A letter from Darina Allen: How the years have flown and the food has changed

A letter from Darina Allen: How the years have flown and the food has changed

It came as quite a surprise to learn that I had been writing my Weekend column in the Irish Examiner for 21 years — how the years have flown by and how the food scene has changed in Ireland over those two decades.

Food trends have come and gone and been replaced with other super foods and drinks. As we travel more and more we have become so much more adventurous in our taste.

In the late 1990’s we couldn’t get enough garlic bread but we were still wary of chilli and spices. Jamón, charcuterie and fermented foods are no longer unfamiliar, tapas and sharing plates have become a favourite way to eat.

It’s good to see that during that time we have become increasingly aware of the importance of eating seasonal food and seeking out fresh, local, nutrient dense food to nourish ourselves and our families and there’s a growing awareness of the link between the type of food we eat and how we feel both physically and mentally.

I’ve brought recipes back from my travels around the world from Asia to South America, Copenhagen to Burma and shared the many delicious things I’ve eaten.

Nonetheless, I am constantly reminded of the importance of including delicious dishes that the whole family will enjoy when they tuck into a home cooked dinner around their kitchen tables.

An occasional column on baking and bread-making always gets a positive response but there’s a growing awareness of the need to dramatically reduce our sugar intake.

When I started my column 21 years ago, we were all being encouraged to eat low fat produce and polyunsaturated oil. Regular readers will know I was never a believer and continued to use pure butter, cream, extra virgin olive oil, all of which are a short cut to flavour, wholesome and nourishing.

I wish I’d kept some of the letters that berated me for not using low fat products and I particularly remember one that asked ‘have you no sense of responsibility — you should be ashamed of yourself’.

At last the research has conclusively proven that there is absolutely NO link between good fats and cardiovascular disease rather the opposite.

I used my column to encourage my readers to seek out as much chemical-free food as possible and to emphasise that our food rather than supplements and meds should be our medicine.

Also to share my concerns about the genetic modification of food, the deterioration in the national diet and the impact of ultra-processed foods on the health of the nation.

I have greatly enjoyed writing my column over the years and special thanks to the Irish Examiner and to my readers who have engaged so enthusiastically with the column.

Let’s continue to pass on cooking skills to all your children and grandchildren, boys and girls and make sure that not even one of the next generation leaves our homes and schools without the basic life skills to feed themselves deliciously and spread joy all around them – ‘the way to everyone’s heart is still through the tummy’.

Don't miss our special keepsake supplement free with Saturday's print edition where we’ve gone behind the scenes at Ballymaloe Cookery School to meet the team who train the culinary stars of tomorrow ... and get a sneak peek at some of their favourite recipes.

A letter from Darina Allen: How the years have flown and the food has changed

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