As FOOD AND WINE moves into a new era, with an exciting rebrand, longtime contributors are taking the opportunity to reflect on what has gone before. Here, former FOOD and WINE Deputy Editor and current contributor, Aoife Carrigy shares her love of the title.
It was a sad day for me when FOOD AND WINE Magazine’s then-editor Miriam Atkins announced that the February/March 2018 issue was to be the last in print. The magazine was to move fully online. I had been writing for FOOD AND WINE for 13 happy years, including more than five full-time as Deputy Editor under a most colourful and learned hat-trick of editors: Ernie Whalley, Hugo Arnold, and Ross Golden-Bannon.
What a privilege those five years were. I learned so much from my colleagues and our regular contributors – from Raymond Blake’s ability to unlock the labyrinthine world of wine, Georgina Campbell’s encyclopaedic mapping of Irish food’s geography, Stuart Clark’s culinary adventures in a newly multicultural Ireland, the late Gerry Galvin’s lifetime’s worth of food philosophy, and the late Charlotte Coleman Smith’s elegant interviews with luminaries of what Chapter One chef Ross Lewis calls the ‘great Irish food family’. The highest privilege of all was to be welcomed into that family. Yes, I got to travel to Cornwall and Catalunya to meet heroes like Rick Stein and Ferran Adria. Yes, I got paid to go eat in gorgeous restaurants and write about them. But honestly, the most exciting aspect was to be entrusted to share the stories of all the grafters, the pioneers and the crazy against-all-odds visionaries who have brought modern Irish food on its gobsmacking journey. Our national food story might feel young, but isn’t it incredible how far we’ve come?
My time at the magazine didn’t get off to the most auspicious start: the interview process included an informal meet-and-greet in a local hotel bar with Ernie, who I spotted scoring me 3/10 on his notes. It turns out he was scoring the coffee for his Espresso Watch column. I soon realised that Ernie wasn’t nearly as intimidating as well as the magazine's hyper-loyal readership, many of whom had read and retained every issue since it was first published in 1997. Could I ever know the magazine as well as them? I now have my own set of FOOD AND WINE magazines. They span from before my own first issue as a staff editor in March 2006, in which Ernie reflects on a newfangled ‘molecular mixology’, to long after my last issue as Deputy Editor in October 2010, when my feature on beer and food pairing and Raymond’s first-ever blind beer tasting heralded the arrival of a new era for Irish beer drinkers.
Flicking through those magazines, stand-out features include the April 2006 ‘How to Cook Your Pet’ special by ‘omnivore chef’ Jimmy Har Pang (aka Mr Whalley in full April Fool mode) with advice on everything from how to fillet a budgerigar to that ‘ultimate convenience food’, tortoise (a veritable ‘strolling crusty pie’). I loved Ernie’s mischievous way of raising serious questions about what we will and won’t eat.
Another favourite appears in one of Ross’s first issues as editor (October 2008). He marked the 50th birthday of the Irish Georgian Society by commissioning food historian Nuala Cullen and chef Ed Cooney of The Merrion Hotel to recreate a wedding banquet from 1764. The sumptuous 11-page photoshoot illustrates what a single ‘course’ looked like before service ‘a la Russe’ (consisting of separate starter, main and dessert courses) became de riguer: the ‘a la Francaise’ table heaves with sweet and savoury dishes, from lobster pie, chestnut soup with pigeon and duck à la mode to orange and lemon puddings, jelly and macaroons – and the ultimate status symbol of the time, a fresh pineapple.
The past and the future
Perhaps the most revealing of all was written by Hugo in June 2007, in which he reviews 10 years of FOOD AND WINE features and all the changes in Irish and international gastronomy that they reflect. He recalls meeting publisher Kevin Kelly, editor-to-be Jason Cooke and features editor Trevor White for lunch in The Unicorn (where else?) and being asked to contribute to the first FOOD AND WINE issue in 1997 alongside the likes of Paolo Tullio, Mary Dowey and Raymond Blake. “This was the most exciting thing to have happened on the food front in Dublin ever, as far as I was concerned,” Hugo remembers. “This meant a seriousness about both food and wine that simply had not happened until then.”
In that same 10th anniversary issue, contributor Haydn Shaughnessy predicts what the next 10 years might bring, including the rise of street food, the revival of fermentation and food preservation skills – and the transformation of FOOD AND WINE from a printed magazine to something “available over the internet on-demand and through mobile phones”. He foretells that this change will mean “we will be where you need us most, when you need ideas, facts, recipes, images, trends or demonstrations…” How right he was. And how glad I was when – six months after that last printed issue – the talented, knowledgeable and committed advocate of Irish food that is Dee Laffan stepped into the role of editor of the new online FOOD AND WINE Ireland. I can honestly think of no better professional to steer this beloved food and drink title into what I’m sure is an exciting future. I have since stepped into my own new role, as Dublin restaurant critic with my fortnightly Friday evening reviews. And it feels as much of a privilege as ever to be part of a dynamic team of committed contributors, of the wider Irish food family and, most importantly, of the community of ever-curious FOOD AND WINE readers.