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Foraging for a treasure trove of nature’s food nuggets

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 17-May-2012

Anybody who grew up in and around the Irish countryside will probably have fond memories of picking blackberries, hunting for mushrooms and going on hazelnut hunts. It was simply part of growing up.

Nowadays, that kind of rural pastime has been ‘poshed up’ and been given the title of foraging.

Foraging is extolled by chefs from those in the renowned Noma in Copenhagen to Aniar restaurant here in Galway City. But strip away the fashionable labels and it’s simply about doing what people have always done, according to Connemara chef, Jonathan Keane.

Jonathan, who grew up on a farm a mile from Kylemore Abbey, is a big believer in using what’s in his own back garden and most mornings at this time of year can be found in the woods of Cong, hunting for nettles, fuchsia, gorse and various wild herbs. These will be used in the kitchens of Lisloughrey House where recently took over as head chef.

The 32-year-old, who grew up on a farm, is a big believer in using ingredients from the West of Ireland – mostly from a 50-mile radius. And he’s even happier if they are from his own back yard.

“When I was a young lad I was into that whole thing. My dad is a farmer and good cook and we grew up close to the sea so we always got the best of stuff,” he explains, adding that “it was before all the EU regulations came in”.

“It was a way of life; it wasn’t a big deal.”

But, he says, while he was reared on locally produced food, it’s only in recent years he has come to realise its worth.

“When I go on holidays I eat in Michelin star restaurants, because that’s what I love,” he explains. “In nearly every restaurant in England the meat is from Scotland and Ireland.”

It’s time Irish people realised we have better quality stuff here than in many countries, he feels. It’s a notion we have been slow to grasp here in the West, even when it comes to produce like fish.

“You’d talk to fishermen and they’d tell you about all the razor fish and winkles – tonnes of it being exported and not being used locally. I get on my high horse about that because it’s the finest in the world.”

Jonathan’s love affair with food was nurtured in his teen years when he got a job in Veldon’s Bar and Restaurant in Letterfrack, “washing pots and stacking shelves”.

“When I’d be washing, I’d be peering around the corner at the craic in the kitchen and there was so much action it really grabbed me,” he laughs. “It was a really high pressure game.”

He asked the chef to let him peel onions and was on his way!

“If you start showing interest, chefs are usually happy to take you under their wing.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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