We have always included a travel page in our Food magazine but, of course, actual travel was not possible for the fantastic 2020 Christmas edition included with this week’s paper. Being a Canadian “blow-in” herself, Janine managed to still include an international dimension. Team ICL were tasked with recalling food memories from our pre-COVID-19 travels (Food magazine page 20).

I wrote about China and it was only when a tub of Avonmore’s new ghee landed on my desk that a different food memory came to mind. I recalled the first time I was introduced (with a raised eyebrow) to this product.

That was at a cookery class in Jaipur, India, in 2009. I cannot remember what we made but I do remember that ghee, clarified butter (milk solids removed resulting in a clear yellow fat, with a high smoke point), was integral to every recipe and it was not something we used at home.

Seems crazy doesn’t it? To replace a premium product with an alternative made from products that we didn’t grow here

You might think that the move to alternatives (fake meat, almond milk etc) is a new phenomenon, but butter has been contending with this challenge for decades. And butter is winning. Margarine eked away at the butter market over the last century. If I am honest, our house (I was not paying for the shopping so I am passing the responsibility) bought into the negative health claims surrounding butter in the 1990s and replaced it with “alternatives”. Flora is the one I remember most clearly.

Flora is a vegan, dairy-free vegetable spread made from plant oils crushed from rapeseed, palm, sunflower and linseed. Did this alternative ever challenge the butter shelf space in your fridge? Seems crazy doesn’t it? To replace a premium product with an alternative made from products that we didn’t grow here. But that is not to say that there is not potential for Ireland to produce more oil and protein crops. Stephen Robb, in agri careers this week, details the new crop science degree option starting in UCD in 2021.


Our Christmas traditions will be rocked this year. We are already constrained from doing the things we would normally do and that is set to continue. Last weekend, we visited Santa – virtually. We did this through the Santa the Experience platform. The experience had all the usual bits of excitement and the kids lit up when Santa mentioned their requested gifts and asked them had they been practising their various activities. No, it is not the same, but as Dr Mark Rowe says, we need to make the best of what we can do for this year. Be thankful that we are alive and able to celebrate it.

As for those traditions, yes, they are all a little up in the air. I read last week that there is a beef demand spike expected as Christmas dinners will have smaller numbers in attendance and the humble boeuf might replace its porcine and plucky pals. No offence to roast beef, and I sincerely hope beef farmers get a much-needed demand bounce, but nothing will separate me from one tradition – that full Christmas dinner. And what is a major ingredient in creating this most special of meals? You guessed it – butter.

Last year at the Women and Agriculture conference, Jess Murphy and Paul Flynn cooked up a feast and used enough butter to widen a few eyes in the audience. Why? Because in truth butter actually does make everything better. I wish that there was a way to spread butter over the whole country.

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