Television review: Food, glorious food for thought
One Day: How Ireland Eats (RTE1)
I have always been a sucker for programmes about how things are manufactured, about how large operations are put together, about the logistics of producing a packet of wine gums or a carton of milk or even the object that you may be using right now, this newspaper.
If you gave me a choice between one of the better episodes of The Sopranos and some documentary about how they put the figs in the fig rolls, despite my veneration of the gangster drama, I would still have a decision to make.
When you see those programmes out there on the digital wasteland about the internal workings of the London Underground or the behind-the-scenes activities at a well-known department store, and you wonder who the hell would be watching something like that, now you know.
So you can imagine my reaction when I saw that RTE was showing One Day: How Ireland Eats, which took us through the supply chain at the end of which the people of Ireland can have something to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, supper, or whatever else they might be requiring in their complicated lives.
This was not just a look at one branch of Tesco, and how it all works. It was about all the Tescos in all the towns in all of the country, which are supplied from this unbelievably massive warehouse in Donabate, "the size of four Croke Parks".
Yes that is the stuff that I am looking for - anything that is the size of any number of Croke Parks, will immediately get my attention.
And this was not just about one supermarket chain, it was about the suppliers of vegetables and of all sorts of produce to outfits such as Avoca. It was about a chap in Ardee in the misty morning light, digging up vast quantities of potatoes, with this monstrous potato-digging machine, and a chap who just delivers fast food in his van to the people of Ennis.
There were scenes of sandwiches being mass produced in a sandwich-making factory, the butter being applied not by human hand, but squeezed out mechanically on a production line, in exactly the right measure every time - a vision of heaven, I tell you. And then there was the contrast with the small but beautifully formed operation which makes meals for people in private jets, individualistic enough to please the most demanding of diners, packaged enough to please me.
Though I took no less pleasure in the putting together of the weekly supplies of basic groceries at the Crosscare food bank in Dun Laoghaire, to those who desperately need them.
Nor could I ask any more of the good people at the large Irish Pride bakery in Taghmon, Co Wexford, not least the driver of the truck filled with sliced pans who makes the deliveries to Dublin and back, day after day - I salute you, sir.
Which brings me naturally to the army, and to the cadets on the firing rage in Kilworth, who would be given a choice of lunches by their excellent chef, cooking outdoors in all conditions, piling in the ingredients in just the right proportions to produce a load of chicken tikkas or numerous loaves of actual brown bread - theoretically he would be able to do this with a war going on.
Likewise at the Slieve Russell hotel, the making of the meals for a wedding party would require tremendous levels of discipline and confidence and coolness and just this thing called efficiency which brings this viewer such inexplicable satisfaction.
Catering… ah, I love a bit of the old catering. I could watch the crew at the Barack Obama Plaza all day, doing that thing that they do. And the commentary did not disappoint either - "in just one day in Ireland we'll spend €20m on snacks…that's along with five million cups of coffee, and 15m cups of tea"…
Bring it on, my friends, bring it on…
So it would probably not be enough to say that this was the best programme on television last week. I believe it just might be the best television programme ever made.
Sunday Indo Living