It looks like there are still 12 months in the year but I think they are moving much faster than before. I’m particularly conscious of this right now as this weekend sees the fourth Waterford Festival of Food weekend celebration. It seems like only a few short months since I attended the 2010 event and here we are a full year later and ready to go again. For anyone in South Tipp and the environs of Clonmel, the festival is but a short drive away. It seems to be a packed schedule this year with plenty to do for the whole family and while there are well known chefs in attendance and several ticketed food events, there is also a whole programme of free family fun to be had. By all means check out the website for the full programme at www.waterfordfestivaloffood.com
The weekend is about celebrating all that is good about food in Co. Waterford. I love it for the ideas and the new products and producers that seem to emerge each year. You also see how established producers are progressing their products and sometimes introducing new lines. I’m always impressed at how the organisers put an emphasis on family events and encouraging children to get involved in food and practical food demonstrations. When it comes to children it is also a great opportunity for parents to discuss food and its connection to the land. We forget sometimes that our urban reared offspring can inadvertently end up thinking that food comes from the supermarket without making that mental leap to the land or the sea. Talking of the sea, finally there is an emphasis on it which includes one event titled BBQ by the Sea. One can only assume this will involve fish and let’s pray that the weather is good as the success of events like that hinge largely on sunshine.
For the real food enthusiast Food Camp on Friday might be of interest. This is an all day conference for food producers, food lovers and those with an interest in the food industry to gather, share knowledge and discuss the future of Ireland’s food industry through speaking sessions and a panel discussion. The panel will be chaired by Peter Ward of Country Choice in Nenagh and will include Ella McSweeney from RTE’s Ear to the Ground, Eileen Bentley from Bord Bia, Michael Quinn who is head chef at Waterford Castle and food blogger Niamh Shields; among others. Niamh Shields is originally from Waterford but currently lives in the UK where she writes a very popular blog called, Eat Like A Girl. On Saturday the mobile farm is at King John’s Castle and is always fun for the kids and BBQ by the Sea will be taking place just opposite. Then on Sunday the highlight event of the weekend is the Farmers Market in Dungarvan Town Centre where we are being encouraged to browse fresh produce from the region’s finest food producers to a backdrop of live music. These are just a few of the free events and the whole programme is listed on the website.
Food festivals last for just a weekend but I suppose the idea is awareness and introducing the general public to what is available in their own locality. More and more people are seeing the value in local food and not just nutritionally but also to the local economy. The food business is quite difficult to sustain, particularly for a start up, as the market place is quite crowded. However, I do believe that quality and excellence will take a product quite a long way. That excellence has to reflect in taste, presentation and in price. This can be a hard combination to get right but those that persevere and rise to the challenge seem to survive.
While it may seem that we are trotting out the ‘buy local’ mantra regularly, I don’t think it can be said too often or too loudly. In Tipperary we have some of the finest producers and products in the country and this is evidenced every year by The Long Table Dinner, usually held in August, where all the ingredients for a lavish meal are sourced locally. While seeing local food displayed in such abundance gets the gastric juices going, it also sparks the creative juices and it makes me wonder how much more we can achieve. So with Easter on the horizon, that is my challenge to you this week. How much of your Easter Sunday dinner can you source from local producers?
Yes, it will have to be a conscious decision and, perhaps it will take you off the beaten path every now and again, but variety is the spice of life and Easter is a special occasion. I’m urging you to try some local lamb and other meats, local vegetables and the myriad of local cheeses available. In the Tipperary environs you can get everything from a cookie to a mushroom made and grown locally. All it takes is a little adjusting from the normal route of convenience where everything is sourced in one supermarket. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for supermarkets but every now and again let’s try something different. We live in a county with luscious pastures, fantastic soil and passionate food producers and yet out of habit we often forget in favour of convenience. When we do that we miss out on great flavours, great taste and great local food.
If you need inspiration you can always check out tipperaryfoodproducers.com. There you will find a list of all the food and the producers that should spark some ideas. By all means drop into James Whelan Butchers where we will be happy to throw out some suggestions or go to our website at Jameswhelanbutchers.com. No excuses now, shop locally this Easter and I would love to get some feedback on how you get on! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers