Darina Allen's volume on Irish Traditional Cooking
“Writing it has been a labour of salvage as well as one of love.”
So writes Darina Allen in her introduction to Irish Traditional Cooking. First published nearly 20 years ago, the blurb on the front cover tells you that this newly released edition includes over 100 new recipes, which is all well and good, except for the fact that, when they say new, I really rather think they mean old. For this book is all about old Irish recipes and ways with Irish food that, to a greater or lesser extent, had fallen into neglect in recent decades, as traditional cooking and true home economy had given way, first, to the lure of new-fangled shop-bought bread and later, to the convenience of a growing number of packaged and processed foods. We are learning to appreciate some of these traditional food ways again, however – “even as half the country is living on pre-cooked foods from garage foodcourts, there is a deep craving among growing numbers of people for forgotten flavours and fresh local foods,” says Darina – so a re-publication of this volume is timely.
“Will I bring you Mum’s copy of Full and Plenty?” big sis #1 had asked.
There was only one possible answer to that question, and that was a resounding yes please.
Maura Laverty’s book, a classic of Irish cooking, was one I remembered clearly from childhood, both at home in my mother’s kitchen and, later, in my sister’s house, the book having been passed on to her when she got married.
My Ma's well-worn copy of Maura Laverty's Full and Plenty
As a child, I has read and re-read the book. Maura Laverty prefaced each chapter with wonderfully written stories from her home place of Ballyderrig that revolved around food, cooking and its place in the lives of her family and community. Whether it was the story of Statia Dunne’s “monarch among stews” that had won her a husband (and – take note ladies – “at an age when she had almost given up hope”) or the love of cowslips that allowed the author to become acquainted with Mrs. McKey’s fruit roll, I drank it all in. I also exercised my early baking muscles on the book’s substantial store of recipes.
I have a brand new Valentine (Mr. Tayto take note).
His name is Aleppo (which, granted, makes him sound like one of the Marx Brothers), he hails from Syria, he’s red hot (well, he’s perhaps not as hot as some, but just hot enough for me) and smells, as best I can describe it, of tobacco.
Hmm. Not sounding so attractive now, is he?