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‘Tickling the Palate’

Gastronomy in Irish Literature and Culture

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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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‘We Managed’: Reflections on the Culinary Practices of Dublin’s Working Class Poor in the 1950s

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The arrival of the 1960s brought about a major cultural shift in how Irish women viewed their roles, whereby as a result of, among other things, the modernisation of the kitchen environment, working women could be freed from what was, up to this, a daily grind to provide meals for their families. Furthermore, in appearing to have more time and money at their disposal, these women were increasingly encouraged by publications such as The Irish Housewife to engage in leisure pursuits such as art and travel. However, while the 1960s symbolised the ‘shaking off’ of the chains of drudgery, the previous decades were an altogether different proposition. Set in a time where there was little in the way of storage facilities or labour saving equipment, the economic challenges for those on low income were considerable. Additionally, high levels of unemployment, large families, wayward husbands, excessive control exerted by the Catholic Church, and poor housing conditions, further conspired to make the lot of the urban housewife or mother even more challenging.

During the 1950s, economically speaking, a three tiered society co-existed in Dublin. And while this decade has been described as ‘the lost decade’ (Keogh et al. 2004) and ‘the decade of the vanishing Irish’ (O’Brien 1953), recent research has shown that Dublin, on a per capita basis, could be considered the gastronomic capital of the British Isles for much of the 1950s. This argument is based particularly on two award winning ‘world class’ restaurants (Restaurant Jammet...

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