Tuesday 23 January 2018

On the food trail

Aingeala Flannery

Ui Rathaile is taking me to Oxegen with him. It's what you do when you've become "an item". He doesn't like this expression. So I use it all the time. The fact of the matter is he would rather go to Oxegen without me, and I would rather stay at home and listen to my iPod as I hang out the washing. Neither of us is willing to admit to this unromantic truth, though. It would undermine the fact that he and I have become, y'know, "an item".

Going to a music festival with Ui Rathaile is like playing house for the weekend. A taste of what cohabitation would be like, albeit in a tent. A tent? Am I really going to sleep in a tent. Yes, apparently I am, and my three-day challenge is not to complain about it. Ui Rathaile says he will carry the tent, one sleeping bag, a bottle of Listerine and his cigarettes. He plans to wear the same jeans and T-shirt for the entire weekend. My rucksack (on loan) is already over capacity and I've yet to pack Handisan and my Braun Independent.

How am I to charge my iPhone? What if we lose each other and have no way of making contact? I notice this doesn't seem to bother him, but he brushes the accusation aside, saying we'll be inseparable. This segues into a conversation about the bands we're going to see, which in turn mutates into an almighty row because I want to see Kate Nash, and he says the only way he's going to see Kate Nash is if she's being burned at the stake and he gets to throw petrol on her.

We agree to differ and I propose Goldfrapp as a compromise, but he's having none of it, and accuses me of being one of those women who only wants to listen to something called "oestrogen-driven caterwauling". In a bid for self-defence I mention Paolo Nutini, which plunges him into an apoplexy of despair. In the end, the only act we agree on is The Stranglers, and I am left in no doubt that while he loses an eye in The Prodigy mosh pit, I'll be surveying the food stands.

Stick to what you know, he says. I fake submission, humour him with a kiss, and privately conspire to poison him. For some people, eating out off a paper plate on a patch of flattened grass is the ultimate in al fresco dining. I'm not one of those people. I shall be bringing proper cutlery. Ui Rathaile will be eating with his hands "like an African soldier". It has not gone unnoticed that he expects me to have a hot dinner to hand when he returns sweaty and hungry to our polyethylene cave.

If Ui Rathaile had his way, we'd be eating quarter pounders for breakfast, dinner and tea. There's no shortage of burgers at Oxegen, Rock & Relish, GBK and Fine Burger will be catering to those with a gourmet persuasion, but I'll be insisting on the more traditional yankee-style patty from Grafton Street stalwart Captain Americas. And, I forewarn him, we will be eating fish and chips on the Friday, courtesy of London outfit Seacow who, for my money, sell some of the best festival grub around.

I'm smart enough to know there's no point in badgering Ui Rathaile about food, he'd only swing the other way and drink beer for breakfast. So I've hatched a plan to be first in line at the Juice Boost stand for the breakfast smoothie rush. If I have to administer it intravenously, he's taking it. After that he can contaminate himself with Camel Lights and caffe Americano, of which, I'm told, there will be no shortage.

Will there be noodles? he wants to know. I feel the same way about noodles as he does about Kate Nash, so I lie and tell him there won't be. He can sniff out Wok & Roll for himself, but I doubt he'll take the initiative. And I warn him if he wants Abrakebabra or Dominos Pizza, he can eat alone. No sooner have I said it, but I see this risible threat for what it is: permission to slobber. Men prefer to eat kebabs when they're on their own.

The organisers of Oxegen are promising barbecues by Fireworx and Monty's BBQ Shack, neither of which I've heard of, but if the weather's good enough, I'll definitely be checking them out. I'm a sucker for the aroma of meat cooking in the open air, so returning vendors such as Eat Fat Pig and The Welsh Hog Company, who roast pork on a spit, feature pretty high on my must-eat list. Ui Rathaile says he's relieved that I've finally sanctioned a quadruped for him to eat.

He's further appeased by the promise of a Jalfrezi from the authentic and reliable curry wallahs at Jaipur. I suspect we'll be eating there more than once. However, there are some debutantes at this year's Oxegen, into whose fare I shall be sticking the anointed fork. Among them Pure Pie and Paella Events. Otherwise, perennial traders worth a gander include Flaming Cactus, Wraps Galore and Goodness Gracious, whose falafel and hummus have been a big hit with the veggie contingent in previous years.

Ui Rathaile has drawn up an itinerary of who's on when and where. I nod submissively, bite my tongue, and wait for my turn to give him a rundown on the grub. Having told me to stick to what I know, he proceeds to take the good out of it by declaring that food is only fuel. Oxegen is all about the music, he says. You'll see when we get there.

If we bloody get there.

Irish Independent

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