The promotional spiel for the Bunratty Castle Banquet reads that over three million people have experienced this unique meal since it started in 1963.
Up until last weekend, when the opportunity to go with an international visitor presented itself, I had never been.
Although designed for the international traveller, it is a very entertaining evening.
After a glass of mead (honey wine) you dine in the Great Hall, entertained with music from the Bunratty Castle singers (and they can sing).
A big effort is made to keep the conversation and experience in the tone of the medieval times right down to only providing a knife as cutlery.
The meal was soup and brown bread, ribs, chicken and vegetables, and an apple pie. Good but, alas, no butter appeared.
I consider butter a table staple so I did ask and was (half-jokingly) informed that medieval people were lactose intolerant.
I laughed! When this was not returned, I with very raised eyebrows asked “are you serious, no butter?”
On the lactose intolerance of medieval people I can obviously offer no first-hand experience, but history would appear to refute this.
Considering that stashes of butter dating back 3,500 years have been dug out of our peat bogs, trying to fit this particular ruse into the character of the evening was pretty futile.
The deposition of butter in bogs in Ireland dates from at least the Early Bronze Age, with historians suggesting it was actually the Middle Ages when butter became really popular.
Not just with peasants who valued it as a cheap source of solid nutrition, but the nobility who used it to cook and add taste to meat and vegetables.
A look on Tripadvisor suggests the lack of butter was not always the case at the banquet either.
Butter is part of our history, the bog butter a testament to that
I continued my journey to another event the following evening in a hotel in Galway City. Again, great food but no butter on the table. In this instance, once asked, a butter dish did appear.
Is this common now across food service? Has the increasing price of ingredients driven this move away from showcasing our best products to our visitors?
Instead of blaming a food allergy, would it be closer to the truth that economics are driving this decision, with butter now deemed too expensive to serve to our US visitors?
While appreciating the difficulties we are all facing with inflation and rising costs, I think the opportunity to introduce three million people to our grass-fed yellow creamy butter surely should not be passed up on.
Butter is part of our history, the bog butter a testament to that.
Continuing with a tourism food theme, Ciara for her holidaying at home feature met with members of the Athlone Food Circle who aim to celebrate the gastronomy of the midlands.
There is no denying that food connects people. We gift it and invariably will encourage people to try the foods we love.
In late 2020, I interviewed John and Ann Commins about their Piedmontese cattle business, Blackcastle Farm. While sitting in their kitchen, a group gathered for an art class.
One lady had brought chocolates and she kindly gave me a box. These were some of the first chocolates to be produced by Daniel Linehan and Georgia Quealy of Praline Chocolates – members of the Athlone Food Circle.
The lady I met that day was Georgia’s mam. Every food connection can be important. Food is an integral part of the travel experience for many – butter included.