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‘Tickling the Palate’

Gastronomy in Irish Literature and Culture


Edited By 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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The Elusive Landscape of History: Food and Empowerment in Sebastian Barry’s Annie Dunne



Waiting for Godot has been described as a play in which nothing happens, twice. Annie Dunne is a novel in which nothing happens many times. The eponymous protagonist is an unmarried woman in her sixties who lives with her similarly solitary cousin Sarah in a Wicklow farmhouse. In the summer of 1959, they are asked to care for their grand-niece and grand-nephew whose parents are going to England to seek work.

Not much else happens. There are copious descriptions of the daily agricultural round, the introduction of a farm laborer, Billy Kerr, who has designs on Sarah, and some hints about possible child sexual abuse. These plotlines are abandoned unresolved, as if Barry couldn’t be bothered to do anything more with them. What is most disappointing is that the writer’s touch with prose seems to have deserted him. I very much hope his next book sees a return to form.

(Sweeney 2002)

Such is the conclusion of Eamonn Sweeney in his review of Sebastian Barry’s 2002 novel, Annie Dunne, which appeared in The Guardian soon after the book’s publication. While Sweeney’s comments are comprehensively dismissive, their credibility is undermined in several ways. The second paragraph contradicts the first one by allowing that not much ‘else’ happens in the novel, which means that some things must indeed transpire – and ← 79 | 80 → this essay will demonstrate that there are a number of crucial potential and actual life-changing occurrences that befall the principal characters....

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