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Cork Independent


New home for Myrtle Allen’s archive at UCC

Wednesday, 8th May, 2019 5:03pm

UCC is the cat that got the cream after acquiring an archive of Myrtle Allen's papers.

Almost a year after Mrs Allen's passing in June 2018 at the age of 94, the university also announced that its first Myrtle Allen Memorial Lecture, which is to become an annual event in honour of the pioneer in Irish food, will take place today, Thursday 9 May.

Spanning over 100 years, the Myrtle Allen Archive is an insight into a woman whose ethos and approach to cooking and Irish produce would come to frame, structure and direct much of how we engage with contemporary Irish food culture.

Thursday's lecture will feature speakers including one of the most respected food writers in the world, Claudia Roden, the Michelin starred chef, Ross Lewis and John McKenna of McKennas’ Guides.

Mrs Allen kept meticulous records and the archive includes journals from the restaurant, daily menus, inherited hand-written family manuscript recipe books, correspondence with producers and chefs, restaurant and hotel reviews and scrapbooks of traditional recipes sent to her by readers of the Irish Farmers Journal.

There are letters of advice to fledgling chefs, drafts and proofs of her 1977 book, ‘The Ballymaloe Cookbook’, and photographs and files that reflect her interest in history, local history, genealogy and travel.

“We are delighted that UCC has chosen to take our mother's papers,” said Mrs Allen's daughter, Fern.

“She kept meticulous records and it is wonderful to know that they will be preserved and stored safely and that they will be available in time for study and research.”

UCC Food and Culinary Historian, Regina Sexton, who has been researching Mrs Allen's work since 2013, said: “What made her different was that she wasn’t swayed by outside influences but rather she aimed to validate the internal, she looked inward and strove to elevate what was good home-produced food to such a high status that we could be confident in believing that Irish food was some of the best the world could produce.

“This approach was viewed as counter-productive, if not damaging to efforts at economic, social and agriculture improvement and development. A break with tradition and custom was presented in popular and populists narratives as one means to escape stagnant and backward lifestyles and what is interesting to observe is that we have now come full-circle in trying to recapture and understand our food heritage and this was something she did as a matter of course, it was ingrained in her guiding principles.”

The Myrtle Allen Archive will be housed at the Boole Library in UCC.

“We are honoured to become the guardians of the works of Myrtle Allen whose legacy extends far beyond our borders and across generations. It is fitting that these archives will reside in UCC, in a region that has a deep heritage in the craft and art of food,” commented Professor Patrick O’Shea, President of UCC.

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