This month sees the fourth iteration of the dynamic and popular EAT-ITH food series at the Fumbally. Founder Aisling Rogerson tells us more about the core elements of this year’s programme, the inclusion of four weekly markets and what currently inspires her about food and drink in Ireland.
Aisling, this is the fourth year of EAT-ITH. Tell us what prompted the name and the thinking behind the series.
ITH is the Irish verb to eat, so it’s just a simple play on that; a series of events surrounding food and the ways in which we eat today, with a strong Irish focus. We’re not a food festival, it’s an event series and I think the main difference there is that we can have a broader range of events that can potentially tap into a wider group of people who have different interests.
We’ve always tried to make it as accessible as possible and this year over half of the events are free. The sharing of knowledge and ideas was a starting point as well as just simply bringing people together around food. So we try to do this through talks, workshops, tastings, art, music and this year for the first time, a few markets.
The recent closing of the markets in Newmarket has created a vacuum in the area, so the inclusion of four Sunday markets as part of the series is a nice touch. Tell us more about the market strand.
Yeah, the whole area has been affected by the loss of the markets. You really feel the void that they have left behind. Our community spaces are becoming few and far between. And markets are so important for this. It’s such a basic thing, but so, so important to be able to meet the producer or farmer who grows the food that you are going to eat.
We wanted to reclaim a bit of social space but also highlight how many incredible producers, growers and artisans Ireland has at the moment that Dublin often doesn’t know about. So we’ve invited producers from all over the country to come to four themed Sunday markets – Bread, Cheese, Vegetables and Fermented Foods.
The programme has evolved and expanded over the years. What other things can people look forward to enjoying at EAT-ITH this Autumn?
Hopefully more than one thing! The Thursday evening talks are the serious discussion nights with topics such as the Irish dairy industry, food and cancer and the future of coffee roasting. Then we have ‘Mondays Are For Art’ which is where we will give over the café to two different artists (Jota Castro and Tom Campbell) on Monday Oct 1st and 8th to completely transform the space, host an exhibition and cook for you.
Music and Food nights will happen every Friday in The Stables, one of the few times in the year that we open up the Stables kitchen for dining. Manchán Magan is performing his latest show called Arán & Im, which is about the Irish language and sourdough bread. There’s a live podcast recording of With Relish (Harry Colley and Aoife Allen) and some incredible workshops with the likes of Katie Sanderson, Toonsbridge Dairy, Dearbhla Reynolds and Louise Bannon. The Dinner (already nearly sold out) which is the main event of the series will see three pioneering ladies of Irish food – Jess Murphy, Carmel Somers, Rose Greene – cook a six-course meal in the café.
With so many free events, how do you manage to fund the series?
I guess it’s really important for us to convey that this series is independently run with no sponsorship, a very difficult thing to do these days, in a time where nothing seems possible without funding or influence from a brand of some sort. We’re kept going by collaborations and support from those who believe in what we are doing – expanding and evolving Irish food culture. People respond differently to something when they know that it’s not just a money spinner or a marketing gig.
You’ve been beating the drum for a long time now about good food, good coffee and the pleasure of sharing a meal with friends. What currently inspires you about the culture of food and drink in Ireland?
I get really excited by farmers these days. Young people who are going back to the land and really understanding that that’s where it all begins. If we want to make a change we have to start there. Oh, and also the fact that a lot of the really inspiring people and projects are outside of Dublin. Which is reassuring that it really is Ireland that is building a culture and not just the capital city.
What else do you have going on at The Fumbally?
We have just taken over the canteen of our local school, Warrenmount which is very exciting and we’re also hoping to start finally selling our fermented foods, the first of which will be at the fermented foods market at the end of October. Also, in the Stables we will be exploring more private, tailored food workshops for groups of friends or people interested in specific areas of food.
Words: Martina Murray