Close to thirty years ago my new wife and I honeymooned in Ireland. We loved the people, the scenery, the hotels, the pubs, the B&B’s and of course, the Guinness. The food, not so much. Irish “Cuisine” at the time could best be summed up as fish & chips and boiled vegetables.
Have things ever changed!
Myrtle Allen is widely considered to be the matriarch of Irish Cuisine. Her restaurant, The Yeats Room, opened in 1964 in Ballymaloe, Cork eventually growing to become the widely acclaimed Ballymaloe Hotel and Restaurant. Myrtle had a unique take on traditional Irish farmhouse food relying solely on locally grown produce, fish and meat. This of course meant that the menu would change with the season. This approach is commonplace today but at the time it was a radical break from conventional food wisdom.
In 1977 she began to write about how terroir influences the taste of food. The concept was popular in wine circles but had never before been applied to food. Before long the Irish started eating out more and soon young adults begun to take an interest in serious cooking traveling to cooking schools around Europe.
By the beginning of this century, Ireland was becoming a ‘foodie’ destination with excellent, locally sourced restaurants the norm throughout the North and the ROI. Realizing that good food could be an important draw for tourists, the Irish Tourist Board began to devote significant attention to the development of local food trails around the country.
Today, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland lay claim to one of the strongest food cultures in Europe. Aspiring European chefs actually come to Ireland to study at the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School run by Myrtle’s daughter in law, Darina Allen.