Yesterday I once again found myself partaking in a 'Slow Food Sunday', hosted by Slow Food Mayo. The meeting was held in the wonderful National Museum of Country Life. It was my first time at the museum I am ashamed to say - If only I had known what I was missing, It is truly a wonderful experience, situated within stunning grounds and surrounds.
As with all the Slow Food events I have been to recently, this one was well worth the effort.
The theme of the day was 'The pot calling the kettle black' - An education on historical and traditional Irish cooking methods. Arun McMahon of Café Rua in Castlebar welcomed all present and introduced the museum curator Clodagh Doyle, whom delivered a very informative lecture on the subject of cooking methods, storage, instruments, utensils and traditions. This was followed by Seán Kelly, of Kelly's Butchers, who gave a brief overview of the Irish Putóg (Black Pudding).
A couple of points struck a chord with me during the lecture - Clodagh described how our ancestors turned to 'wild foods' for survival throughout the great famine. After the famine, people turned their backs on these foods, for numerous reasons I suspect.
It is only in recent times that these wild foods are being collected and gathered and enjoyed by people again. I found this fascinating - Is it the case that over 150 year's later, we have reconciled ourselves, in regard to these wild foods, that the association with pain, hurt and death has passed?
An interesting notion and food for thought...
Clodagh also spoke about the traditions regarding the protection of food stuffs from supernatural forces and warding off 'the evil eye', another intriguing aspect regarding our traditions and history.
Before we departed for home, we were offered a selection of delicious local and traditional food treats: Wild garlic and potato soup, flavoured breads and butters, mutton pies, black pudding served with apple and boxty, rhubarb desserts and sponge cakes -
As I said it was well worth the journey!
It occurred to me when I was at home later that evening, that we seem to be returning to the simplicity and authenticity that we once knew regarding food, which was such a part of what made us who we are.
Take, for example, the recent explosion of 'craft beer' producers and breweries - At the beginning of the 19th century there were over 200 breweries in the country, at the turn of the 21st century, only about 12 remained. We are now turning this around once again. The same applies to the resurgence of 'wild food' and 'foraging' and the rising trends of people growing their own food, keeping their own hens, re-connecting with nature and that which sustains us.
I readily admit, this change may not occur over night and may be slow, but at least things are shifting - A fact that fills me, for one, with great hope.
The Slow Food Mayo group is in it's infancy and would very much welcome new members, If you would like to join Slow Food Mayo, find out more here.
Many Thanks to The Museum of Country Life for allowing me to photograph and share some of the artefacts shown.