Food for Thought

It may be a cliched title, but Litfest 2017 certainly did provide food for thought, and plenty of it. I was lucky enough to be volunteering and got to see plenty of the action between shifts.

This year the festival not only considered food and drink as a source of enjoyment, but considered the theme of responsibility from both a consumer and food provider perspective (indeed from a political perspective also, given the presence of the EU Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, who I unfortunately missed).

The best was I can summarise the talks is to have you think of concentric circles, starting with the individual and our own body, to family, food providers and restauranteurs, food industry, and society/culture.

We’re not just starting with the individual’s body, we’re starting inside it! Prof. Ted Dinan from UCC gave an engaging talk on Diet, Stress & Mental Health.  Dressed in a shirt and tie underneath a leather jacket, he spoke fluently without notes or Powerpoint. If I needed to see a psychiatrist, this is the man I’d like to see. Professor Dinan discussed the impact of diet and exercise on inflammatory markers, along with the need for healthy fats and the benefits of fermented foods: ‘What is good for your heart is good for your brain’.

Rory O’Connell and Margot Henderson discussed the joy of cooking, Rory recalling childhood memories of ‘egg in a cup’.

Joanna Blythman, Prof. Ted Dinan, Margot Henderson & Rory O’Connell on stage in the Grainstore

I was only briefly able to attend a talk featuring different grocers on the impact of inidvidual shopping habits. I was struck by Ruth Healy (of Urru, Bandon) commenting that where you spend your time is important- coming in and browsing in a shop and creating a sense of community, even if you’re not making a purchase on that occasion.

From cooking in our kitchen to eating in others’: Karen Leibowitz of The Perennial in San Francisco discussed the idea of going beyond conservation and minimising use of resources, to actually growing food in a way that draws down carbon and produces environmental benefits. Similarly, Christian Puglisi, a chef with multiple successful restaurants in Copenhagen, talked about the almost accidental move from becoming ‘just’ a restaurant, to multiple restaurants and how this led him to consider his own buying power. The result was a micro-dairy upstairs from his pizzeria, and onwards to establishing his own farm to provide his ingredients. Just like Ballymaloe & The Whimsical Bear then!

More on Litfest to follow….



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