On Sunday, September 15th, the Irish Food Champion Assembly will host Boxty Without Borders on the Belcoo Bridge, an event that celebrates unity, connections and the humble potato dish of boxty.
The Belcoo Bridge, which connects Fermanagh with Cavan, Northern Ireland with the Republic, has been the focus of lots of Irish and international media since Brexit first originated. Now, with the Brexit deadline looming, Irish Food Champions will host a dinner for 150 guests along the bridge, with seats running from one county to the other, highlighting the region's connectedness.
Boxty, the classic potato dish, is native to this region, so will be the key dish of the evening. Chef Gearoid Lynch will lead the event, which will utilise produce from the region's local suppliers. Guests will start the day with a local Double Gin Punch from Fermanagh’s Boatyard Distillery featuring blackthorn honey, Armagh apple juice, gorse sherbet and wild blackberry bitters. Then the menu features wonderful seasonal produce including Carlingford oysters, Lough Neagh eel, and a ham hock terrine made using rare breed pork from Rigneys Farm, Limerick. Pan-fried boxty using potatoes from both sides of the border will follow served alongside slow-cooked short rib of beef, finished on fire pits by chef Gearoid Lynch. Autumn garden greens, heritage potatoes from Ballymakenny Farm, Corleggy goats cheese and freshly baked batch bread will also be served, accompanied by Armagh Cider and Jack Smyth Beers.
After the delicious lunch, which costs €60 per person, an artisan producers' market will be open for the public to enjoy, with delicious food and products available for perusal. Local musicians will be onsite too, providing a soundtrack to the day.
Speaking ahead of the event, food tourism activist John Mulcahy said, “In highlighting boxty, we are creating a higher awareness of the value of food as a cultural language that is easy for anyone to not only understand, but also use to interact with others whether they are locals or visitors.
This event will also contribute to raising awareness of the region, its food and beverage products and experiences and the benefits of tourism not only to domestic and international visitors, but also to locals irrespective of any sort of boundaries.
Boxty Without Borders is an introduction, if not a reminder, to all locals and visitors of the incredible potential that exists in the region around Belcoo Bridge, particularly counties Cavan, Leitrim, Fermanagh and Tyrone. Although this is a once-off event, the hope is that it will serve as an exemplar of what is possible and will set the groundwork for future food, beverage, and tourism collaboration. For the Irish Food Champions, who are based all over Ireland and working together as a collective, it is also instrumental in demonstrating the benefits of how food and beverages, agriculture and tourism, working together, can be the industry of every parish and village.”
Boxty is particularly prominent in this region, so it is symbolic that this event will highlight this local dish in the current political climate. Speaking about the menu, chef Gearoid Lynch said, "The menu for Boxty Without Borders bloomed from the first concept of serving the local dish boxty to people on the Bridge of Blacklion and Belcoo. In years gone by food traditions were determined by people, not borders, which only emerged in the 18th century, and boxty is a great example of that. Food is best when it is shared, so we designed the menu with dishes that could be passed from one person to another to create togetherness. Each element of the menu was added to compliment another and to highlight the bounty that exists in the local larder. We looked at what is available to us and provenance and sustainability are core to us. Fermanagh Bacon, Lough Neagh Eel, Gigas Oysters from Donegal, Corleggy Cheese from Cavan will all feature on the menu alongside Pádraic Óg Gallagher’s traditional Leitrim Boxty."
Celebrating Irish food is particularly important to Gearoid, who says that boxty has personal significance to him, "Boxty is a dish indigenous to the region, along with the batch loaf it has so many, many memories for me from my childhood and with many variations most local people will have a memory of boxty being cooked in their home by parents or grandparents. We must celebrate the traditions of Irish food the way other cultures do and continue to recreate those memories that surround food."
While this is a one-off event, the Irish Food Champion Assembly hopes that the experience will inspire future events that celebrate heritage and connections. Speaking about the possible outcome of the event, Gearoid said, "Boxty Without Borders is the first event that we, The Irish Food Champions, will be hosting in Ireland. As a collective group of people, we are driven only by our passion for the food and drink that is produced on this island. For us all, we have used our collective experience and come together to create an event that celebrates food, communities and people coming together to share this experience. We will be hosting many events throughout Ireland with the same mission, to educate and promote Irish food and Drink and become the voice of all local producers, carrying their produce to the table and people of Ireland."
Tickets for the Boxty Without Borders Lunch are available for €60 per person here.