Gastronomy in Irish Literature and Culture
Edited By Máirtin Mac Con Iomaire and Eamon Maher
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.
The Rituals of Food and Drink in the Work of John McGahern
John McGahern (1934–2006) was a writer with a keen sense of place. His novels and short stories are mainly set in the northwest midland counties of Leitrim and Roscommon and they bring to life a vast array of characters and situations that provide invaluable insights in relation to what it was like to live in traditional rural Ireland during the middle and later decades of the last century. Religion, the land, complex familial relations, emigration, the dancehall phenomenon, sexual abuse in the home, all these issues are courageously broached and realistically presented. McGahern’s stark portrayals also attracted the unwanted attentions of the Censorship Board, which saw fit to ban his second novel, The Dark, in 1965, for containing material that was deemed injurious to public morality. The banning led to McGahern’s dismissal from his position as a national school teacher in Scoil Eoin Baiste in Clontarf and to his temporary exile to England.
Given his insightful observation of Irish customs and practices, it is not surprising that food and drink feature to a significant degree in McGahern’s work. The rituals associated with eating and drinking are memorably evoked in both his fiction and prose essays. This chapter will explore the role these rituals play in the work of someone who was described by no less an authority than Declan Kiberd as ‘Ireland’s foremost prose writer in English now in Ireland’ (Kiberd 2002, p. 86). People’s eating and drinking practices tell us much about their...
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