Food glorious food

Once it was just one of the basic needs of life, a fuel to survive, but food and our attitude to it has certainly changed course many times.

Not too many years ago Ireland boasted a sole "celebrity" chef, Sean Kinsella of the Mirabeau, which was the food hub for the country's politicians and elite. In Galway some may remember Lenihans - a rare pub that served hot food in contrast to the normal offerings of soup and sandwiches. Things took a turn when we were lucky in the west to welcome the late Gerry Galvin who, having established the Kinsale Gourmet Festival – brought his forward-thinking attitude to cuisine to Drimcong House in the eighties, educating us about using top quality local and seasonal food ingredients. Oyster festivals, too, have played their part, in promoting the best from the west and developing a festival known throughout the world.

Food, no longer just sustenance, reflects people and communities - something to savour for some, an enemy to others; one of the best means of social interaction, a reflection of our age and our culture. A whole new lexicon has been born - think degustation, deconstruction, composition - pretentious as it may sound - while the accompanying wine industry has blossomed in many countries as fields once for sheep have now been turned over to vines.

Certainly the appetite for food has been whetted by our ability to 'travel and taste', and that is reflected in Galway's food outlets today and the rise of the city as a gastronomic centre. It truly is incredible that more than 10,000 jobs are involved in the restaurant, retail and gastro pub trade in the city and county, not to mention the rise in local food producers and food markets.

Galway, always known for its artistic and cultural prowess, has another valuable string to its bow that continues to flourish and cannot be underestimated. Areas such as the West End, once on the city's edge, have now been crowned as Foodie Destinations. Thanks to Galway and the cultural diversity of its inhabititants, events such as the recent food festival continue to grow, setting new benchmarks for food tourism in Ireland, adding to the sense of community and pride in our place.

Linley MacKenzie

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