‘Gilded Gravel in the Bowl’: Ireland’s Cuisine and Culinary Heritage in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney
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6. HUMANITIES, General literature studies, Folklore studies, 6.5 OTHER HUMANITIES
Seamus Heaney’s poetry is rich in detail about agricultural and food practices in his native Northern Ireland from the 1950s onwards, such as cattle-trading, butter-churning, eel-fishing, blackberry-picking or home-baking. Often studied from an ecocritical perspective, the abundance of agricultural and culinary scenes in Heaney’s work makes a gastrocritical focus on food and foodways suitable. Food has been recognized as a highly condensed social fact, and writers have long tapped into its multi-layered meanings to illuminate socio-cultural circumstances, making literature a valuable ethnographic source. A gastrocritical reading of Heaney’s work from 1966 to 2010, drawing on Rozin’s Structure of Cuisine, shows that the foodstuffs and culinary techniques featured in the poetry reflect historic and contemporary Irish cuisine and culture as explained by food-historical and folkloristic research, giving his work a particularly Irish cultural signature. In turn, Heaney’s poetic sensibilities and language craft may contribute to our verstehen of Ireland’s culinary heritage.
Klitzing, A. (2021) Gilded Gravel in the Bowl : Ireland’s Cuisine and Culinary Heritage in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney. FolkLife. DOI: 10.1080/04308778.2021.1957423