Food is what brings most of us together at Christmas. You can have the decorated tree and loads of presents under it, but it is the smell of a baked ham, the sharing of some of granny’s Christmas cake, or just the first bite of warm brown bread and smoked salmon which creates a true season of goodwill. Similarly, food is at the core of tourism and a linchpin of making our holidays truly sustainable. And this is why some food producers have realised that the product is a fundamental part of the fáilte and are offering services which enable you to put their fine fare on any self-catering cottage, castle or camping table in the country.
These are my food heroes, and the guys who are going to play a big role in keeping this part of our culture thriving. Localmarkets.ie is a website where you can buy all the produce you drool over at farmers’ markets or simply on their site and have it delivered to any place in Ireland. So, if you or your loved ones are renting a place for a Christmas get-together – whether it is in Fermanagh or Fermoy, Donegal or Down – you can get a great stock of fine Irish goodies in without any of the arguments about who is doing the shopping. And if you own self-catering accommodation, it would be great to let your guests know about this new service too.
Superb artisan breads from Arbutus Breads, organic chickens from Dan Ahern, vegetarian burgers from Dee’s Eat Well, Be Happy burgers, organic salmon from Old Millbank Smokehouse, fruit and vegetables from Organic Republic, chorizo and cheese from the famous Gubbeen Farmhouse, are just a few things you can pop in your cyber shopping basket, for true farm to front door service.
This is a food delivery scheme for life, not just for Christmas, and will be held up as a sustainable tourism case study by many countries when they hear of it. You just need to order three days in advance for your produce to arrive packed in an expanded polystyrene (EPS) box, fully recyclable and environmentally friendly. You can either time it with your arrival, or ask your accommodation provider to store it for you until you get there as the box temperature is kept at below four degrees until opened. Orders must be a minimum of €30, plus €5 delivery charge. You can even shop a month in advance, and so avoid making it part of your last minute to-do list before you head for the hills.
Another switched on food producer is James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel who also has an online delivery service. With an array of fine meat, this prolific butcher (and concessionary at the new Avoca market in Monkstown, avoca.ie) will have your pans doing plenty of seasonal sizzling. After being custom cut and weighed, the meat is packed into a temperature controlled box in a dedicated packing room and delivered the next day to your holiday hideaway. For orders of more than €100 delivery is free to anywhere in the 32 counties, otherwise delivery is €10. Both sites are worth bookmarking and ‘liking’ on Facebook, and get your orders in, for a delicious start to your holiday.
An edited version of this article was published in The Irish Times, 3 December 2011