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February 2012

The earliest records of the Chinese cooking Peking Duck go back to the 14th century. They say that in more recent times, Henry Kissinger enjoyed the Peking Duck so much that he went to China a second time. On that trip he set up the historic visit by President Richard Nixon and the rest as they say, is history. Tricky Dickey subsequently suffered severe reputational damage when he tried to suppress the reporting of goings on in the Watergate Building. His good name, like the origins of Peking Duck is now ancient history. My worry is with more recent and personal concerns – my own culinary reputation.

Before I start, I have to be clear. I have nothing against hunting. We need hunting in our countryside to keep various animal populations in check. Also, I don’t have issue where there is an element of real skill and hunters are killing for the table. Having said all that….

We went to my better half’s parents’ house in Tipperary last weekend. The house overlooks Lough Derg. Just across from the house is an island. Brave men from the city pay big bucks to get in touch with their inner hunter by visiting the island and shooting pheasant. The pheasant are accustomed to people on the island and are pretty tame by local account. When groups of high paying city folk come down, dressed like country squires in padded green giléts and fresh green wellington boots to ‘hunt’, the beaters have been known to have difficulty getting the birds into the air to meet their fate.

I am a Dubliner, born and bred inside the Pale. I am proud of my roots, my history and most things Dublin. Some of our country cousins can begrudge us the privileges we enjoy from living in the ‘Big Smoke’. We have, amongst other attractions, the Luas electric tram system, an airport with two terminals, the Guinness Brewery and the boat to England.

It is traditional and reasonable for us Jackeens, as the Culchies like to call us, to suffer some inter-county hostility. Some of the rural dwellers believe that Cork is the real capital of the country. Others think that Galway is the cultural axis on which the world revolves. I refute these and many other illegitimate claims against our capital city. I am well brought up and I will not mention Dublin being the All Ireland Football Champions at present. That would be churlish.

It’s my own fault. I suggested that as I was cooking for the Wife and myself, I might include my eldest and her boyfriend in the pot. They gratefully accepted my offer. Then they did what great negotiators the world over do when they have a deal over the line. They changed the terms.

I need to be careful how I phrase this. There are two old steamers in the kitchen. They have been there for years and they have even been a big influence on the lives of my children. I think it’s time they came out of the closet. 

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