Friday, 21 November 2014

A Taste of Success

More weird beers from SuperValu. The
wheat beer on the right was seriously
gassy and 'lager-like'. I am hoping for
better from the 'red' beer on the left.
We are doing the 'separation' thing again here. Liz took off to Silverwoods' on Wednesday to deliver the lamb meat to the troops down there as well as some goodly batches of the pork. She just made a flying visit of it that time, though, because today she was off again, this time to mind the Silverwoods' dogs and the parents (who also now live 'down' there) over the weekend. The Silverwoods are all de-camping to a hotel in Bray (South Dublin) over the weekend to be part of the All Ireland baton twirling competitions. The youngest (R) and the 2nd eldest (J-M) get involved in these and the whole family goes along but it is a bit of a mad-cap affair which goes on and on, with a gazillion clubs, groups and schools taking to the stage one after another to do their stuff and be judged while the 'fans' and any group members who aren't in that particular class whoop and holler like One Direction fans trying to maintain the myth that it's all dead exciting. Those not involved (Em-J, M, and 'Daddy' (Mr S)) or allowed time off from spectating duties will presumably adjourn to the hotel's other facilities (pool, gym, spa and (maybe) bar) to while away the long hours of baton twirling action.

The competition website.
I have been following with interest the progress of friend and pig-mentor, Alfie O, through the stages of the 'Taste of Success' competition run in collaboration between supermarket chain Lidl (Ireland) and National television station RTÉ. This involved various celebrity chefs around the regions but is trying to find a good new line in Irish food for Lidl to stock on the shelves of their 140-odd branches. Our man, Alfie, gave it a serious punt with his pork-burgers which he makes using neck fillets from his own traditional breed, high welfare, outdoor reared, organic and non-GMO pigs. He got selected to enter the round for the Munster province (SW 'quarter' of Ireland) and then shortlisted into the final 4 from Munster to go through to the next round where the four provinces met and the entry whittled down to 2 products from each.

The Old Farm business website
I have to admit that, coming from a super-marketing background and knowing what kind of volumes they deal with, I was a bit uneasy from the outset. There are very few producers in Ireland of such pork and, as far as I know, no commercial ones, just little small-holders like us with our 2 pigs for home consumption (and we don't even do the organic / non-GMO thing). The idea of being able to launch a food based on just the neck fillets on a super market scale worried me but Alfie is no fool and he would have known this. When the main chef/mentor (Paul Flynn) made just that comment as the pork burgers were dished up in the first all-Ireland round and the entrant missed the cut, Alfie was philosophical and very proud to have got as far as he had. He'd met a lot of nice people along the way (especially the organisers and 'crew', he said), tasted some excellent products and had a lot of fun plus, I expect, created a lot of really useful publicity. There are now a load more people in Ireland who know where to go if they want the best pork this small island can offer.

The O's family blog and recipe book!
The low volume and huge demand thing is just the modern super-marketing culture and effect in a microcosm. The small guy with his trad breeds and the trad breeds themselves have all but been sidelined by the big guys who only want cheap-as-chips 'commercial' pork based on the Landrace and white breeds, grown indoors, never sees the daylight, hospital-like pristine, hermetically sealed conditions. Our Tamworths, rootling in the 'dirt', grubbing up worms and dock and ground-elder roots, munching manky wind-fall apples and chatting to the dogs through the fence have no part in this. And they presumably never will while the Lidls of this world have a stranglehold on the market and the average punter has no idea what pork should taste like. Ah well. Their loss. It is reassuring that the likes of Alfie keep fighting the good fight and getting his pork and its story out there, even on national television where the country's cooks might just see the footage and be curious enough to hunt down some 'proper' flavoursome, succulent pig meat. Well done Alfie and Mrs O.

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