THE BLOOD BROTHERS; They Came from France in Their Finery - to Honour Our Black Pudding

Article excerpt

Byline: John Daly

IS there anything so sublime as a hunk of gourmet black pudding layered on a slice of artisan bread still hot from the oven? Such was a sample of the gastronomic delights put on display in Kanturk earlier this week for an evening of celebration as one of the town's favourite sons took a gold medal in one of France's most cherished traditions.

Jack McCarthy, butcher extraordinaire, played host to the Confrerie Des Chevaliers Du Goute Boudin - the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding - after taking top honours in a competition eagerly contested by 600 entrants from all over the world. 'I don't know which is better, winning gold for our black pudding or seeing the Cork footballers bring home the Sam Maguire last Sunday after an absence of 20 years,' he said with a wide smile amid a sea of victorious red and white banners fluttering in the cool September evening.

Providing a rich cultural contrast to the legendary Sliabh Luachra neighbourhood, the 20-strong French chevalier delegation entered the town's Main Street at a stately pace adorned with maroon satin robes, black velvet hats and nifty buckled footwear. Preceded by pipers striking up Hiberno-French marching tunes and holding aloft gold-fringed banners representing the main pudding producing regions, were it not for their beaming Gallic smiles one could be forgiven for mistaking the whole scene for a time warp to the Salem witch trials.

'The humble bucket of blood has brought us together this evening, in happiness and creativity, in a tradition going back many hundreds of years,' said Grand Master Chevalier Jean-Claude Gotteri. 'Since the beginning of this competition, we have received over 30,000 entries from all over the world and it is a measure of the strength of tradition and expertise in Ireland that we have come to bestow gold, silver and bronze medals within the same small country.' Butchers Sean and Seamus Kelly from Newport in Co. Mayo and Willie Allshire from Rosscarbery in West Cork took the bronze and silver medals at similar ceremonies during the week.

THE Black Pudding Fraternity was established in 1963 at Mortagne-au-Perche in the heart of the Perche region of Normandy by a group of foodies to promote traditions dating back 2,000 years, and has welcomed some 2,250 people into membership since its foundation. 'Our visit to Ireland proves the strong connection that food can make to different nations,' he continued. 'In difby ficult times, the closeness we find through a shared love of good food is a reminder of how the ancient traditions must never be forgotten in helping us share the wonderful bounty of this planet we share '

With history having recorded that Ireland's last wild boar was slain in Kanturk centuries ago - the town's name is derived from the Irish 'Ceann Toirc', literally Boar's Head - it's entirely likely that the beast's blood made black pudding for the hearths of Duhallow country.

Admitting to always looking 'to maximise to full extent of the animal in everything we do,' Jack McCarthy and his son Tim entered the competition having spotted it on the internet. 'They take their black pudding extremely seriously,' he said of the annual pudding festival at Mortagne-au-Perche.

'The whole town is packed all week with contestants and visitors - all of it dedicated to the humble black pudding,' says Jack.

With a history dating back to ancient Rome, black pudding has been a staple across the world from the Netherlands' bloedworst to Italy's buristo and Finland's mustamakkara. Even South America has its morcilla, where the blood is mixed with rice and spices.

'Black pudding really began as a survival food around the world and came from the times when waste was not an option, when all parts of the animal had a nutritious use. …