Ploughing Food – The National Ploughing Championships

Sep 27, 2013 by

The 2013 Ploughing Championships have just finished up for another year. Over 700 acres of ploughing demonstrations and competition, agricultural stands and not so agricultural. Something for every one, all 200 000+ of them. The crowds descended on the County Laois fields at Ratheniska, parking in stubble fields and walking or being pulled by a tractor and trailer up to the site.

It was a long day and unless you wanted to drag a rucksack with a picnic, at some point you needed food. The catering areas were numerous and populated predominantly by burger bars. All the usual suspects Rumbles, Gourmet Burger etc. were in evidence. There was fish and chips, burgers and chips, steak sandwiches, flabby pizzas and packet soup kitchens. The smell of grease hung in palls over packed picnic areas, as much littered with bodies as discarded packaging.

The first day I brought a small flask of coffee and some brown bread and blackcurrant jam and ate it in the traffic queue to get into the site. This kept me going until about 4pm but then the hunger pains kicked in. I saw Rumbles in a huge tent. There was a queue but it moved fast. There were a few choices, overcooked slices of beef, shrivelled salmon and half a chicken which looked the most edible.

The food was being doled out by a team of latex-gloved staff grabbing fistfulls of vegetables, chips and potatoes, throwing it onto paper plates that already had had a latex-gloved hand slap the meat of choice on. Hardly appetising.

This plate of food along with a watery cup of tea cost €15.

It was mass catering feeding the masses.

The next day I suddenly got weak around lunchtime. There were long queues at every food vendor. We remembered the lovely smells coming from the meat vendors in the livestock area we had originally walked through and decided to walk back there. There were also long queues here but not as long. There were Irish Hereford, Irish Angus and Irish Limousin burger stands. We choose the Limousin as it had the shortest queue.

We should have known.

The burger patty was grey, flat, chewy and utterly, utterly tasteless. The burger bun a McDonalds chemical formula. A limp piece of Iceberg lettuce and a watery tomato slice came to €5. If this was to showcase Limousin beef it failed on all fronts. In fact I am convinced every stand had stopped off on the way to the show and bought a job lot of supermarket yellow pack burgers.

I remembered a farmer friend telling me all these French/Belgian breeds that Irish farmers have become obsessed with, probably due to the public obsession with lean fat-free meat; produce tasteless meat. He was right. To have flavour, to have succulence, you need fat. But you also should not cook the bejaysus out of meat as per health fascist requirements.

The vast majority of people at these events are probably quite happy to queue up and pay over the odds for a greasy burger but there are those of us who are not.

To my mind a wasted opportunity to showcase food at a huge event showcasing farming. Surely the two should go hand in hand?

This disconnect needs to be joined up.

The consensus among our group was we would not be coming back again in a hurry. I wonder how many of the thousands walking out said the same?

Addendum:
A comment has been passed that I should have tried to find the quality, artisan food sellers. The reasons I didn’t are because, firstly, I suffer from hypo-glycemia and when I get the shakes I need to find food fast. This was made extremely difficult with the badly designed layout of the site. The map was also terrible. I assumed it was my “female brain” but my son who most definitely has a male brain pronounced it worse than useless. In addition, when you did eventually find the row the stand was supposedly on, the stand number (on map) was not displayed outside.

Also I have tried all the artisan producers and know their food is good. The purpose of the blog post was to highlight the organisers of an agricultural event (the largest of it’s kind in Europe apparently) allowing such a preponderance of mediocre food sellers.

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10 Comments

  1. But you shouldn't have to.

  2. The moral of the story is to pack your own picnic – Tinahely Show was exactly the same about 4 years ago we paid an astromical price for a burger in a bun….

  3. While some food certainly wouldn't be viewed as appetizing, it wasn't all bad. The good food was there – not as prominent, I do admit, but it was there.

  4. I think we have resigned ourselves to bad food at big events in this country and feel it's not possible to do better.

  5. That's quite shocking, am even more glad I didnt go now.

  6. Just confirms my suspicions that they were made in the same factory where the yellow pack ones are. In fact I'd say every burger on every stall sold came from the same factory.

  7. I do agree it is a pity that much of the food provided isn't good and yes, a lot of it is appalling. I'm disappointed the Limousin burger wasn't good – they shouldn't be there if they can't present their meat in a positive light.
    The NPA should be working to highlight the good food produced in this country, rather than having so many burger vans. I have to admit I got one and it was very mediocre. I got chicken buns from Annie's Roosts in the Leader tent on two of the days and they were scrumptious – chicken from roasted whole free range chickens. I also got a veggie pie from one foodie stall and it was delicious. The good food wasn't easy to find but it was there. I do agree that the food in the food tent (up around row E) was hard to find and some of it looked a bit dubious. I wonder if the Truly Irish were selling hot meat, I called to them but they hadn't opened. Wouldn't it be lovely if there was an area with hog roasts etc.
    I just think it is a shame you went to Rumbles as it is always going to be pretty bad, and doesn't reflect the good food that was available (although hard to find)

  8. I have a list of the stuff that goes into Limousin burgers, in fact had a debate on twitter with them about it, They denied the ingredients but it was printed on their pack of burgers, still denied it. this is what was in them.
    Enhancer 621 better known as MSG.
    Dextrose as in Grape Sugar.
    Hydrolysed Veg Protein.= Flavour enhancer. its either Soy/corn or wheat boiled in hydrochloric acid and then neutralised withsodium hydroxide.
    Persative 221.. this is Sodium sulphite which destroys the Thiamine or B1 content of the meat . http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-b1/NS_patient-thiamin.
    Antioxidant 300.. ascorbic acid.
    Anticaking agent..not specified [quite a few out there including Sodium ferro cyanide]
    And were supposed to be the land of clean and green food..yeah right

  9. We had reasonably edible food at Bloom in the Prosecco Bar but at the price charged it would have wanted to be!

  10. I just don't understand why the standard of food is always so appalling. It was the same at Bloom.

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