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Cork Independent

Bia Sasta

Myrtle Allen was a true Cork culinary pioneer

Wednesday, 5th September, 2018 4:30pm

Mrs Myrtle Allen passed away in June this year aged 94 and with her a legend in Irish food left the Irish food stage.

She was a food pioneer supporting artisan producers before it became a fashionable thing. The RTÉ documentary (‘Myrtle Allen: A Life in Food’) that aired recently showed the respect and love people had for her – food lovers, chefs and other food professionals looked up to her and celebrated her achievements.

When Ruth Healy of Urru in Bandon asked me if I would like to be the MC for her annual Rare Cookery Books Workshop in her shop, discussing the writings of Mrs Allen, I didn’t have to think about it.

Food historian Regina Sexton, who a few years ago, was given unique access to the recipe collection of Myrtle Allen will join me on Saturday in Urru in Bandon to discuss the wonderful life of Mrs Allen and look at her writings.

She started writing for the Irish Farmer’s Journal in 1962, which was published by Macra na Feirme of which she was Vice President in the Munster Region. You could see very early on that Mrs Allen wasn’t just content being a farmer’s wife and mother and in 1964, her dining room was turned into a restaurant.

Darina O’Connell joined her shortly after and together they started giving cookery lessons. That – as we all know – turned into Ballymaloe Cookery School and Darina became Mrs Allen’s daughter-in-law.

Myrtle Allen’s mantra was simple: the food had to be local, fresh, organic where possible, sustainable and prepared with respect. That concept was rule breaking at the time and the Michelin star she held from 1975 to 1980 was proof that she was not just a farmer’s wife who cooked.

Further acknowledgment of her reputation was an invitation to the epicentre of gastronomy. She was asked to run a restaurant in Paris and she could be seen taking the ferry regularly with the best of Irish produce, showcasing her cooking to a French audience.

Mrs Allen was a woman who didn’t see any limitations and went for what she believed in. So I was extremely honoured being asked to join in the celebrations of her writings.

The Rare Cookery Books workshop as part of the A Taste of West Cork festival takes place on Saturday 8 September from 4pm in Urru in Bandon. Tickets are €10 and can be booked directly from Refreshments in style of Ballymaloe will be served at the workshop.


Upcoming food events:

Until 9 Sept. FEAST - East Cork Food Festival

7 – 9 Sept. Waterford Harvest Festival

7 – 16 Sept. A Taste of West Cork

8 Sept. Rare Cookery Books Workshop

8 Sept. Airfield Festival of Food

11 Sept. Wild Fermentation Workshop

13 Sept. Local Artisan Food Fair

For more details on these and other upcoming food events, please go to

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