*Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of Mike Farragher's "TAYSHT" series, his new column and podcast exploring Irish America's relationship with food, inspired in part by Stanley Tucci's "Taste: My Life Through Food." You can read the previous installment here.
The Irish Farmer's Dog
There are numerous dog food commercials that continually blast over the airwaves in the hopes of reaching consumers who took on four-legged companionship during the pandemic. One of the more grating advertisements comes from the makers of The Farmer’s Dog, a new pet food company whose website boasts a “vet-developed blend of nutrition made of real food cooked in USDA kitchens.”
Here is the copy, lifted directly from their website: "Like you, we love our pets and care about their health, which is why we created The Farmer’s Dog, a service that delivers balanced, freshly made pet food with simple recipes, guided by science and driven by love."
The dog food of an Irish farmer was not guided by any of those things. I see that commercial and it brings me into Granny Faragher’s small galley kitchen in the back of her modest cottage in Ballyglunin, a rural outpost northeast of Galway. I can remember the rusty wire handle of the scuffed white bucket that hung on the back door of my grandmother’s kitchen at all times. This is where she would carelessly assemble the dogs’ dinners.
“God blast them,” Granny Farragher, thin as an electrical wire with just as much spark, would say with a sneer at the dogs with the sad eyes glaring up at her. “Always under my feet as I’m trying to get out the dinner!”
She would then go to work on feeding them to get the mongrels out of the way. Pay attention to the quick pace of this recipe; blink and you will miss something.
Ingredients: Scraped meat, milk, bread, cooked eggs, potatoes, turnips, carrots, and roasted potatoes, removed from dishes.
With an unwashed knife, remove dirty dish contents into the bucket.
Throw in crusts, odds, and sods from the day-old bread.
Toss in 2 cups of milk for consistency, until the bread softens.
Take a decent-sized wooden spoon, mashing the milk into the white bread (substituting brown bread is perfectly acceptable) until the mixture is wet and thick enough to sparkle wallpaper.
Using the wooden spoon as a hurling stick, fling the mixture toward the floor and into as many unwashed bowls as you have dogs.
Using the top of your shoe, slide each bowl five feet into the backyard before closing the door on the animals.
The dogs I encountered during my visits to Ireland in the '70s never came into the house. They were rarely given a name, skittish when you approached them, unfamiliar to human touch and affection. These were working animals and not pets, reared to herd the sheep and cattle for their owner. Their existence was rough, yet they were so much luckier than their siblings, who were tied into a knapsack and tossed in the river when the heartiest of the lot was chosen to tend to the farm tasks at hand. Their nails were never clipped nor were their matted coats groomed at any time in their life. When the work was done and Granny’s slop was ravenously devoured, they limped their weary skeletons into the barn for a well-earned rest away from the elements.
Times have changed. I recently observed the farmer’s dogs sleeping in my cousin’s mudroom of her Abbeyknockmoy farmhouse. The dogs might be let inside when it is cold and rainy (which is often), with the pups peering around the corner into the kitchen from the no-fly zone that this is the mudroom. What has not changed is what’s on the menu, and the dogs are not the worse for wear.
On the TAYSHT Podcast this week: Patrick McCormack
Whether he’s feeding the King of Sweden or a child in an African slum, Executive Chef Patrick McCormack has the same goal: to treat the diner like royalty.
The Limerick native, who is based in Sweden, is a globetrotter who is always looking to soak up tastes of different cultures to bring his dishes to life. McCormack says that after working in some big US cities and in the finest Michelin-rated restaurants, his thirst for culinary inspiration took him to far-flung outposts. It is there that his philanthropy ignited.
"I feel energized and great when I go to places like South Africa to feed people, and I can tell you it brings me such joy,” McCormack enthuses. "I get so much more out of it than I believe in taking their pain and giving them comfort, and I’ve learned that gets reciprocated in the process.”
Patrick always starts the meal with a prayer, with the same message, which is that you have self-worth no matter who you are.
On our latest TAYSHT podcast, he breaks down the recipe of an interesting dish called “Volunburger” with a base of minced veal that has to be heard to be believed!
Listen to the latest TAYSHT podcast episode with Patrick Mc Cormack here: