Myrtle Allen archive acquired by UCC

Food writer Claudia Roden delivers inaugural Myrtle Allen memorial lecture in Cork

Food historian Regina Sexton (right) looking through some of Myrtle Allen’s papers in her former study at Ballymaloe House with her daughter Fern and Rory O’Connell.

Food historian Regina Sexton (right) looking through some of Myrtle Allen’s papers in her former study at Ballymaloe House with her daughter Fern and Rory O’Connell.

 

The Allen family of Ballymaloe House has bequeathed the Myrtle Allen archive of papers to University College Cork. Mrs Allen, who died in June 2018, is regarded by many Irish food commentators as someone who redefined and reinvigorated Irish food, both at home and abroad, through her work as a chef, writer and lobbyist.

The University’s specialist staff of archivists and its Special Collections section of the Boole Library, which holds collections such as the Bantry House papers and the Séan Ó Riada archive, will curate the collection.

“Over the next few years, every single item in Myrtle Allen’s body of papers will be preserved and catalogued and this is a highly significant undertaking for the university,” says UCC food and culinary historian Regina Sexton.

“Myrtle Allen kept meticulous and extensive records,” Sexton says. “She seems to have kept everything, from recipes to the daily menus for the restaurant, which survive from the 1960s in their hundreds.

“There are journals from the restaurant, inherited hand-written family manuscript recipe books, correspondence with producers and chefs, restaurant and hotel reviews, and scrapbooks of traditional recipes send to her by readers of the Irish Farmers Journal.

“There are letters of advice to fledgling chefs, her correspondence and business with Euro-Toques, and the Cork Free Choice Consumer Group, which she set up in 1989 to showcase, promote and protect a community of emerging artisan and speciality food producers. There are drafts and proofs of her 1977 book, The Ballymaloe Cookbook, and photographs and files that reflect her interest in history, local history, genealogy and travel.”

The inaugural Myrtle Allen memorial lecture took place at the university on Thursday evening, with writer Claudia Roden leading a panel of speakers that also included restaurateur and chef Ross Lewis, and writer John McKenna. The university has recently launched a post-graduate diploma in Irish Food Culture.

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