Bored with panels where everyone agrees with each other we went looking for a topic which foodcamp attendees would disagree on. And we found it.
“Traditional Irish Cuisine – an embarrassment of riches or just an embarrassment?”
There are very passionate people on both sides of this particular fence and we have brought 6 of them together (including an import) to have it out from 3.30 under the watchful eye of John McKenna
On the embarrassment side are:
Speaking up for all that is good about our food heritage are:
Because he is American, and also because he knows what he is talking about , Colman has been getting some press. RTE Countryside Sat Oct 22nd: an interview with Colman Andrews
And today’s Sunday Times also carries an interview – given below because you need a subscription to see it.
Keith & Mag
Yummy: jellied lamb and cabbage – American food writer urges Irish chefs to celebrate and revive traditional dishes in order to make the country a culinary destination of renown
Written by Gabrielle Monaghan and Published: 23 October 2011
Colman Andrews says chefs should focus on classic Irish fare such as stews and pies
A leading American food writer says Ireland needs to shed its inferiority complex about traditional cuisine and put centuries-old dishes such as bacon and cabbage back on the menu.
Colman Andrews, co-founder of Saveur magazine and an expert on Catalan food, said Irish people became embarrassed about their food heritage during the boom, maligning traditional staples in favour of international cuisine.
In order for Ireland to become known as a culinary destination, Irish chefs need to emulate their counterparts in the UK, who have launched campaigns to revive traditional British foods such as bubble and squeak, and grouse. Andrews has sourced Irish recipes from 18th-century manuscripts, library archives and estate records for a book.
“A lot of knee-jerk reactions about poor Irish food are from the Irish and Irish-Americans themselves,” he said. “When I told Irish people I was writing a book about Irish food, they would say ‘that’ll be a short book’.
“Chefs told me they couldn’t put bacon and cabbage on a menu because that’s what people have on a Sunday night at home. But having some refined interpretation of pork or veal served with baby vegetables is not necessarily better than good bacon and cabbage.
“I would say trust the fact that superbly made bacon and cabbage is as valid as choucroute in Alsace or that Irish stew can be as good as boeuf bourguignon. Better food doesn’t have to mean foreign food.”
Andrews says there is much more to traditional Irish cooking than corned beef and colcannon, the dishes commonly served to tourists in Temple Bar. His examples include broiled mackerel with gooseberry sauce, Donegal pie, jellied lamb, and brotchán roy, which derives from the Irish for a “broth fit for a king”, said to have been the favourite dish of St Columcille, a 6th century monk.
John McKenna, author of the Bridgestone guides, rejects the notion that Irish food should represent its history. “If you want to sell books to nostalgic Irish-Americans, fine, but that’s not the reality of Irish food,” he said. “With all due respect to Colman, his idea that Irish food has to be frozen in the past is ridiculous. That’s an American idea. They want the Irish to live in thatched cottages with barefoot kids. That the culture should be fossilised is an emigrant’s dream.
“European food is masculine and egotistical. But the two great figures in Irish food, Myrtle Allen and Maura Foley, are the most self-effacing people you would meet. Irish cooking is about Irish cooks — it’s not a school or a system or a bible.”
Andrews will debate Irish food with McKenna and other writers and chefs at next weekend’s Foodcamp at the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival. The theme of the debate will be Traditional Irish Cuisine: is it an embarrassment or an embarrassment of riches? Andrews plans to display menus of UK restaurants that draw on Britain’s culinary heritage.
Andrews believes Ireland’s complex relationship with its food heritage may date back to the famine, when the Irish were not able to live off the fat of the land because landholders exported beef, butter, smoked salmon and other staples to Britain and its colonies.
“It wasn’t that long ago that people were starving in Ireland and people remember that from their great-grandparents,” he said. “There has got to be some residual feeling that it is unseemly to care about the quality of food as long as you have enough of it.