Saturday 20 April 1996
This year's Glenfiddich Awards included a welcome new category, the Conal Walsh Award. For many years Mr Walsh organised the awards. Anyone who has attended them in the past can confirm that Glenfiddich is a generous sponsor and Mr Walsh was a superb party organiser. He died in 1994. What is less well known about this most urbane, dapper fellow is that he was a farmer's son, and worked tirelessly on behalf of his earthiest clients, whether they were the Soil Association, or free-range chicken farmers in East Anglia.
It is fitting, then, that the first award in his name should go to Humphrey Errington, producer of Lanark Blue cheese in Carnworth, Lanarkshire. Last year Mr Errington finally triumphed after fighting a long series of misbegotten Administrative Actions brought by an over-zealous and ill-informed environmental health authority unfamiliar with farmhouse cheese-making. The prosecutions, based on faulty bacterial analysis, very nearly led to the destruction of a year's supply of perfectly good cheese. Mr Errington narrowly averted bankruptcy, but his persistence in fighting the prosecution spells an important precedent for the ever-dwindling number of traditional cheesemakers. Were it a perfect world, the award would be shared with Private Eye's equally persistent "Muckspreader", a tireless champion of Mr Errington and real food. Lanark Blue is available from good cheese shops from mid- May, including Iain Mellis in Edinburgh and Neal's Yard Dairy in London.
How to be green
Since its special series on organic farming, The Independent's Comment pages have been so green they should qualify for honorary leprechaun status. Readers seeking organic produce should send a note requesting a Farm Shops List and cheque for pounds 3 to the Soil Association, 86 Coulston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB (0117-929 0661). They will receive a directory to organic farms that sell to the public. Those who would simply like to support the Soil Association in its aim to further organic farming may wish to become members. Subscriptions cost pounds 16, with concessionary memberships at pounds 9.
Eating in Ireland
Good news on the Irish front, too. A rewritten, redesigned and updated fourth edition of the Bridgestone Irish Food Guide (Estragon Press, pounds 11.99) is just off the press. Its authors, John and Sally McKenna, view eating and drinking as a full-time occupation, so they list farm shops, cheesemakers, wholefood markets, bars and country- style stores run by eccentrics with a gift of the gab. By Irish, they mean the whole Emerald Isle, both sides of the border. You will not be steered to haunted castles visited by charabancs of tourists, to overrated Michelin two-stars, or to kitsch Gaelic evenings where the waitresses play harps. However, you may fetch up in a bed and breakfast in Co Cork where feather beds are lined with starchy linen and breakfast is a marathon. The guide is available from Books for Cooks, 4 Blenheim Crescent, W11 (0171-221 1992).
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