We let the hens go when we put the house up for sale. I’m regretting that decision now. In a time of #Lockdown I quite like the idea that you can have a constant supply of fresh eggs for very little work.
The Irish Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is encouraging everyone to try their hand at planting salads to supplement the food supply. That might not be such a bad idea if supply chains from Spain become disrupted.
The last time we faced a situation like this was during “The Emergency”. This is the name that was given by the Neutral Irish Government to the events that most people refer to as World War 2. Food supply was a key issue for the young Irish Nation. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Éamon de Valera lamented in 1940: “No country had ever been more effectively blockaded because of the activities of belligerents and our lack of ships…”
Ireland was a net food exporter and it was vital for our economy that food exports reach our largest market in Britain. But we relied heavily on imports for Coal, Fuel Oil, Bread Wheat, Citric Fruits, Tea, Coffee and luxuries such as chocolate.
Irish sailors of the mercantile marine referred to those years as “The long watch”. Twenty percent of our merchant mariners perished in those years. Initially the Irish ships joined in with the convoys organised by the British to protect their fleets. But Irish losses led to a change in strategy. The Irish vessels were painted large and gaudy with neutral markings and sailed alone. The strategy had mixed results. Many German Captians respected the Neutral position of Ireland, but a few took a different view. As Britain was the major beneficiary of Irish food exports many Germans viewed Irish shipping as a valid target.
My father was born in 1927. He had vivid memories of working alongside his father in a rented allotment to supply the family with fresh vegetables during the war years. He paid for his school books by bundling and selling onion thinnings (scallions) door to door. Mature onions were dried on a flat roof, accessed by climbing out the window of their quarters in McKee Barracks.
To put in perspective how valuable food was they used to have a dish for breakfast called “Mock Tripe”. Basically this is a dish of onions boiled in milk with salt and pepper. What I find funny about this is that when you make “mock” dishes it is usually replacing a luxury dish with a cheap one. The classic “Mock Turtle Soup” is a dish which replaces expensive turtle with the meat from the head of a calf. But tripe is not and has never been luxury food. It was not even on the ration book during the Emergency. Why call a dish “mock tripe”?
Every time we visited my Grandmother we were treated to her speciality: bread pudding. A habit begun of necessity in the war years that she maintained all her life. Stale bread was stored in a special enamel pail, soaked in water until she had enough for a pudding. It was mixed with dried fruit, sugar and spices and baked in the oven. Served with hot custard.