Wednesday 21 March 2018

La Baguette? Here's our roll of honour

After Neapolitan pizza was granted Unesco heritage status, French President Macron wants recognition for the long thin loaf too. Bill Linnane enumerates the Irish cultural treasures that deserve a place on the list


Bill Linnane

From education reform to the French version of #MeToo (#BalanceTon Porc, which translates eloquently as #ExposeYourPig), President Emmanuel Macron has plenty to be getting on with, but this week he decided to throw his weight behind calls for the United Nations to recognise the traditional baguette as a 'cultural treasure'.

"The baguette is the envy of the whole world," he declared, following Unesco's decision to grant Italy's Neapolitan pizza 'heritage' status in December.

The Unesco Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage were created to protect and celebrate unique cultures around the world, and to ensure a record of uniqueness in the face of increasing homogenisation and globalisation. Given our cultural output, you would think this means Ireland has a few items on the list. However, we only have one - that Marmite of the ears, uilleann piping. For a country with so much culture and heritage, it seems a shame that this is our sole entry, but especially so once you see what other nonsense made the list ahead of us. Here are some potential entries from Ireland...

Black pudding

In Ireland we have a wonderfood that is much more compact than pizza and a lot more phallic than baguettes: the black pudding. Visiting a town like Clonakilty - the spiritual home of black pudding - it is not uncommon to see adults enjoying a healthy snack of a foot long black pudding, tearing off chunks of it to feed to their children, or, in high summer, slurping on a frozen pudding - or blood pop - to cool down. The black pudding is a country version of the spice bag - a load of meat you can't identify, mixed with spices, and stuffed into something else. The only difference is a black pudding is stuffed into the intestinal lining of an animal, while the spice bag comes in the sort of nondescript brown paper bag you'd usually carry porn home in.


Known for its stylised movement and heavy make up, Japan's Kabuki theatre is an ancient art form deemed worthy of inclusion on the Unesco list. Our equivalent of this would have to be Bosco. Despite being born without a pituitary gland, Bosco triumphed over adversity and went on to become Ireland's first intersex children's entertainer, whilst also championing homeless rights by living and working out of an actual box. Bosco's wooden performance is easily the equivalent of Kabuki theatre, and if we don't qualify with that, there's always Bosco's unique teleportation technology, the Magic Door, which allowed kids to be transported into a biscuit factory, where they spent the rest of their days fluffing Mikados for minimum wage.

Bad pints

Somehow the Belgians got on the list for their proud beer culture and we did not - surely a snub of our proud sesh culture. Perhaps it's because we chuck down the gatts, rather than gazing endlessly into a glass like Hercule Poirot trying to solve the mystery of the yeasty residue. We even have a beer equivalent to Casu marzu - the Sardinian cheese known for containing live maggots - as we are connoisseurs of The Bad Pint. This is a rare delicacy, best enjoyed with a friend ("have a sip of this and see if you think it's okay") and mused over for some time ("I should really send it back but sher it's half gone now"). It's rich, bitter flavour and rank aroma are a rare treat, but take a heavy toll as six hours after it, you will be requesting palliative care through a toilet door.

Macron with a baguette
Macron with a baguette

Dog fouling

Several countries across Europe and the Middle East are on the list for falconry, but here in Ireland there is one obvious equivalent: dog fouling. Similarly, it is a dance of man and beast, a struggle between domestication and wild nature embodied in the dog being let fly off the leash at the entrance to an estate, while the owner plays with their phone, stares at the sky or does just about anything to avoid eye contact with either the shame-filled dog or the glaring residents. Meanwhile, his dog leaves a human-sized turd worthy of a rosette at Crufts right in the middle of a group of kids playing soccer. Sated, the dog returns to the owner, they continue on their walk and the poetic ballet of man, nature and dog warden continues.

Rubbish graffiti

In Buenos Aires they have Filete porteño, a traditional painting technique. Our version of this is when young artists decide to leave their mark upon the world by spray painting the wall of a car park. Popular works to be found scattered around the country include the bold statement 'up the RA' or just the eternal question 'sex?'.

Throwing shapes

The Argentine tango made the Unesco list, but there are so many great Irish dances that deserve recognition, from the Siege Of Ennis to the elaborate exploration of space that desperate men do to DJ Otzi's 'Hey Baby (Uh Ah)', which involves wild flapping of arm and leg in the middle of the dancefloor at 2am, and meaningful intonation of the lyric "Hey, hey baby! I want to know if you'll be my girl". No is the answer, always no.

Tonight with Vincent Browne

Cyprus has Tsiattista poetic duelling, a form of folk rap battle where couplets are spat at rivals. Clearly our equivalent was Vincent Browne's show, a sort of Roman damnatio ad bestias for politicians. It was a joy to watch, like a humane form of badger baiting, if the badger was infected not with bovine TB but a quest for the truth, and the only baiting allowed was trying to avoid giving a direct answer. Granted, the Cypriot version of this ancient art involves rhyming couplets, but it can't be that hard to rhyme 'force of will' with 'Gorse Hill'.

Black pudding
Black pudding

Election dysfunction

Italy made the list for nothing more concrete than "celebrations of big shoulder-borne processional structures". It seems a shame that this was deemed worthy while our version of it, count centre celebrations, failed to make the cut. Anyone who has been in a regional count centre at 4am when the 15th recount is finalised and a winner declared hasn't seen the display of physical strength and Civil War bitterness that erupts. The winner is hoisted aloft, like a non-consensual ascent into heaven, as the joy becomes fear and then becomes mild back strain. Nonetheless, their supporters parade them around the room like a deity, jeering and booing at their rivals, already making plans for the carve-up of local contract work.

This list could go on and on, but surely we deserve a few more contributions to the heritage collection - after all, Cambodia, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines all made the cut for 'tugging rituals'.

Tonight with Vincent Browne
Tonight with Vincent Browne
Michael Healy-Rae and brother Danny are paraded around a count
Michael Healy-Rae and brother Danny are paraded around a count centre

Irish Independent

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