Chef Barry McLaughlin cooks some pretty special stuff. I once ate close to his entire Poacher’s Inn menu during a photo shoot. (Photography may be not be as well paid as it once was, but there are still perks – though I should stop wondering why my waistline won’t shift).
Barry speaks beautifully about his food and the thinking behind it. Watching him work is mesmerising. He moves fluidly and quickly, producing sumptuousness in minutes.
On Wednesday, we spent some time together and came up with this:
Brill with Truffled Savoy Cabbage and Crispy Bacon from Roger Overall on Vimeo.
Baker kneading dough © 2012 Roger Overall
Making food requires skill. Watching a butcher make sausages or a baker knead dough is mesmerising – to me, at least. Their hands move faster than it seems possible for their brain to control. And when they are done, they have crafted something that I can’t. They’ve also produced something that I really want.
It’s a shame, then, that proper butchering and baking skills seem to be dying out. A high-end butcher friend of mine laments the demise of his craft. He is keeping the flame burning, but worries about the next generation. He once told me of a prediction made at a meat conference in the US: “Soon the only two cuts of meat available will be steak and mince.”
Partly that’s because it’s what the consumer wants. And what the consumer wants, the consumer gets. They barely know any different, because the number of skilled butchers who can show them different is declining. So they stick to what is familiar. It’s a vicious circle.
Some say it’s too late for the tide to turn. Society has progressed too far down the track away from artisan food production, they counsel.
So we should enjoy watching skilled food producers at work while we still can.
Maybe in doing so we can contribute to the slowing, if perhaps not the halt, of society’s dash towards the embrace of ever more industrialised food production.
This is a repeat of a post that previously appeared on the now defunct Cork Foodie blog. I was struck by the date, so it seemed appropriate to give it a second lease of life today. Sadly, due to a range of circumstances, we haven’t been back to Douglas farmers’ market as much as we would have liked in the past 12 months.
Fish at Douglas Farmers’ Market © Roger Overall 2012
“Look at the fish, Em,” I say.
“Eeeeeeeeow!!!” my daughter replies.
She is far more interested in the stand where she can buy gingerbread men. She wants to know how much the smallest ones cost. The lady on the stand tells her 50 cents. Emily is very disappointed. She only has five euros, not 50. I bend down on a knee and explain that each euro is worth 100 cents. She’s learning about money in primary school right now, but she can’t quite make the leap from classroom into the practical world on her own yet. The news about the euro perks her up. She buys two small gingerbread men.
Next she goes to a cake stand. She asks about buying a box of six fairy cakes, but they cost five euros. She understands that she doesn’t have that left, so she buys a single cake instead and races off to sit down opposite the fish stand to eat it.