Saturday 16 December 2017

Kevin Myers: It is as if Irish people arrived here with their cattle and learned nothing about the land

Something odd is happening. In the middle of the greatest economic slump since the 1950s, Irish agricultural land-prices are soaring: €10,000 an acre. This is an astounding figure, but at least it does reflect the success of the Irish food industry. Our beef and lamb are superb. I recently did a blind, multi-national butter-tasting: Irish was easily the best.

We humans might find the Irish climate infuriating, but the livestock and the wildlife with which we share the land do not. Irish grass is rich and kind, while the untamed Irish landscape is rich in neglected foodstuffs: in rabbit and pigeon; in wild duck and pheasant, and on our uplands, grouse and partridge. Our rivers teem with neglected eel and pike and other finned and uneaten eatables. Watercress grows in our streams unharvested except by the incredulous Chinese, stunned at such bounty. Blackberries rot on the bramble each autumn.

I was in London before Christmas. I ate in three restaurants -- Simpson's on the Strand, Wilton's and Rules -- whose menus boasted steak and kidney pies and puddings, oysters, scallops, Dover sole, roast beef, pheasant, partridge, widgeon, goose, steamed puddings, and of course, Stilton, the emperor of traditional cheeses. These are quintessentially English foodstuffs: the feather, fin and fur of field and stream, and the beef and cream of the pasture. (And the staff in all three restaurants, though for the most part central European or African in origin, are impeccably English in manner: which is how it should be.) London boasts dozens of such restaurants.

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