mouzawak, pictured at Glebe Gardens, West Cork (2011)

Kamal Mouzawak was describing his recent work with a group of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which aims to establish a kitchen from which they can cook their traditional food. It may not sound like much – a kitchen, a few Syrian ladies cooking dinners as they might at have done at home – but, for that one group of people, it is making things better, and Kamal is all about making things better through the medium of food. “The most authentic and sincere expression of tradition, of history, is food,” he says. These refugees may have arrived with little else, but they carry their food culture with them and it is a fundamental way, not just of feeding themselves, but of connecting with others. Continue reading

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