For generations, the words “vegetarian” and “Irish” “were an oxymoron as a diet of choice as distinct from grim necessity . Today in a country where food standards have become more ambitious but remain notoriously uneven, Denis Cotter from Cork does the revisionist thing, to graft new ideas upon tradition for the Guardian.
In a country that spent much of the last few hundred years in poverty, it’s a bit rich expecting us to have concocted a food culture that would stand up as a coherent cuisine. As a vegetarian chef, there is even less for me to cling on to.
Far from seeing this as a disadvantage, however, I’ve always seen this absence of a strong food tradition as an opportunity to create a new, modern culture unburdened by the need to look over our shoulders or to feel the weight of past masters’ eyes on how we work. I have long argued that, when it comes to food, Ireland is a New World country, with all the freedom that gives us to import ideas and make them our own.
There has been a massive food revolution in Ireland over the last 20 years or so. It may have started with a hunger for imported ingredients and dishes, but it gradually morphed into something rooted in the best aspects of a culture, place and people.