The above quote might sound like a sweeping statement, but when you consider that the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival has been shucking oysters since 1954 (making it one of Europe’s longest-running food extravaganzas) it doesn't sound so incredible.
One thing’s for sure, Ireland enjoys celebrating food. Once, there were about 20 food festivals on the calendar; now that number had doubled with festivals being held everywhere from Kinsale to Kilkeel.
Food festivals come in many different flavours, but their chief ingredient is a celebration of Irish foods and the local producers, chefs and restaurateurs that champion them.
Armagh throws a Food and Cider Festival in September to celebrate its abundant apple harvest. And against the natural backdrop of the Burren, The Burren Slow Food Festival advocates sustainable food production and tradition.
Shellfish lovers should watch out for the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival in March. Then of course there's the high point of September’s Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, described by Rough Guides as "Ireland’s longest-running and greatest gourmet extravaganza". Expect plenty of festival fun along with the World Oyster Opening Championship, where competitive oyster shuckers battle to be named the World Champion. Oyster season finishes with the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival, where a sheltered Galway Bay and delicate ratio of fresh and salt water makes for a delicious oyster offering.
September also brings the Waterford Harvest Festival, a foodie extravaganza for a city with its very own bread (blaa – a fluffy bread roll). But let’s not forget the other attraction of bringing foodies together, as festival fan Mark Graham recalls. It all starts with a restaurant crawl…
“It was especially for singles, a chance to sample the grub in a few different chow houses, while also chatting to, flirting with, or sometimes avoiding your fellow diners.
“Maybe not the best idea when your mouth is full a lot of the time, but it was good fun and I even made a new friend.”
New friends and good food – what more could you want?