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Bandon Revisited

Well, not quite Bandon, but Hosford’s Garden Centre on the road out of Bandon towards Clonakilty, where John Hosford has built a handsome new emporium housing everything a gardener could possibly need, with a damn fine cafe to boot where they serve local food, some of it grown in their own gardens. He was hosting the West Cork Slow Food for Kids event and I was asked to launch it, which must mean I haven’t been barred from town after the Guerrilla Gourmet event in Bandon mart. Now, my child rearing days are pretty much behind me, what with my two boys being grown and just-about-nearly grown, as well as the recent intervention of the good Dr. Pillay. But the issue of what and how children eat is a very important element of our food culture and I was delighted to have the chance to make a contribution to a day that was designed to be a combination of fun and education.

One of the things that was on my mind on the drive out of Cork was the tendency that has developed to separate children’s meals from adult meals. The recent announcement of the hotel federation that they werre going to do away with the kid’s menu of chicken nuggets, sausages and chips was heartening, and I began to wonder if it wasn’t something we needed to do at home too. When I was a child, everyone ate the same -relatively simple – food, though allowances were made for things kids couldn’t face, like parsnips or the tongues of beasts of the field. Now, as we graze off the global menu, it seems we often assume the children won’t like it and feed them from the Delia Smith ABC book. Hang on, she hasn’t done that one yet, has she?

The day was bitterly cold but the bright sun was enough to encourage the stallholders, puppeteers and trad musicians to carry on, even through the single shower of hail that brought my meandering speech to a sudden halt. Phew, said the kids, and we ran inside one of the polytunnels to start a cookery demonstration. In a tiny space in front of about thirty adults, almost twenty kids crowded up the front close to the wooden table where I had a wok and a sandwich oven to work with. We made some fritters from celeriac, though when I held up the raw vegetable the adults admitted they wouldn’t expect their children to eat it and the kids said they wouldn’t want to. Nevertheless, they gobbled up the cooked fritters as fast as I could make them. Then we made what is unpretentiously known as the best cheese on toast in the world. When I told the kids that I was chopping the wild garlic, rocket and spinach so small so they couldn’t pick it out, they were intrigued as much as horrified. Yes, they gobbled it too. Then they made a sloppy mess of trying to eat the noodles with sprouting broccolli, carrot, coconut, lime and ginger with the few forks we had, and out of one serving bowl. I’d like to think it was the highlight of the afternoon but Peter Fitzgerald’s talk and demonstration of a functioning wormery stole the show for compulsive disgust, or disgusting compulsion. How many worms are in there? A couple of thousand? Uggghhh. Child heaven.

Before I left, I had a bowl of Olive Brennan’s fabulous lentil and roasted pepper soup. Then I caught the last few minutes of the puppet show, from off on the side where I could see the puppeteers. Isn’t that Mick Lynch with his hand up the big-nosed puppet, I thought, he of the legendary Cork band, Stump, the man who penned the immortal line ‘Charlton Heston put his vest on’? Indeed it was. Lucky kids. I got in my car and the radio came on, with the news that Charlton Heston had just died. Time for a Stump revival, maybe.

Posted on: 10 April 2008

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