With the sunshine beating down and the craic as high as the temperature, the best of our indigenous food producers gathered for a fantastic food event recently called Totally Tipperary. This is Ireland’s newest food festival and judging by the response it has all the potential of becoming a super annual event. It was held within the lovely and very historic grounds of Cloughjordan House and attracted food producers, food writers, food bloggers and food lovers. It was a festival attended by a group made up of a wide and varied demographic with the common ground being a love of food. Instantly age, nationality and urban and rural barriers ceased to exist. The sensual pleasures of the taste buds and the olfactory organs bring people together and traverse all boundaries. Food is a universal language and that was proven once more at Totally Tipperary. The whole event was really well organised. I was mainly in the Meat Tent. Along with my fellow food producer and good pal T J Crowe we gave a cracking demonstration on butchering pork and lamb. TJ and I are becoming quite the double act and he’s not only fun but always a pleasure to work with.
There were plenty of other demonstrations as well. Joanna Schaffalitzky who hosts the food blog, Smorgasblog, gave a fantastic presentation. For her turn at Totally Tipperary she took four Tipperary ingredients and turned them into a great dish that anyone can do at home. She used chicken fillets from our good selves at James Whelan Butchers, stuffed them with the terrific artisan black pudding from Inch House and then wrapped the whole lot in luscious strips of streaky bacon from Crowe’s Farm. While the chicken was in the oven, Joanna prepared lovely apple gravy using local apples from The Apple Farm. The result was superb and everyone agreed that Joanna had totally nailed it for simplicity, locally available ingredients, value, and of course, great taste. I give particular mention to Joanna because the video of her demonstration is up on her blog so even if you weren’t at Totally Tipperary you can still catch it. Again the name is Smorgasblog, just google it and you’ll find it.
I suppose the bottom line is that as a food producer, whether it is meat, vegetables, bread or dairy, we often find ourselves isolated and operating in our own little food bubble. This isn’t surprising given the climate and the general challenge of a food business and producing excellent products. For that reason events like Totally Tipperary have many, many benefits and, in some cases, a value that can’t even be measured. Meeting other people as passionate as you are about food really recharges the batteries and often injects a burst of fresh enthusiasm that keeps you going long after it is all over. Seeing all the producers together also gives us a sense of how the local food scene is not only growing and flourishing, but is a great employer and collectively a great asset to the local economy. Then there is the joy of watching as the visitors and food writers discover new products and ultimately return to their blogs, magazines and friends with a positive message and a renewed zeal for Tipperary Food. It really was a great event and I feel that the seeds sown at Totally Tipperary will continue to produce a harvest well into the future for Tipperary producers. Obviously the weather was a tremendous help and the sun shone on us throughout. I was exhausted at the end of it but delighted to have been part of it.
The event also threw a torch light on the food community in Tipperary; it has created marvellous friendships and supports. That sense of community really strengthens the overall faith in the sector and you have to wonder if all this would have been possible in the more hedonistic days of the Celtic Tiger when there was no time to cook, little time for leisure and certainly no interest in growing your own. We have come along way in one sense and I can’t say enough about the great work of GIY. However there are also moments when I feel we could be in that old Ireland where people grew their own food, traded with one another and local and indigenous food was the only show in town. We are not too far off those days again, but thankfully this time without the sideburns and odd haircuts. While our love of food may have gone a full circle, thankfully our general sartorial style has definitely moved on!
Tipperary is a great place for food and the sooner we all embrace and take that message to the rest of the country and indeed the world, the better. Between food and hurling we really are doing fantastically on the national radar at present. In light of the hurlers’ astonishing performance on Sunday in the Munster Final, there will be plenty of mentions for Tipp throughout the summer and so we can definitely capitalise on that. Here’s to more sunny days devouring tasty Tipperary produced treats and chasing down the dream of a second All Ireland in a row; summers just don’t get much better than that.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers