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‘Tickling the Palate’

Gastronomy in Irish Literature and Culture


Máirtin Mac Con Iomaire and Eamon Maher

This volume of essays, which originated in the inaugural Dublin Gastronomy Symposium held in the Dublin Institute of Technology in June 2012, offers fascinating insights into the significant role played by gastronomy in Irish literature and culture.
The book opens with an exploration of food in literature, covering figures as varied as Maria Edgeworth, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Enid Blyton, John McGahern and Sebastian Barry. Other chapters examine culinary practices among the Dublin working classes in the 1950s, offering a stark contrast to the haute cuisine served in the iconic Jammet’s Restaurant; new trends among Ireland’s ‘foodie’ generation; and the economic and tourism possibilities created by the development of a gastronomic nationalism. The volume concludes by looking at the sacramental aspects of the production and consumption of Guinness and examining the place where it is most often consumed: the Irish pub.
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‘Know Me Come Eat With Me’: What Food Says about Leopold Bloom


James Joyce’s Ulysses1 tells the story of a day in the life of a city. The city is Dublin in 1904 and the main protagonists are Leopold Bloom, an advertising canvasser with the Freeman’s Journal; his wife Molly, a singer who is having an affair with concert promoter Blazes Boylan; and Stephen Dedalus, a young teacher and writer. Each chapter of the novel is represented by a bodily organ, which gives life to the city, and an allotted hour of the day. Meals chart the progress of time and the story of Leopold Bloom unfolds through the foods that he eats.

In 1904, Dublin had a population of 404,000, which was one tenth of the whole country at that time. Since the Great Famine in 1845, when thousands starved to death, many more emigrated, and many more again moved from rural areas into the city, the majority of the people were still hungry and lived crowded together in tenements with no facilities. Ireland was part of the British Empire and Dublin was also home to a militia that lived in barracks and frequented the city’s many brothels (Somerville-Large 1979, p. 271), as well as being a major port en route from England to America and the Colonies.

At the same time, this was an era of intellectual change, and Leopold Bloom’s constant questioning and theories reflect the world he lives in. On the one hand, transport and industrialisation had changed available commodities and...

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